The music of revolution

The Al Jazeera network aired a video on February 24, 2011 called “The Music of Revolution”. Journalist Riz Khan interviewed musician Yusuf Islam, formerly known as Cat Stevens, about his latest song “My People” which is inspired by the popular uprisings calling for freedom and change in the Arab world. The song was recorded in a studio 100 meters from the Berlin Wall, which fell in 1989 paving the way for the unification of Germany and the collapse of communism in Europe.

The video asks, “How can musicians invoke the spirit of rebellion?” and “How important is music as an instrument of social change?” They also discuss social networks and the way new technologies are helping to create change in the Middle East. Yusuf explains, “It shows you the incredible power the internet can be when it’s used correctly for ideas.”

The wave of change reaches Wisconsin

Inspired perhaps by what was happening in Egypt, the spark for Wisconsin’s protests came on February 11th, when Gov. Scott Walker threatened to call in the National Guard to crack down on workers upset that their bargaining rights were being taken away. Labor and progressive groups were driven to action, and within a week there were over 100,000 protesters filling the streets of Madison, and occupying the state capitol building. It proved to be bigger than anyone would have expected.

Maine State Senator Diane Russell visited the demonstration, saying “I can’t explain it, but there is something magical happening in Madison. I was awe struck.”…

Mainstreaming non-violence

The following is part of a blog post by Ken Butigan for the website Waging Nonviolence, entitled “Another Step Toward Mainstreaming Nonviolence”. Ken Butigan is the director of Pace e Bene, an Oakland, California-based non-profit organization fostering peace through education, community, and action.

“The movement that ended President Hosni Mubarak’s thirty year autocratic rule not only has created a spectacular breakthrough for Egyptian democracy, it has bequeathed a priceless gift to the rest of us in every part of the planet. For eighteen days the Egyptian people carried out an unarmed revolution with determination, creativity, and a daring willingness to risk. They marched, they improvised, they prayed, they connected with one another. Most of all, they stayed put, and invited the nation to join them.

Faced with a corrupt and dictatorial police state, such a movement might have been tempted to wage armed struggle. Instead, they reached for, experimented with, and remained largely steadfast about another way: non-violent people power. Hence the tactics they chose: Massive demonstrations, brazen and ubiquitous use of social media, befriending the army, work stoppages, and eventually the call for a general strike. Non-violent people power operates on the assumption that systems of violence and injustice are not absolute and implacable. Rather, they are kept in place by pillars of support. These props include the police and army; the media; economic forces; cultural and ideological structures; and the general population. The job of a non-violent resistance movement is to remove this support. Key to this process is alerting, educating, and mobilizing a growing number of people throughout the nation or society to withdraw their consent, and to overcome their fear of the consequences for doing so.

The gift that the Egyptian people have placed in each of our hands is the crystal clear example of the power of ordinary people to unleash seismic social change. What makes the accomplishment in Egypt especially valuable to the rest of the world at this time, however, is that (given the determination of the demonstrators, the stubbornness of the regime, and the ubiquity of social media and other technological innovations) many of us were able to follow this struggle step by step in real time and to therefore see in minute detail how this kind of monumental change happens. We were able to see this campaign in slow motion: the initial call, the gathering momentum, the series of repressive attacks, the galvanizing power of Days of Prayer, the lulls, the unexpected developments, the government’s ineffective sticks and even more ineffective carrots, the wave of strikes that began to spread across the country…

This eighteen day saga riveted the world. It offered us a new, three-dimensional awareness of our power to make change through determined, non-violent action. And it offers us a glimmer of hope as we stand at a monumental crossroads in human history. In a time of virtually permanent war, growing poverty, threats to civil liberties, ecological devastation, and many other problems, humanity faces the challenge and opportunity to choose powerful and creative non-violent alternatives. We can continue to opt for the devastating spiral of violence and injustice, or we can build civil societies where the dignity of all is respected and the needs of all are met. True peace and long-term human survival depend on this.

Egypt gives us a clear and radiant example of the non-violent option. For eighteen days, Egypt “mainstreamed non-violence”. Mainstreaming non-violence does not mean creating a utopia where conflict, violence, and injustice do not exist. Instead, it is the process of nurturing a culture that advances non-violent options for addressing complicated challenges in ways that are neither violent nor passive. We have much to learn from this powerful experiment in this peaceful and determined struggle for justice.

All of us owe debt of gratitude to the pro-democracy movement in Egypt for this monumental gift that reveals for people everywhere the power and possibilities of non-violent change in a world wracked by violence and injustice.”

Mythical Realms

The World Peace Through Technology Organization presents the 12th annual How Weird Street Faire on Sunday May 1, 2011 in downtown San Francisco! The celebration of peace takes place from Noon to 8pm, centered at the Paxorium – in the intersection of Howard and 2nd Streets – or more specifically 37° 47' 12.4" N, 122° 23'53.7" W.

This year's theme is "Mythical Realms", which represents our collective ideas about life, society, and culture. What would a real "place of peace" look like? Come to the faire and find out. The Paxorium will be surrounded by nine city blocks filled with art, music, performances, and creativity… along with a great collection of vendors and food. Expect all the unique weirdness of San Francisco, and thousands of people from around the world in colorful costumes….

For more information about How Weird visit

Christians protecting Muslims in Egypt and Reflections on a revolution

Christians put their own lives at risk protecting Muslims praying in Tahrir Square in Cairo amid violence between protesters and Egyptian President Mubarak’s supporters. And in Alexandria,  tens of thousands of people have gathered in the centre of town, while Christians and others not performing Friday prayers formed a “human chain” around those praying to protect them from any potential disruptions. During the protests and popular uprising against Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak’s government that started January 25th, Muslims had been attacked during prayers. The Muslims, while bowing in prayer, had faced water cannons, tear gas, stones being thrown, and direct attacks. The Christian community responded by waging a campaign of protection and support….

World Interfaith Harmony Week

Febuary 1-7 is World Interfaith Harmony Week, advancing inter-religious dialogue as a way to promote harmony between all people. It features conferences, workshops, seminars, lectures, and hundreds of events on every continent. Various U.N. agencies are cooperating to discuss effective strategies to foster mutual understanding between faiths and cultures.

On September 23, 2010, King Abdullah II of Jordan introduced the concept of World Interfaith Harmony Week at the Plenary Session of the 65th U.N. General Assembly in New York. In his speech he said, “It is essential to resist forces of division that spread misunderstanding and mistrust, especially among peoples of different religions.” In October of 2010, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution to mark World Interfaith Harmony Week annually during the first week of February. King Abdullah has long been known for his peace initiatives. Under his patronage, the Common Word initiative has brought together the highest ranking Christian and Muslim leaders from around the world on the basis of the two greatest commandments of Loving God, and Loving the Neighbor.

The objectives behind the World Interfaith Harmony Week, in the words of the author of the resolution, Prince Ghazi bin Muhammad of Jordan, are:

   1. To co-ordinate and unite the efforts of all the interfaith groups doing positive work with one focused theme at one specific time annually, thereby increasing their impact.

   2. To Harness and utilise the collective might of the world’s second-largest infrastructure (that of places of worship — the largest being that of education) specifically for peace and harmony in the world: inserting, as it were, the right “software” into the world’s religious “hardware”.

   3. To permanently and regularly encourage the silent majority of preachers to declare themselves for peace and harmony.

Qamar-ul Huda, of the Religion and Peacemaking Center of Innovation, spoke on a panel called “The Role of faith-based organizations and interfaith initiatives in Development, Reconciliation and Peacebuilding” sponsored by the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) and as a part of World Interfaith Harmony Week. Huda spoke about the ways in which Muslim religious leaders are working in the areas of conflict prevention, mediation, and conflict transformation. Huda said religious leaders and religious organizations involved in peacemaking are operating from their respective faith traditions to support personal, communal, and relational transformations. Some of these peacemaking efforts include using innovative platforms to explain misunderstandings, and using the arts to express mutual respect.

From Jerusalem to Malappuram in India, from Amman in Jordan to Pietermaritzburg in South Africa, from Sedona in the United States to Newcastle in Australia, and a myriad of other places, special events were held to shine the spotlight on the need for interfaith understanding. In Guyana, one observance for World Interfaith Harmony Week was a “Harmony Walk”, followed by a religious programme and cultural show. The event included leaders from the Muslim, Christian, Hindu, Baha’i and Rastafarian faiths. Those gathered were treated to songs and dance, as well as readings from the different groups.

Hindu statesman Rajan Zed, who is President of Universal Society of Hinduism, explained that “Dialogue would bring us mutual enrichment and help us overcome prejudices passed on to us by previous generations.”