Posts Tagged ‘Peace’

Man of Hope screening

6 December 2013 - By

The Embassy of Poland in Washington, DC is showing “Wałęsa. Man of Hope” by Andrzej Wajda at the AFI/EU Film Showcase at the AFI Silver Theatre and Cultural Center in Silver Spring, Maryland on Saturday, December 7th at 1pm.

eurofestheader2013

Oscar-winning Polish director Andrzej Wajda brings the story of Lech Wałęsa and the Solidarity movement to the big screen. Robert Więckiewicz (In Darkness) stars at Lech Wałęsa, while Agnieszka Grochowska shines as his loyal wife, Danuta. The sharp screenplay by Janusz Głowacki hinges on Wałęsa’s landmark 1981 interview, just months before Poland declared martial law, with Italian journalist Oriana Fallaci, recounting in flashback the previous decade-and-a-half of activism; Wałęsa would be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1983.

On Wednesday, December 4th Lech Wałęsa returned to Capitol Hill and the U.S. Congress after 24 years and was greated by a full house of nearly 500 dignitaries. Wałęsa’s appearance coincided with the screening of the film “Wałęsa. Man of Hope” for members of Congress. The evening highlighted Solidarity’s contribution in bringing down Communism and ushering in freedom and Democracy to Central and Eastern Europe which lead to the tearing down of the Berlin Wall.

“This history happened in Poland first” emphasized Ambassador Ryszard Schnepf, adding that Poland and the Polish people, will never forget the word ‘Solidarity’ and the support we received, particularly from the United States in our greatest hour of need.

“I spoke at every public high school in Connecticut over the years … and I’d be asked by people, ‘Can one person change the world?’ and I used to constantly cite Lech Wałęsa, Eunice Shriver, Nelson Mandela as people who clearly changed the world,” former Senator from Connecticut and current MPAA President Christopher Dodd said during the course of the on-stage interview held before the movie screening.

“When Lech Wałęsa jumped over the wall at the Gdansk Shipyard, he took the whole world with him. The Solidarity movement brought hope and democracy to Poland, and inspired so many more around the globe, including Polish Americans in my hometown of Baltimore. The United States and Poland are united by our beliefs – in freedom, in people, and in speaking truth to power. Today, we are strong democracies, true allies, and steadfast friends.” said Senator Barbara Mikulski.

Iran 2013: Making Diplomacy Work featuring Zbigniew Brzezenski

2 January 2013 - By

The conference is be available to watch anytime in C-SPAN’s archives.

Brzezinski: US Should Not Follow Israel on Iran Like a “Stupid Mule”

Washington, DC – “I don’t think there is an implicit obligation for the United States to follow like a stupid mule whatever the Israelis do,” said Zbigniew Brzezinski. “If they decide to start a war, simply on the assumption that we’ll automatically be drawn into it, I think it is the obligation of friendship to say, ‘you’re not going to be making national decision for us.’ I think that the United States has the right to have its own national security policy.”

Speaking before a conference sponsored jointly by the Arms Control Association and the National Iranian American Council, Brzezinski effectively ruled out a U.S. or Israel attack on Iran as “an act of utter irresponsibility” that would mean “the region would literally be set aflame.” He warned that a policy based on such unrealistic options ultimately undermined U.S. credibility.

Panelists at the event argued that the timing is right for a renewed diplomatic initiative with Iran. “Right now is the right time, right after the American elections, and right before the Iranian elections,” observed Professor Ahmad Sadri of Lake Forest College. “Remember back to 2008 when we were in the same point in the cycle, except right now on the ground the situation is much worse. There’s more fissile material, and there’s less optimism.”

However, at the same time, Sadri noted that Iran’s soft and hard power in the Middle East has declined. “If I was an American negotiator, I’d say this is exactly the right time to go into [negotiations].”

Nuclear specialist Jim Walsh of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology argued that both sides needed to be prepared for compromise and to expand their existing offers. “You’re not going to have success if you simply continue to repeat the things you did before that didn’t work.”

“Content-wise, both sides have presented proposals where they are asking a lot and offering very little,” Walsh observed. “This is classic, everyone does this, but in this particular instance where nobody trusts one another, they take that proposal as evidence, ‘Ah ha! The other side isn’t serious.’”

The panelists agreed that the lack of trust was a major obstacle for successful talks…

Reflection for the Second Sunday of Advent

9 December 2012 - By

I can’t believe it!
I guess you didn’t not see it…

A voice of one crying out in the desert: “Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths. Every valley shall be filled and every mountain and hill shall be made low. The winding roads shall be made straight, and the rough ways made smooth, and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.”

If we read the caption above, we note the double negative: “didn’t not.” Writing this, my word-processing program kept pointing to my error.

Word-processing programs are a wonderful invention for someone like me who has terrible spelling skills. Either a red or green underline shows up. Red if the word appears to be misspelled, green if the grammar is incorrect.

Let’s think of John the Baptist as God’s word-processor. He went out to proclaim a wonderful gift, that people could renew their lives if they would only repent, make straight their ways. Salvation was theirs if they would take the steps to correct themselves.

Like my word-processing program, John pointed out serious errors, especially of the so-called “leaders” of the day. He put really big red underlines under all sinfulness.

His call to repentance was just like that of the word-processor. The error is obvious, its been pointed out. But now what? We have to recognize that red underline; we have to see it. Then, we have to take action to fix it. We have to correct the spelling and grammar of our lives, bringing them into alignment with God’s way.

Whenever we hear John’s cry “Prepare the way… make straight the paths… fill-in the valleys… make low the mountains and hills…make the winding roads straight… the rough ways smooth” we also begin to think like construction workers. We laugh, get me a bulldozer and a big crew and we can do it. Construction takes engineering, study, process, and hard work. John wasn’t talking about construction! He was shouting about the engineering, study, process, and hard work we have to do to make our lives right before God.

Let us be dedicated to making our lives straight, smooth, and level; getting rid of the red underlines, living lives based on God’s desires for us. Doing so, we have the guarantee of finding peace, renewal, and seeing His salvation.

The Jewish people were carried away to captivity and spent generations there. When they were freed they didn’t see it coming. We already know Jesus is returning. We do not need to foresee the moment for we know we must prepare. Prepare His way and be ready to rejoice. Stand ready to share in peace and great joy at His Salvation. Come Lord Jesus!

To comfort in the midst of sadness and violence

10 April 2012 - By

From the Chicago Tribune: Family, friends gather at Brighton Park home of slain 13-year-old

On the quiet Southwest Side block where many of the kids spend their days playing outside, faces were grim Sunday as more than 50 neighbors gathered around the steps where 13-year-old Adrian Luna was shot and killed.

“It is very hard to lose a loved one,” the Rev. Jose Rojas told the crowd, warning that the community should come together to prevent such violence from happening again. “Today, it happened to them. Tomorrow, it could be any of us.”

Adrian, whose full name was Roberto Adrian Luna though he went by his middle name, was hanging out with two friends Saturday night on the steps to his Brighton Park neighborhood home in the 4600 block of South Spaulding Avenue.

“Chillen like a villain,” Luna posted on Facebook just before 9 p.m. Saturday.

An hour later, the teenager was dead and two of his friends wounded after two gunmen apparently emerged from a gangway and started shooting at the trio, police and family said.

Adrian’s older brother, Mario Lopez, 29, was a few houses away and ran towards his fallen brother.

“I ran screaming his name. I saw him in a fetal position,” Lopez said, tears welling in his eyes. “… He stopped breathing in my arms.”

Family said the Irene C. Hernandez Middle School 7th-grader was a happy-go-lucky kid who excelled at math and loved horror movies. On Easter Sunday, Adrian had planned to prank his family on by hiding oranges instead of eggs for the hunt, family said.

“He was just a baby,” said Erik Lopez, 28, another of Adrian’s brothers. “They took a kid full of life, a kid full of joy.”

Among Adrian’s close friends are the two others wounded in the attack. A 15-year-old boy was shot in the forearm and thigh, and a 16-year-old boy was shot in the arm, but their relatives said their injuries are not life-threatening.

The mother of one of 16-year-old victim said her son told her one of the gunmen emerged from the gangway next to Adrian’s home and asked the teens what gang they were in. The teens told the gunman they were not in a gang — something police corroborated, though they said the shooting may be related to gang conflicts in the area.

“Even so, he shot them,” the victim’s mother said. “You’re not safe anywhere.”

Police said no one was in custody Sunday evening.

As Adrian’s family tearfully looked out at the gathered crowd, Rojas, the pastor at St. John the Baptist National Catholic Church (Parroquia San Juan Bautista), sprinkled holy water on the steps where Adrian died.

With that, neighbors reached into their pockets and donated money to help Adrian’s family bury the teenager.

“It’s not about revenge,” the priest told the crowd. “It’s about prevention.”

Dale Señor el descanso eterno.
Brille para él la luz perpetua.
Descanse en paz. Amén

Reflections – 10 Years Later

11 September 2011 - By

From John Guzlowski, his poem Sept 13, 2001 found in his post: 9/11 — Ten Years Later

I’ve written a number of poems about 9/11 over the years. The first one was written a couple days of 9/11. That poem talked about how I wanted an end to 9/11. It didn’t happen then, and it hasn’t happened since…

Ted Monica, a fellow former seminarian at Wadhams Hall, and an Episcopal priest, offers his music: Sisters and Brothers.

To the Children of Emma Lazarus – a poem for 9/11 by Konrad Tademar

From Howard Community College on Danuta Hinc’s book To Kill the Other: A question of killing: Howard County author searches for an answer

Five days. That’s all it took after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, for Danuta Hinc to realize that she needed to write a book about how such a thing could happen.

“I realized that I needed to know what leads people to make such extreme choices,” says Hinc, who teaches professional writing at the University of Maryland College Park. “And the next question I asked was: Am I capable of killing someone?”

On the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, Hinc stood in the living room of her Ellicott City townhouse, riveted to the TV screen, unable to sit down, unable to comprehend what she was witnessing.

“Like everyone else, I thought it was an accident. When the second plane hit, I realized to my horror that it was not,” says Hinc, who is in her early 40s and grew up in Poland under Communist oppression.

“My first thought was ‘They must be so organized,’ ” she remembers. Then she realized she didn’t know a thing about them.

“I hated them with all my heart. But I didn’t like that I hated them,” she says.

What eventually came of that rush of tangled emotions and questions, some 10 years later, is Hinc’s book, “To Kill the Other.” It’s a fictional story of a boy who grows up to become a terrorist. It’s not about al-Qaeda; it’s not about ideology. It’s about the choices human beings make.

She spent three and a half years researching and writing the story, which she first wrote in Polish. Then she spent another two-and-a-half years translating it into English. At the time, she was an adjunct professor of English and religion at Howard Community College.

“To Kill the Other” follows the journey of Taher, a sensitive Egyptian boy, from the time he was 7 to his presence as a terrorist on the first plane to hit the World Trade Center…


To Kill the Other (Perfect Paperback)

By (author): Danuta Hinc

Taher examined his reflection in the airplane's lavatory mirror long shadows cast down in sharp strokes and suddenly felt exhausted...It's okay, he thought, seeing the reflection of his lips move. He closed his eyes, faced the ceiling, and took a deep breath. It's okay, he whispered. It's okay.

How does a sensitive, scholarly boy from an affluent Egyptian family become a hijacker? Set in the two decades leading up to the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center, To Kill the Other tells the story of Taher and his spiritual transformation from an innocent young boy into a ruthless, disillusioned conformist. Exploring the circumstances and choices that shaped him, To Kill the Other builds toward an unimaginable act of mass terror in which Taher finally confronts who and what he has become.

'Very few people have written about the attack of 9/11 in a perspective of hijackers. Hinc has written a lucid, utterly gripping speculation expending our understanding of who the hijackers were and who motivated them. She provides an important new perspective to this event which has transformed our lives.'
Rabbi Martin Siegel, author of Amen: The Diary of Rabbi Martin Siegel.

'Hinc tells her story masterfully by weaving multiple perspectives, revealing the core of human sorrow and the transcendent quality of compassion.'
Chukwudi Okpala, author of The Uncircumcised
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Mark Skinner reflects for More Magazine: 9/11 Changed My Life

“I spent so many years doing what I ‘should’ do,” says Mary Skinner, who went from financial exec to award-winning filmmaker.

For 20 years, Mary Skinner climbed the corporate ladder in financial communications, at one point working on the 106th floor of Two World Trade Center, before moving to San Francisco to be close to her family. In the months leading up to 9/11, her life was in limbo. Living with her parents, she wrestled with an internal conflict about her professional future. “I spent so many years doing what I ‘should’ do,” she says. She wanted to return to New York, and even flew there that summer for an interview with a financial services start-up. When the ‘no-thanks’ letter arrived, her disappointment was sharp.

But as the catastrophe unfolded, Skinner’s hesitation disappeared. “I knew friends were caught on certain floors and didn’t make it,” she says. “I felt: I need to be there right now. I’ve got to go back. I had devoted my talent, heart and brain cells to helping somebody make a little more money on currency arbitrage. In the face of what was going on in the world, I felt like, that’s a sin.”

Two months later, Skinner boarded a plane for New York – without a job or a place to live, and for the first time in her professional life, without a plan.

She found temp office work, reconnected with old friends and took writing classes. She enrolled in a documentary filmmaking class at the New School, wanting to make a film about her Polish-born, Catholic mother, Klotylda, who was orphaned and imprisoned during World War II and cared for by strangers afterwards. Klotylda wouldn’t agree to be her subject. Haunted by her mother’s experiences, Skinner continued with her research, uncovering more stories of children saved by heroic strangers…

From Jim Wallis at Sojourners: 10 Years After 9/11: The Good and the Bad

On the morning of September 11, 2001, I was at home in Washington, D.C. getting ready to go to Sojourners’ office. I was upstairs listening to the news on NPR when I heard the first confusing report of a plane crashing into the south tower of the World Trade Center. I immediately called downstairs to Joy and asked her to turn on the television to see what was going on. Moments later, as we ate breakfast together with our three-year-old son Luke, we watched the second plane strike the north tower. I still remember my first response to Joy, “This is going to be bad, very bad,” I said.

Of course, I meant more than just the damage to the Twin Towers and the lives lost, which became far greater than any of us imagined at first. Rather, my first and deepest concern was what something like this could do to our our nation’s soul. I was afraid of how America would respond to a terrorist attack of this scope.

But as the Towers collapsed, and the suffering of this horrible event became increasingly clear in the hours and days that followed, other parts of the American soul revealed themselves — the heroic responses of the first responders, and a city and nation of people taking care of each other. As ordinary citizens gave their lives for strangers, they became our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers. In the days that followed the 9/11 attacks, the stories of pain, loss, and self-sacrifice brought Joy and me to tears several times. The suffering of many led to the service of many more.

For a moment, the world’s last remaining superpower was vulnerable, and we all felt it. In Washington, people fled from downtown D.C., walking and running right past our house, and gathered to pray at places such as Sojourners’ office. Joy helped Luke set up a little water station, as people frantically rushed by our house.

In our sudden sense of vulnerability we were now, and perhaps for the first time, like most of the world, where vulnerability is an accepted part of being human. And in those first days following 9/11, America, not the terrorists, had the high ground. The world did not identify with those who cruelly and murderously decided to take innocent lives in response to their grievances — both real and imagined. Instead, the world identified with a suffering America — even the front cover of the French newspaper Le Monde ran the headline, “We are all Americans now.”

But it was Washington’s response that I was most worried about. Within a short period of time, the official reaction to terrorism would simply be defined as war — a decade of it — resulting in many more innocent casualties than on September 11, 2001. In response to America’s own suffering, many others in Afghanistan, Iraq, and around the world would now suffer — all in the name of our war on terrorism. The opportunity for deeper understanding, reflection, and redirection would elude us as we sought to erase our vulnerability with the need to demonstrate our superior force and power. This was done quite easily in the early days of both our new wars. But now, we see that the longest series of wars in American history has failed to resolve or reverse the causes of the violence that struck us, or to make us safer. They just made it all worse.

The world expected and would have supported a focused and sustained effort to pursue and bring this small band of criminals to justice. But these last 10 years of manipulated and corrupted intelligence, endless war, practices and policies of torture, secret armies of assassination, global violations of human rights, indiscriminate violence with countless civilian casualties, and trillions of dollars wasted caused America to lose the high ground long ago. The arrogance of American power was our only response to the both the brutality and complexity of terrorism. Perhaps, this arrogance is most recently and brazenly exhibited in former Vice-President Dick Cheney’s new book tour, where he boasts of having absolutely no regrets for any of the momentous decisions he took part in. These are decisions which have made the world an even more divided, polarized, dehumanized, and dangerous place — 10 years after September 11, 2001.

But, fortunately, the official and failed response of Washington to the terrible tragedy of 9/11 has not been the only reponse. A new generation of Christians has asked how Jesus would respond to these same events. Many of them would agree with what Methodist Bishop Will Willimon recently said in the evangelical magazine Christianity Today: “American Christians may look back upon our response to 9/11 as our greatest Christological defeat … when our people felt vulnerable, they reached for the flag instead of the cross.” As many of those who have grown up in the decade since 9/11 confront the conflicts of their world, they are reaching for different things than their government. They are forging alternative responses to issues of injustice and violence, and rejecting the terrorism and war sequence of Washington’s twisted and failed moral logic.

And despite the hateful diatribes of fundamentalist leaders in all our religious traditions, other pastors have decided to love their neighbors, and even their enemies in response to Jesus’ call. Their stories are slowly being told, from American neighborhoods where Muslims have moved in, to conflict areas around the world where faith is being used for bridge building and healing, instead of more revenge killings. Christian leaders are sharing meals, fasting, and prayer with Muslim leaders. Some have defended each other’s congregations and homes in the face of heated threats and rhetoric. While differences between faith traditions are not being glossed over, the nature of a loving and reconciling God is being courageously affirmed across religious lines. In all of this, we are saying that government responses need not define our own…

Standing with the Coptic Church

9 July 2011 - By

From Christian Newswire: The Second Annual Coptic Solidarity Conference. Offer your prayers tonight for the the Coptic community and the fulfillment of their conference’s objectives.

The second Annual Coptic Solidarity Conference will be held on Friday and Saturday July 8-9 under the main theme of “Will Religious and Ethnic Minorities Pay the Price of the ‘Arab Spring.’ The Christian Copts are the native ethnic religious community of Egypt, descendants from ancient Egyptians. They number around 15 millions, including a large Diaspora with more than half a million strong community of American Copts.

The Copts have experienced persecutions throughout their history and lately have been subject to acts of aggression and discrimination in Egypt at the hands of extremists and Jihadists. Since the revolt in Egypt brought down the previous authoritarian regime of Husni Mubarak, the Coptic community is facing an uncertain future. The Military Council is slow in implementing true democratic reforms and, even worse, they face the prospect of a Muslim Brotherhood dominated Government in the near future.

Coptic Solidarity International is an INGO seeking the support of the Coptic community in Egypt and the protection of its fundamental human rights. It raises awareness within the international community about the Coptic historical and current issues via educational and informational activities.

Coptic leaders from North America, Europe and Egypt will speak on the conditions of the community in the Middle East and in the Diaspora.

The key objective of this two-day conference is to understand the implications of the current upheaval in the middle East and to offer present and future support to the Copts, and other minorities, as they go through this difficult period.

In February 2011, His Grace Bishop Serapion of the Coptic Orthodox Church discussed the vision and dream for a new Egypt

As post-Mubarak Egypt stands at a crossroads, Coptic Orthodox bishop His Grace Bishop Serapion is certain his hopes and vision for the new Egypt are shared not only by his homeland’s Christians, but lovers of freedom and human rights everywhere.

“While we have a deep concern about the direction of the country, we still have strong hope and great dreams,” HG Bishop Serapion said Sunday afternoon at the Los Angeles Convention Center in an address about Copts’ vision and hope for building the new Egypt. The event, presented by the Coptic Orthodox Diocese of Los Angeles, Southern California and Hawaii, over which HG Bishop Serapion is bishop, honored Coptic Christians in Egypt who have been killed in religiously motivated attacks by extremists since 2000. Up to 1,500 people were expected to attend the event.

The event aimed to raise awareness of the plight of Coptic Christians in Egypt, where they comprise 10 percent of that nation’s 79 million people. The Copts are the largest Christian population in the Middle East. Approximately 40,000 Copts live in Greater Los Angeles, where there are 30 Coptic Orthodox churches.

Following the Jan. 25 revolution in Egypt, Copts’ concerns have deepened for the country’s direction, as pockets of violence have erupted against them. On Feb. 20, Daoud Boutros, a Coptic priest from Shotb near the southern Egyptian city of Assiut, was stabbed to death in his apartment. Father Daoud was a mentor of HG Bishop Serapion. That same day, Egyptian military forces began destroying fences protecting ancient Coptic monasteries, leaving the monks and monasteries vulnerable to attacks. On Feb. 23, military forces opened fire on monks and young people, wounding many severely.

In the past 11 years Coptic Christians have suffered severe persecution and martyrdom at the hands of Islamic extremists, including the New Year’s Day suicide bombing of Saint Mark and Pope Peter Coptic Orthodox Church in Alexandria, which killed 24 Copts and injured approximately 100. Extremists gunned down six Coptic youths in Nag Hammadi in a Mass on Jan. 7, 2010. Extremists also killed 21 Copts in the village of Al Kosheh Jan. 21, 2000.

HG Bishop Serapion offered prayers for the martyrs and observed a moment of silence for those who died in recent weeks during political demonstrations in Cairo’s Tahrir Square. He echoed the Rev. Martin Luther King’s call to use non-violent means in advocating for a fair society for all Egyptians.

“What is the direction the society will move? Are we moving toward a state where every citizen has equal rights, irrespective of gender or religion, or a religious state where some people are considered as second-class citizens?” he asked. “We are at a crossroads in our society. We must focus on freedom, justice and equality, irrespective of the name of the person.”

Prompted by biblical and theological convictions, to achieve this dream of equality, Copts must wage non-violent struggle, HG Bishop Serapion said. The struggle entails rejecting injustice, exposing the evils of discrimination and standing up for Christians’ rights through the power of the truth, not the perpetuation of violence. Copts aim to cooperate with people of goodwill, regardless of religion, and will remain steadfast in their struggle “until our dream becomes reality,” he said.

“We must be ready to accept sacrifices,” he said. “Martyrs will fall and people will be wounded. This is the price of freedom and justice.”

Imprisonment

9 July 2011 - By

From the National Iranian American Council (NIAC): Watch: Maziar Bahari Discusses Imprisonment

NIAC presents an exclusive interview (in Persian) with award-winning journalist, documentary filmmaker, and human rights activist Maziar Bahari. His newest book, Then They Came for Me: A Family’s Story of Love, Captivity, and Survival, chronicles the 118 days he spent in a six-by-twelve-feet prison cell in Tehran’s notorious Evin prison. Bahari spoke with NIAC President Trita Parsi and journalist Sahar Namizikhah before giving a book reading and discussion with NIAC members in McLean, Virginia.

Bahari explains his relationship with his interrogator, and shares how he kept his hope alive and his hatred for his torturer at bay. Bahari also shares his views on dictatorships and their ideology and talks of the importance of democracy. In talking about his days in prison, he explains how Iranian Americans can help support human rights in Iran.

Podcast: Interview with Sarah Shroud

An exclusive interview with Sarah Shourd, discussing her experience imprisoned in Iran and the status of her fiance Shane Bauer and friend Josh Fattal, who are still detained in Iran. The three were detained in Iran on July 31, 2009, while hiking in the mountains of Iraqi Kurdistan near the Ahmed Awa waterfall, a local attraction. Bauer and Fattal have been held for 686 days without trial. Shourd was released on September 14, 2010, on humanitarian grounds after spending 410 days in solitary confinement. Visit Free The Hikers to support their cause.




SOON TO BE A MAJOR MOTION PICTURE DIRECTED BY JON STEWART

When Maziar Bahari left London in June 2009 to cover Iran’s presidential election, he assured his pregnant fiancée, Paola, that he’d be back in just a few days, a week at most. Little did he know, as he kissed her good-bye, that he would spend the next three months in Iran’s most notorious prison, enduring brutal interrogation sessions at the hands of a man he knew only by his smell: Rosewater. 

For the Bahari family, wars, coups, and revolutions are not distant concepts but intimate realities they have suffered for generations: Maziar’s father was imprisoned by the shah in the 1950s, and his sister by Ayatollah Khomeini in the 1980s. Alone in his cell at Evin Prison, fearing the worst, Maziar draws strength from his memories of the courage of his father and sister in the face of torture, and hears their voices speaking to him across the years. He dreams of being with Paola in London, and imagines all that she and his rambunctious, resilient eighty-four-year-old mother must be doing to campaign for his release. During the worst of his encounters with Rosewater, he silently repeats the names of his loved ones, calling on their strength and love to protect him and praying he will be released in time for the birth of his first child. 

A riveting, heart-wrenching memoir, Then They Came for Me offers insight into the past fifty years of regime change in Iran, as well as the future of a country where the democratic impulses of the youth continually clash with a government that becomes more totalitarian with each passing day. An intimate and fascinating account of contemporary Iran, it is also the moving and wonderfully written story of one family’s extraordinary courage in the face of repression.
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Plant an olive tree

3 January 2011 - By

From the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation: Please join in solidarity this holiday season, and help to replant olive trees in occupied Palestine.

Knowing that the common people in Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem continue to suffer under occupation and displacement, we are reminded that Mary and Joseph, huddling in a nook, were refugees under Roman occupation, and that they had traveled from Nazareth to Bethlehem, where Joseph’s family lived. Just as they lived in fear of a foreign occupying power two thousand years ago, sadly the Palestinians live in fear of the Israeli occupation, which imposes apartheid and takes their land. Often times, their olive trees are ripped out in an effort to displace them from their land.

Help to plant so that the children of many future generations might enjoy and be sustained by a gift of hope, a gift calling for a just and lasting peace.

The Olive Trees by Vincent van Gogh, 1889

St. Francis, Denver, attacked again

24 December 2010 - By

From the Denver Post: Griego: Little church’s St. Francis statue a target for vandals
By Tina Griego

Someone’s got it out for St. Francis. Or just the little church named in his honor. Or the church as a whole. Who knows? Maybe just fiberglass statues depicting humble saints who turn their backs on wealth to live in poverty.

It’s hard to know the mind of a vandal. This doesn’t keep Father John Kalabokes from trying.

Not quite five months ago, someone stole the bolted statue of St. Francis from its concrete base outside the St. Francis of Assisi Polish National Catholic Church. You might remember this story. The little church sits just below Leetsdale Avenue at South Jersey Street, across from a McDonald’s. Father John speculated the thief or thieves wrapped a chain around the 5-foot-tall statue, secured the other end to a vehicle and hit the gas.

This is a poor church, not affiliated with the Catholic Archdiocese of Denver as it has its differences — small but significant — with Roman Catholicism.

When the news got out, people sent in donations, and about two months after the statue was stolen, the church dedicated a new one: St. Francis, gleaming white, a blue bird perched on his hand.

Credit: John Prieto, The Denver Post

And now this.

“St. Francis was attacked again,” Father John tells me in an e-mail.

I call him in disbelief. “What?”

The statue wasn’t stolen this time, he says. This time, someone or someones went after it with some kind of tool until the head smashed and the face came off.

“This was brutal,” he says, sounding weary. “Somebody has real issues. Whoever did it just beat on the statue, just beat on the head. The whole face came off in one piece.”

When Father John first discovered it Wednesday, he called a television reporter and a short piece aired. Afterward, he wondered whether it was the right thing to do. He wonders, even now, whether more publicity will just gratify the culprit. I don’t try to persuade him one way or another. As I said, it’s hard to know the mind of a vandal. Maybe, Father John decides, more publicity will prompt someone to come forward.

“Let’s face it,” he says. “These kind of crimes only get solved because someone comes forward, a witness or someone who knows something.”

It might not be the same person as last time, I say.

“There’s no way of knowing,” he says. “We suspect it’s an ongoing crime. It’s hard to accept that there would be more than one person out there who would do this.”

He tells me something he didn’t reveal before. About a week and a half after the statue was stolen, someone left a note on its concrete base. The letters were cut out of newspaper like a movie-version of a ransom note and said something like: ” ‘You will be struck,’ ” Father John said. “The police have it now.

“I’m a little discouraged and depressed,” he says. “I don’t understand the joy someone would get out of that. It’s a hateful action. It’s an act against the faithful.”

On Sunday, most of the congregation got its first look at the headless St. Francis. It’s a startling sight. Church members are angered and baffled and they compare it to recent attacks on statues at the Mother Cabrini Shrine in Golden.

After Mass, Father John talks to the congregation. “I’m sure most of you, if not all of you, noticed that St. Francis was attacked again,” he starts, and the woman next to me starts to cry. He says he can’t figure out why someone would do this and that he no longer thinks this is a teenage prank. He says the good news, such as it is, is the statue might be reparable, but the church needs to figure out a way to protect it.

Someone out there is troubled, he says, so pray for him or her. Good came from bad last time, he tells them. It can again.

You may contact St. Francis Parish via their website to express your prayers and support.

Rally to Support Iraqi Christians

3 December 2010 - By

From the American Mesopotamian Organization, Justice in Iraq, the Iraqi Christian Relief Council, and the Seyfo Center U.S.A.: A Rally to Challenge the Obama Administration to Support and Protect Indigenous Assyrian Christians of Iraq

For the past seven years we have watched in stunned disbelief as savage Islamist extremist groups have continued to terrorize and murder Iraqi Christians. In the latest attacks, Al Qaeda-linked terrorists stormed the Syriac Catholic Cathedral in Baghdad during Mass, killing the priests in front of their parishioners, and children in front of their parents. On November 2nd the same group announced that all infidels in Iraq should be prepared to die. Enough is Enough!

WHEN: Saturday, December 4th, from 12:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m.
WHERE: Lafayette Park, Washington, DC

We, the undersigned organizations, demand that the Obama Administration immediately pressure the government of Iraq to protect its most persecuted citizens. To date, the Obama Administration has failed to even acknowledge that Iraqi Christians are being murdered specifically because of their faith and ethnic heritage. They are the descendants of the Assyrians and Babylonians, who were the first converts to Christianity outside Jerusalem in the 1st century A.D., and still speak Aramaic, the language of Jesus. Their plight is shared by other defenseless Iraqis, including the Yazidis, Sabean Mandaeans and Shebeks.

Currently, under Article 125 of the Iraqi Constitution, Iraq’s Christians and other indigenous Iraqis have the legal right to practice their faith, and the right to establish a specific province in which they might live peacefully as citizens of Iraq. We ask the U.S. government to pressure the Iraqi government and Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) to remove the obstacles and fully implement Article 125 so that Iraq’s Christians will not be terrorized to extinction.

Join us this Saturday, in Lafayette Park, Washington DC, from 12:00 P.M. to 3:00 P.M., along with groups from across the nation to demand, with a loud and unified voice, that the Obama Administration must act now and pressure the government of Iraq and the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) to protect all of their citizens!

From the Institute on Religion & Democracy: IRD Urges Prayer, Advocacy for Afghani and Iraqi Christians

“Freedom and democracy in Iraq and Afghanistan must apply to our Christian brothers and sisters there.” — Faith J.H. McDonnell, IRD Religious Liberty Director

The Institute on Religion and Democracy is urging an end to persecution of Christians in Afghanistan and Iraq. The organization also encourages Washington, DC area residents to show solidarity with these beleaguered Christians at a rally sponsored by Iraqi American Christians for “Justice in Iraq” at noon, Saturday, December 4, at the White House’s Lafayette Park. The rally will call upon the respective governments to ensure that the rights and freedoms of the indigenous minorities in Iraq are honored and protected.

Two Afghani Christian converts, Said Musa (45) and Ahmad Shah (50) are in prison awaiting trial on the death penalty charge of “apostasy” from Islam. The Christian population of Iraq is under threat from Islamic jihadists following the latest atrocity, a massacre of Christians at Our Lady of Salvation Catholic Church, Baghdad, on October 31, 2010.

Musa and Shah were arrested May 31 with other converts after footage of a baptismal service was viewed on national television. Witnesses report that Musa has been beaten, tortured, and sexually abused on a daily basis.

Al Qaeda-connected jihadists have told Iraq’s Christians and other “infidels” to “prepare to die.” This threat followed the attack on Baghdad Christians at Sunday mass which left 58 dead. The Assyrian/Chaldean/Syriac Christians trace their ancestry back 7,000 years to the ancient Mesopotamians.

IRD Religious Liberty Director Faith J.H. McDonnell commented:

“America has given billions of dollars, and, more importantly, given precious American lives, to bring freedom and democracy to the people of Afghanistan and Iraq. But this must include freedom and democracy for our Christian brothers and sisters and other indigenous minorities, as well.

In 2006, the international community was outraged when Afghan Christian convert Abdul Rahman faced the death penalty. His life was saved because of the outcry. These Iraqi Christians, who are being hunted like animals by the Islamists, still speak Aramaic, the language that Jesus spoke. We must stand with them in their hour of peril.”

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