At the official launch of our new graphic novel series AFRICA IN IMAGES, I had a chance to meet face to face with all the people who worked together to create the first book on the Democratic Republic of the Congo: Roza, or the Courage to Choose Life.
During the launch event I made notes in the empty space around the intense and powerful images on my very first copy of the graphic novel as I listened to our riveting guests. Sister Marie-Bernard Alima, from the Justice and Peace Episcopal Commission of the DRC and Most Rev. Nicolas Djomo, President of the Conference of Bishops of the DRC, spoke powerfully about their work bringing peace to their country.
One of the key moments that stimulated this whole comic project began with a meeting between Soeur Marie Bernard and young people at the College de l’Ascension, where the students wanted to develop something to mobilize people around what was going on. It all came from a desire to empower people, to encourage each other and collaborate on a project of solidarity, with a focus on respecting the initiatives of the people of the DRC and the work of the Commission. Hence the graphic novel-style education campaigns began, highlighting the impact of the violence, but more importantly, the initiatives and empowerment of the Congolese people.
With 60 million Catholics in the Congo, the Church is working full-time to restore human dignity – to renew a respect for the dignity of each person, and to live out this mutual respect. They shared with us their communitarian approach to reconciliation, touching on the physical, moral and spiritual needs of the people. Sister Marie Bernard told us about how the programs allow people who have suffered, and are so discouraged, to be able to stand up again and take up life and have courage.
The Justice and Peace Commission wants all of us to join them in their work of evangelization – to preach the gospel of human dignity. The Commission believes strongly that those who have suffered can and will reflect upon their situation and read their context: where we are, what happened, what can we do. This analysis and reflection work is critical to rebuilding confidence and bringing forth new leadership = confidence gives courage. The graphic novels speaks to the courage of women to rebuild, to lead their families when their men are knocked down. The Congolese women are saying “Get up, Come on, We can do this, Together we are strong”!
For Sister Marie Bernard the most inspiring thing she has experienced is this link between confidence and courage. How? Again and again Sister Marie Bernard has met a woman who doesn’t know how to read, and through learning this important skill she finds her voice and gains confidence. This woman then takes her new capacity to the next level and leads her community to humanize their society during and after the dehumanizing experiences of war. From hell and back – this is the power of believing in the dignity of the person.
Join us in supporting the Justice and Peace Commission of the Congo with Development and Peace. Stand in solidarity with our brothers and sisters who have the Courage to Choose Life!
by Genevieve Gallant
Read the comic: http://youth.devp.org/2011/10/urgent-action-the-congo/
Honduran State Continues to Criminalize Human Rights Defenders
BACKGROUND: Many Development and Peace members and supporters are familiar with our work with partner CEHPRODEC for responsible mining in Honduras.
Have you been at a speaking event with Pedro Landa? He speaks regularly and strongly about the Goldcorp-owned San Martin mine in the country’s Siria Valley and the struggle of the directly affected communities for respect to their right to live in a healthy environment and have access to a clean water supply.
The following action put out by another partner organization, COFADEH, a human rights committee, highlights the situation faced by Carlos Amador, Secretary of the Siria Valley Environmental Committee, a committee that has been active on mining and forestry issues facing their communities for several years now.
Carlos and other local activists are increasingly concerned about the ease with which the government is granting permits to slowly deforest the area, which has already been environmentally damaged by open-pit mining. In the face of mounting opposition by the local population to the destruction of the local forests, trees are now being chopped down by armed men, and tensions are escalating.
In this context, a local powerful family has filed charges against 18 local environmental activists, who are opposed to the destruction of the forests. This lawsuit illustrates the reduction of democratic space in Honduras for any opposition to the government, a space that has been reduced since the June 2009 coup d’etat which ousted democratically elected president Manuel Zelaya from Honduras. It also illustrates the trend of criminalization of social protest.
Development and Peace upholds the right of the Siria Valley Environmental Committee and local activists to protest against environmental degradation that is ultimately damaging the livelihoods of poor small-scale farmers. Please support this action suggested by COFADEH.
URGENT ACTION: Honduran State Continues to Criminalize Human Rights Defenders
THE SITUATION: The Committee of Relatives of the Detained and Disappeared in Honduras (Cofadeh) expresses its repudiation and concern for the Honduran State’s systemic practice of qualifying the most basic actions defending of nature and the rights accorded by the Constitution of the Republic as disturbing the peace, sabatoge and terrorism.
Various legal tools and policies are being used to inhibit the work of human rights defenders. In this particular case, defenders of the environment Carlos Danilo Amador and Marlon Hernández were detained by police, with warrants, between 6:30 and 7:00 AM on their way to work on charges of obstructing the excecution of an environmental management plan. Juan Ángel Reconco was detained in the early afternoon on the same charges. All are members of the Environmental Committee of the Siria Valley. Another 15 environmental defenders, also members of the committee, also have warrants out for their arrest on the same charge, and are at risk of arrest.
The charges are related to incidents that occured on April 7, 2010, when 600 residents of the Municipality of El Porvenir prevented logging of trees that protect the mini-watershed of the Guayabo Stream, known as el Tapalito, in the village of El Terrero.
This source supplies water for human consumption to 6 communities in the municipality, directly affecting 10,000 residents who have been protecting the area and forest for years. This protection was formalized on December 27, 2007 in an agreement with then AFE-COHDEFOR (State Forestry Administration – Honduran Corporation for Forestry Development), the Municipality of El Porvenir, and the residents.
The Environmental Committee and the affected communities consider that the management plan granted to Hayde Urrutia Mejía by the Honduran State is illegal because it deos not comply with the prerequisites established in the Forestry, Protected Areas and Wildlife Law, which requires an Environmental Impact Assessment including the participation of the population that could be affected by the project or activity under review. They also consider the management plan illegal due to irregularities regarding land tenancy.
The environmentalists in question are facing charges of Obstructing the Execution of a Management Plan, which carries a penaly of 4-6 years in prison according to article 186 of the above mentioned law. In the hearing that took place on July 5, 2011, Judge Ingrid Quiroz Banegas imposed precautionary measures on the defendants, including the requirements that they present themselves and sign-in at the courthouse every 15 days, do not leave the country, do not approach the mini-watershed of Tapalito, and do not approach the person, family, or dwelling of the beneficiary of the Management Plan, Hayde Urrutia Mejia.
In this particular case the justice system has not acted objectively and is instead favoring the executive branches of the state and criminalizing civil protest in the name of national (and international) interests, while the national (and international) interests in question are the precisely the reason for concern and protest on the part of the people and communities of the municipality of El Porvenir and leaders of the Environmental Committee of the Siria Valley.
THE ACTION:Cofadeh is requesting the national and international community to demand that:
1) the Honduran State take the necessary measures, including implementation the required mechanisms, to guarantee personal freedom, due process, and the right to defend human rights to Carlos Danilo Amador, Marlon Hernández, Juan Ángel Reconco and all other members of the Siria Valley Environmental Committee;
2) cease all acts of retaliation against them; and
3) guarantee in general the right to defend universally recognized human rights as established in the United Nations Universal Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, approved in 1998, and similar OAS Resolutions emitted in 1999 and 2000.
Please direct letters, calls and faxes to Honduran Justice officials and diplomatic representatives of your country of residence. (Fax and phone numbers are listed with calling codes from the US or Canada.)
On June 21st, the Lebanon Solidarity trip team was fortunate to spend a second day with Caritas Lebanon Migrants Centre. The Centre was established in 1994, in response to the large number of refugees from Sudan arriving in Lebanon. CLCM aims to serve migrant workers, asylum seekers, and refugees by offering a variety of social services to migrants, regardless of their race, religion, ethnicity or political persuasion.
However, the issue of migrant workers within the country, and their need for protection, was not an issue that the group had imagined prior to traveling to Lebanon…
BUT according to statistics, there are more than 157,000 migrant workers legally entitled to work in Lebanon. Additionally, there are more than 100,000 Syrian workers in the country, with rules around travel and work in Lebanon are somewhat more lax. There are also a large number of illegal workers whose status in Lebanon is even more precarious.
In our meetings with CLCM staff members, we learned about the plight of migrant workers. Many women from countries including Sri Lanka, the Philippines, Ethiopia, Madagascar and many others, arrive in Lebanon every year as domestic workers.
Agencies recruit the women, and connect them with households in Lebanon. We learned that there are over 600 recruitment agencies working in Lebanon. The agency holds the worker’s passport. Women have to sign on for 3 year minimum contracts, and collect around $150 – $250 dollars per month.
At times, these domestic workers are physically or sexually abused and/or harassed in the homes where they live and work.
Tragically, we learned that there has been an increase in the numbers of murders and suicides of migrant domestic workers, and it is believed that some deaths go unreported.
The Centre for Migrants offers support to domestic workers in need of assistance. The Solidarity Trip team was able to visit a shelter for vulnerable women and their children.
The women are from a variety of cultural backgrounds, and come from a range of very difficult experiences. Some are newly-arrived Iraqi women and children, with the father in prison for entering “illegally”, while others have had awful experiences of being mistreated by their employers. We spent the day with the women, sharing in each other’s cultures, dancing, playing soccer with the kids and eating traditional food that the women had made. We really enjoyed their company!
CLCM offers key services to migrant workers, refugees, and asylum seekers, including providing basic needs, social and psychological support, providing for medical needs, educational support and payment of school fees and supplies, and legal support.
And, importantly, the organization is also working with the government to develop a special law relating to domestic workers. This law would better protect the rights of both Lebanese and foreign-born domestic workers. With the frequent changes to governmental leadership in Lebanon, it has been difficult to get the law ratified.
It is positive to know that Caritas Lebanon Migrants Centre is doing everything they can to assist the large number of migrants and refugees, both by advocating for changes in law, and by providing vital services.
While only in Lebanon a few days we have already experienced so much – incredible encounters, meetings and experiences. This morning, we were looking forward to meeting Linda Macktaby to learn more, because our curiosity is growing day by day! When we met her in Beirut we did not expect to make such a connection with this young activist, a dynamic, interesting woman, with a special sense of humour.
In Beirut: Linda from FDCD, Geneviève and Amélie, DP Ottawa-Hull members
Through this young woman, who leads programs and youth groups with FDCD (Forum for Development, Culture and Dialogue), we discovered all about the life of a Lebanese person who is involved and active in civil society in Lebanon. Working on the reconstruction of peace and reconciliation in a country as divided politically and religiously as Lebanon, is not an easy task, let alone doing so as a woman.
FDCD members with DP members!
However, Linda’s strong character and her unparalleled motivation seem to give her wings for her work and for the FDCD programs. Lebanese women do not always have a voice. The FDCD projects are primarily focused on young people and the empowerment of women, both being essential for the construction of a strong civil society. In fact, the employees and members of FDCD are mainly committed and determined young people, where women thrive.
Although women are marginalized in Lebanon, they are surely the most active in sharing an insatiable desire for a change in attitude amidst situations of inequality and injustice. As a woman myself and a student in the field of development, the work and spirit of Linda and FDCD have inspired and affected me greatly.
The stimulating, challenging and inspiring experiences we are living out during our Solidarity Trip in Lebanon are being added to the blog throughout the summer. But before you continue to see what we did, who we met, and what we learned about peace-building and development, here is more information about Development and Peace’s programming in the Middle East region.
Ever since it’s founding, Development and Peace has been coming to the aid of people in the Arab world who find themselves in difficulty. Here are a few programs you might remember supporting, from a snapshot of our presence and support in the last ten years:
- during the ”war on terrorism”: emergency relief and reconstruction in Afghanistan and in Iraq
- during the huge earthquakes: emergency relief and reconstruction in Iran and in Pakistan
- during and after the Israeli wars: emergency relief and reconstruction in the Palestinian Territories and in Lebanon
Development and Peace is continuing to build and strengthen action for peace and development in the Middle East – that is our goal and you and I are involved in helping to realize this goal through our support of partners in Lebanon.
In the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), violence has become a way of life. Violence against women is out of control and rape has become a weapon of war.
In many instances, armed men will overrun a village, attack the inhabitants, rape the women, destroy crops and leave in their wake a path of terror and destruction.
For those who manage to escape, they must return to their villages in the aftermath and try to heal from trauma and re-build their communities with a culture of peace.
This is the story told in ournew graphic novel: ROZA or the Courage to Choose Life, written and illustrated by Congolese artist Séraphin Kajibwami and published by Development and Peace in collaboration with the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA). The graphic novel includes an overview of the issues affecting this resource-rich country.
The graphic novel will be launched on Tuesday, April 5th with special guests Sister Marie-Bernard Alima, the secretary general of the Justice and Peace Episcopal Commission of the DRC and Most Rev. Nicolas Djomo, President of the Conference of Bishops of the DRC, both of whom are working to bring peace to their country.
Development and Peace supports several projects in the DRC to strengthen democracy, empower women, ensure fair control of natural resources and establish peace in the country.
Tuesday, April 5th, 2011
Maison de l’Afrique, 6256 Henri-Julien St.
Watch for this graphic novel to be distributed in your region this fall!
Interested? Contact Genevieve Gallant, Youth Programs at Development and Peace: email@example.com 1-800-494-1401 ext 230
Meet partners supported by Development and Peace (indigenous leaders, campesinos/as, human rights activists, workers and community representatives).
See the country through their eyes.
Listen to the stories of those they help.
Learn first-hand about the work they do.
D&P has been active in Paraguay for the last 30 years!
When: a 2 week trip within the first three weeks of July
Led by: Luke Stocking, Animator for Central Ontario
Justicia Y Paz, one of our Colombian partners, was featured in our education campaign on food sovereignty and the impact of agrofuels on the poor. Meet them and others too!
When: a 2 week trip the first two weeks of September after Labour Day
Led by: Paul Lemieux, Animator for Southwestern Ontario and Ann-Christina Gamillscheg, Animator for Eastern Ontario
APPROXIMATE COST IS BETWEEN $2000-$2500 (Real cost is subsidized by D&P – D&P also provides support for local fundraising efforts to help cover the cost.)
Deadline for applications is April 22, 2011
Criteria for Application:
The trip is open to members of Development and Peace 18+ with a proven commitment to our work and who are legally able to travel. Participants must be available for a pre-trip orientation and be willing to share their experiences with others upon return. Due to the nature of the trips, participants must be in good health and be comfortable with simple living conditions.
For more information or to obtain an application form contact: Siobhan Rowan, Education Programs Coordinator firstname.lastname@example.org 416-922-1592 x229
Political turmoil in Cote d’Ivoire leads to humanitarian crisis: Development and Peace supporting aid – more needed
The deteriorating political crisis in Côte d’Ivoire has left over 350,000 people displaced within the country with little access to food or health services. If tensions and violence continue to rise the humanitarian situation could worsen as more flee with little hope of returning to their homes in the near future.
Development and Peace is responding with a contribution of $50,000 towards emergency relief, being organized by local agency Caritas Côte d’Ivoire. Aid is being provided to the displaced and host families, and includes the distribution of food, hygiene kits, blankets and other household items, as well as health services such as screening children for malnutrition, improved access to clean water, and ensuring the safety of those displaced.
Côte d’Ivoire has been in a political crisis since 2002, when electoral candidate Alassane Ouattara was excluded from elections. Divisions within the country led to conflict and the country in fact split in two. Scheduled elections for 2005 were postponed repeatedly and finally took place in October 2010. However, the in-office president Laurent Gbagbo refused to admit defeat to Ouattara, which plunged the country into turmoil.
Ongoing violence has forced thousands to flee their homes, either crossing into neighbouring countries or moving to other regions of Côte d’Ivoire. It is estimated that the number of internally displaced people has increased five-fold in as little as two weeks, placing strains on host families and leaving people vulnerable to hunger and disease.
“A critical humanitarian situation is unfolding in Côte d’Ivoire and it can’t be forgotten. People are living in fear and need help,” says Barbara Trachsel, Emergency Programs Officer at Development and Peace.
Development and Peaceis encouraging Canadians to further help with this emergency response by making a donation to Development and Peace by telephone (1 888 664-3387), online or by sending a cheque made out to Development and Peace and indicating Côte d’Ivoire Crisis and sending it to:
Development and Peace
1425 René-Lévesque Blvd. West. 3rd Floor,
Montreal QC H3G 1T7
We are also currently leading its annual Share Lent fundraising campaign. 10% of donations go towards an emergency relief fund, which allows Development and Peace to respond immediately to humanitarian crises in the Global South, especially those which risk being overlooked or forgotten, such as this one. By supporting Share Lent, you help Development and Peace respond throughout to year to situations like the one in Côte d’Ivoire.