Another Terrible Weapon The Nuclear Minority Refuses To Ban

By:  Jonathan Frerichs 

        UN representative for disarmament, Geneva, Pax Christi International           

        26 November 2019

This is an up-date about the effort to prohibit autonomous weapons. The opposition to a ban brings to mind the same apartheid-style dynamics which allow a few states to have nuclear weapons. Now there are signs of a similar double standard emerging around killer robots. Pax Christi International is a member of the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots.

The CCW, a Geneva-based convention designed to prohibit especially bad weapons, has been discussing lethal robotic weapons since 2013.  Its findings mostly point to the urgent need to impose a pre-emptive ban on any weapon which would select and kill human beings on its own.

This year’s “debate” ended 14-16 November 2019 and the outcome was modest once again.

States parties to the CCW agreed to adopt a brief set of “guiding principles” developed over the last two years.  These are rather broad, for example, international law shall apply to all future weapons systems and humans are responsible and accountable for the use of weapons which have autonomous capabilities.  The CCW says it will aim to “operationalize” the principles in the next two years.

So little has been accomplished that news stories from previous CCW meetings could be recycled. “Yet again, a small group of military powers have shown an appalling lack of ambition and zero sense of urgency…on lethal autonomous weapons systems,” the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots said earlier in 2019, and much the same in 2018 as well.

Which states are blocking constructive action?  Russia, USA, Israel, United Kingdom and Australia, in the main.  All either have or rely on nuclear weapons.  They argue that existing international law is sufficient.  Yet they and other nuclear-dependent states haven’t fulfilled their legal obligation under the NPT to eliminate nuclear weapons.  They refuse to support the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons which is largely based on International Humanitarian Law and reinforces the NPT.

Many of the other states in the CCW want new legal controls based on IHL.  The guardian of the laws of war, the International Committee of the Red Cross, is calling for new rules to address the legal, ethical and humanitarian concerns raised by autonomous weapons

The blockers also give short shrift to calls for rigorous application of International Human Rights Law to autonomous weapon systems.  Yet it was the UN Human Rights Council which first brought the issue of killer robots to the CCW out of concern for extra-judicial killings.

While a few powerful states dither and delay, technology is steadily advancing.  Weapons with algorithms that select and strike targets on their own are not much “smarter” than the self-driving cars being tested today.

Fortunately, support for common-sense controls and preventive measures is building–at the CCW and far beyond. Recent examples:

  • 30 countries plus the Non-Aligned Movement of 120 states are calling for a prohibition of fully autonomous weapons.
  • Austria, Brazil and Chile are calling for a CCW mandate to negotiate “a legally-binding instrument to ensure meaningful human control over the critical functions” of weapons systems.
  • In September 2018, the European Parliament called for negotiations of such a ban.
  • Foreign ministers of Germany and Belgium have called for a ban.
  • More than 60-percent of the public in 26 countries are opposed to the development of weapons that would select and attack targets on their own, according to a recent poll.
  • 4,500 AI experts and 116 CEOs of robotics companies have called on the United Nations to take action on robotic weapons systems.
  • More than 240 tech companies and 3,200 tech workers have pledged never to develop, produce or use autonomous weapons systems.
  • The Synod of the Protestant Church in Germany called for a ban on killer robots while the CCW was meeting in November.

The core of this majoritarian concern is to respect the moral threshold that machines must not be allowed to kill people.

Nuclear weapons pose a grave risk which a large majority of states have addressed unequivocally.  Killer robots impose a responsibility which many states are recognizing, which no state can escape and which all states must answer.



2019 Global Peace Forum Korea – “Making Connections: Global Challenges, Korea and Peaceful Coexistence.”

By Doug Hostetter

UN Representative, Pax Christi International

Co-Chair Planning Committee, Global Peace Forum on Korea

Global Peace Forum Korea

The second Global Peace Forum on Korea, held at Columbia University in New York City on Saturday, September 28th 2019.  The forum brought together for a day of formal and informal discussion over a hundred scholars, religious leaders, and peace activists from the US, Russia, Canada and Vietnam with the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea) UN diplomats, and Members of the National Assembly (and numerous civil society activist) from the Republic of Korea (South Korea).  The theme this year was “Making Connections:  Global Challenges, Korea and Peaceful Coexistence.”   The meeting opened with a challenge from President Jimmy Carter.  “Thank you for coming together to build the international relationships and support that are necessary to complete this process and fulfill the vision and promise of the Singapore Summit for a ‘new era of peace and a peaceful land’ in Korea.”

Human relationships are the foundation of peacebuilding.  The challenge in building relationships between Americans and Koreans from both the North and South is formidable.  North and South Korea do not have diplomatic relations.  Even phone, mail or email connections between the two Koreas is prohibited.  The US also does not have diplomatic relations with North Korea and North Korea is one of the countries whose citizens are prohibited from traveling to the US, and a US travel ban makes it illegal for any American to travel to North Korea without a “Special Validation Passport.”  The travel ban has eliminated all tourism, academic and cultural travel by American to North Korea, although Quakers, Mennonites and a few other non-government organizations have occasionally been allowed to travel to North Korea for small scale humanitarian efforts.  With sanctions and travel restrictions, few Americans, South Koreans or other people of the world have ever met a North Korean in person.  The Global Peace Forum on Korea was organized to remediate that problem, at least for the participants of the Forum.  ”Read more here”.



Nonviolence, Peace

Nous devons promouvoir la paix a tout prix!

par Pere Godefroid Mombula,
Directeur du CIC

(a l’occasion de l’ouverture de l’atelier de formation des formateurs du reseau Pax Christi des Grands Lacs, Kinshasa, 18-22 aout 2019)

Monsieur le coordinateur régional de Pax Christi International pour l’Afrique, et mesdames et messieurs les participants:

Il m’est un grand plaisir et un grand honneur de me mettre devant vous pour vous adresser ce petit mot de bienvenue. Je le fais d’abord en ma qualité du directeur du CIAM-Afrique, une des organisations partenaires de Pax Christi International. Ensuite, je me mets devant vous en ma qualité de membre du comité directeur de Pax Christi International. Pour exprimer mes sentiments je n’ai que des mots. Malheureusement, les mots ne traduisent pas toujours fidèlement tout ce qui est dans le cœur de l’homme. Puisque c’est l’instrument que la nature et la culture ont mis à notre portée, je l’utilise tout de même malgré son imperfection pour vous exprimer mes sentiments de fraternité et d’amitié à vous tous ici présents: sentez-vous chez vous!

Mesdames et messieurs les participants,

Nous sommes réunis ici dans le cadre d’un atelier de formation des formateurs du réseau Pax Christi des Grands Lacs dont les objectifs sont:

  1. Apprendre les méthodes d’actions non violentes, à être artisan de paix et à les appliquer aux problèmes auxquels on est confronté;
  2. Aider les candidats-formateurs à découvrir en eux cette force de vie intérieure, libératrice et transformatrice des injustices;
  3. Connaître le réseau Pax Christi des Grands Lacs, son projet et son exécution; concevoir des outils de gestion de ce projet;
  4. Entrepreneuriat des jeunes: création et gestion des AGR.

Mesdames et messieurs les participants,

Comme vous le savez peut être, Pax Christi International est une organisation catholique non gouvernementale pour la paix. Elle a été fondée en 1945 après la seconde guerre mondiale comme mouvement de réconciliation entre les français et les allemands. En effet, l’année prochaine en mai 2020, PCI fêtera ses 75 ans d’existence. Cependant, l’aspiration pour la paix est encore loin d’être réalisée. Des conflits persistent; pensez au cycle de violences et de guerres dans la Région des Grands Lacs.

Nous avons besoin désespérément de la paix: « Pax vobis » (Luc 24, 36). Ce sont les paroles de Jésus adressées à ses disciples après la résurrection. Ces paroles ont été utilisées par les pères de l’Eglise et continuent à être utilisées dans la liturgie catholique dans l’échange de paix. Le monde, loin d’avoir besoin de la nourriture d’abord, le monde et surtout la Région des Grands Lacs ont plus besoin de la paix. Si nous avons la paix, nous aurons la nourriture pour tout le monde.

Mesdames et messieurs les participants,

Permettez-moi de vous raconter une histoire qui me parait très suggestive. L’histoire est écrite par un certain Mr. Nassan:

“There is a huge statue of Christ holding a cross on the Andes, between the countries of the Argentine and Chile. The story of that statue is worth knowing. Once the Argentine and Chile were about to go to war with one another. They were quarreling over some land which each said belonged to them. So both countries started to prepare for war. Then on Easter Sunday, bishops in Argentine and Chile began to urge peace. They went round their countries crying out for peace in the name of Christ. The people did not want war and in the end they made their governments talk peace with one another, instead of war. … The big guns, instead of being used for fighting, were melted down and made into the great big bronze statue of Christ. It now stands on the mountains between the two countries.”

Mesdames et messieurs les participants,

Nous devons promouvoir la paix à tout prix. La paix n’est pas conquise par la force, elle est plutôt l’aboutissement d’une compréhension d’ensemble. Albert Einstein disait: « Peace cannot be kept by force. It can only be achieved by understanding ». C’est malheureux que notre monde et surtout la Région des Grands Lacs puissent sombrer dans une recrudescence de violences et de guerres pendant que la jeunesse est là, croisant les bras. En effet, la jeunesse est une période de la vie qui devrait plutôt nous donner l’opportunité d’accomplir quelque chose de neuf et de devenir un nouvel homme: « Rien n’est trop difficile pour la jeunesse », dit-on. Nous espérons que la paix est possible pourvu que la jeunesse s’y engage. Et le moyen pour y arriver c’est la non-violence. Mohandas Gandhi déclarait: « My religion is based on truth and non-violence. Truth is my God and non-violence is the means to reach Him ».

Que vive Pax Christi International! Que vive la paix dans la Région des Grands Lacs! J’ai dit et je vous remercie!


Where there’s a will, there’s a way

by Toine Van Teeffelen, Arab Educational Institute

A few weeks ago, my colleagues at work and partners came together in a restaurant in the countryside to the west of Bethlehem. The Qassieh family owns a land there of the size of a soccer field, about half an hectare. They exploit a well-known restaurant, the Makhrour restaurant, called after a broader valley to the west of Beit Jala. It is area C – the over 60% of the West Bank lands under complete Israeli control.

It is a bit far located, and so Mary and I had never visited the restaurant. However, the Arab Educational Institute created an opportunity at the occasion of the departure of the German volunteer Fabian, sent out by Pax Christi Stuttgart and Aachen, who was with us for a year. The food during the early evening tasted good and the environment was pleasant, with plenty of green trees and bushes around us, away from the noisiness and the many cars of Bethlehem.

The memories were good, too. Makhrour is an area where Mary and I, family and guests from abroad are used to hike, from Beit Jala to the west of Bethlehem to the beautifully located village of Battir – a few years ago made into a world heritage site partly to prevent the erection of the Wall. It is graced by Roman-time terraces and archeological sites, with spectacular views over agricultural fields and valleys, and an old railroad and small station. Many years ago the Makhrour was an area where the inhabitants of Bethlehem and Beit Jala used to sleep under the trees in the summer and afterwards during harvest time; sometimes even for weeks, as my Arabic teacher used to recall not without nostalgia.

At the end of the dinner we felt rested and promised ourselves to come back, with or without hike.

The Qassieh family is one of those who display sumud or steadfastness by staying on their land. As so many others – the Nasser family of the Tent of Nations immediately comes to mind – they have been absorbed by Kafkaesque Israeli High Court proceedings which last for many years, if not decades. However, they hung on, even though several dwellings on the land have previously been demolished. Many lands in area C are not formally registered though well-known to belong to certain Palestinian family owners. Add to this that almost no Palestinian gets a building permit in area C from the occupier – the Israeli army/Civil Administration.

The Jewish National Fund suddenly came two years ago with proofs of land ownership nobody knew about. Supposedly the family land was sold almost 50 years ago. In a statement about the case, the Israeli organization Peace Now speaks about the Jewish National Fund as the “Fund for the expulsion of Palestinians.” The Israeli High Court did not allow for any further appeal by the family. On Sunday the main house was demolished, live on Facebook for Bethlehemites and anybody else to see.

Don’t forget the context. These years house demolitions have been happening in the West Bank and East-Jerusalem at an exponential pace. A few weeks ago, at least 70 apartments or houses were demolished in the village Sur Bahir to the east of Bethlehem. They were not located in area C, but in area A and B, under Palestinian civil control, and built with permits. The excuse for demolition there was that the houses happened to be in an area of 250 meters on both sides of the illegal Wall which the army has designated as ‘security’ area.

Where there is a will there is a way, especially when all power is in your hands.




Nonviolence, Peace, Women and Peacemaking

The metamorphosis of a female fighter into a peacebuilder

by Sawssan Abou-Zahr

The story you’re about to read is that of armed conflict and gender, ideologies and the business of war, self-criticism and healing, peacebuilding and education. It is that of a woman who went from being a fighter, to fighting for peace. It is a story that proves how easy it is to get caught at a young age in the labyrinth of war, and how hard it is to detox oneself.

“I practice nonviolence and believe in the power of peacebuilding. I want to live in peace and help young men and women do so. I tell my story hoping to be a catalyst for change.”

Salwa Saad is a retired Lebanese educator. Instead of resting, she takes every possible chance to promote the role of women in peace education and peacebuilding as well as convincing vulnerable youth not to fall for sectarian discourses that end in armed conflict.

“I hate killing”, she told me when I started the interview with a perhaps rude question. I asked whether she got involved in killings directly. She answered: “I didn’t kill. Something inside me prevented me from taking lives although I was as good as any man in shooting… Some female fighters were notorious like their male counterparts. They still don’t show any remorse… As for me, I cried for years.”

She added: “When we became combatants, we cancelled the others’ rights; we didn’t perceive them as humans… After the war (1975 – 1990), I met fighters from the other end. It wasn’t easy to reach out to people who used to be enemies. They had their cause and I had mine. I disagree with their thinking, but they have another version of the story of the war.”

A villager in the war

Salwa was a rebel child in a mountain village. At the age of ten she experienced gender inequality without knowing this discrimination had a name. Her conservative father sent her to a public school whereas her brother was enrolled in a private one despite the fact that she was a better pupil.

At the age of 14 or 15, the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) that had headquarters in her village started military training for young women. She used to watch secretly and dreamt of being among them, out of her support for the Palestinian cause and admiration to the equality between male and female freedom fighters.

Salwa is Muslim Shiite by birth. When I told her that I have to mention this to help non-Lebanese readers understand the motives of a young woman in a sectarian and still divided country, she was reluctant out of her secularism and refusal to be defined by inherited traits she didn’t choose. She only agreed when I told her I would write she was “Muslim by birth” instead of “Muslim”.

Early in the morning of Sunday April 13th, 1975, the Kataeb (Phalanges) Christian militiamen opened fire on a bus carrying Palestinians passing in the suburb of Ain Al-Rummaneh, killing over 30 people. Retaliation happened shortly after on a nearby church. The war erupted.

Salwa was then enrolled at the public university studying to be an educator. Shortly after, some communist colleagues invited her and other female students to visit their party where she would later sleep over by herself in the ammunition room…

Read this entire article at this link.

Peace, Refugee Stories, Social Issues

People are not plants! Why do people move? Let “humanitas” speak!

By Rev. Paul Lansu

In recent months and years, boat people have arrived at different tourist beaches in Méditerranée countries.[1] In many cases, tourists have been helping these people coming bringing them on land. In other cases, tourists have been upset because of the landing of death bodies, Libyan migrants for instance, in the backyard or on the beach of their hotel. Tourists asked as soon as possible for another hotel where they were not confronted with the migrant problem and to continue their vacation free of worries. This is about human dramas and dilemmas and the world turns its back on evading confrontation. Let the others solve it!

There is at least a group of people who are indignant and want to help refugees in concrete terms as much as possible. Nowadays, people are being blamed for saving migrants’ lives and providing the humanitarian assistance, which EU Member States are unwilling or unable to provide according to international law and EU law.

These humanitarian activists are very often strongly opposed by, among others, different governments and political leaders of the European Union, such as Italy. It has gone so far and it has come so far that aid workers are being punished. The targets include volunteers, peace and human rights activists, NGO’s, lawyers, crewmembers of rescue ships, migrants’ family members, and journalists, mayors and priests. Solidarity has been and is criminalised by the EU countries. The number of facts of people who have criminalised for humanitarian activities has grown rapidly since 2015. Is this the new normal?

Fear of migrants sells. The anti-immigrant discourse in Europe and elsewhere as in the USA is very high today. Fear of immigrants earns politicians votes. Immigrants will keep coming.

Helping people both legally and morally turns out to be a crime. It seems anti-migration and criminalisation is becoming a normal practice. In this way, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights[2] is totally eroded and made unbelievable. However, that means that the standard reduction has increased dramatically in recent years and that care for other people is no longer important. It is a burden!

Are migrants no human beings? Are not all men created as equals? So human dignity is at stake. The European Economic and Social Committee stated that solidarity is not and will never be a crime.[3] In addition, Caritas Europe issued a statement against the criminalisation of solidarity as a threat to our democracies.[4]

It is not just about migrants

The World Day of Migrants and Refugees will be held on Sunday 29 September 2019 on the theme “It is not just about migrants.” In the message of his Holiness Pope Francis for the 105th World Day of Migrants and Refugees,[5] Pope Francis highlights his repeated and explicit calls of concern for migrants and refugees should be understood as being integral to his deep concern for all of humanity.

His message aims to convey to us how deeply involved  ‘’as Christian communities and societies we are and that we are all called to respond and to reflect how our faith and commitments are engaged in responding to vulnerable people on the move.”

In an increasingly globalised world, where migrants, refugees, displaced persons and victims of trafficking have become emblems of exclusion, Pope Francis reminds us that each encounter with the other, is an encounter with Christ and in extending the hand of love, friendship, assistance and support to the most vulnerable, we are extending our hands to Christ and open our hearts for the Other(s).

The heart should have no borders

On 26 June 2019, Pax Christi International awarded its annual peace prize to European Lawyers in Lesvos (ELIL),[6] Greece. ELIL is one of the few organizations that provide legal assistance to refugees and asylum seekers on the Greek island of Lesbos, where refugees flock en route to Europe. Since the founding of ELIL in 2016, around 150 lawyers from 17 countries have provided free legal aid to more than 9,000 asylum seekers, mainly from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan.

ELIL is grateful that their work to uphold the rule of law, to protect human rights and to ensure substantial access to legal aid for refugees in Lesbos is recognized in this way. It is hoped it will help raise awareness of the elementary importance of ensuring that legal assistance for refugees throughout their asylum procedure.  The work of ELIL is very relevant and critical activism for peace and justice.

The Pax Christi International Peace Prize awarded to ELIL is a meaningful and political statement. Especially, because the political debate in Europe is deeply polarised and is in many ways demonizing migrants, asylum seekers and refugees. This completely conflicts with the vision of a Europe that should respect human dignity and fundamental rights.

In his speech at the award ceremony, the outgoing co-president of Pax Christi International, Bishop Kevin Dowling, stressed the importance of human dignity and of solidarity, which are common threads in Catholic Social Thinking. Refugees and migrants are primarily people and should be treated as people. A constant lowering of norms and values is breaking through in our democracies. Let “humanitas” speak!

People are not plants!

Why are people on the move? First, people are not plants! Migration is a constant in human history. Our planet has become a world in motion. Between 1960 and 2017, the overall numbers of migrants tripled. Today, 3 à 4 per cent of the world population, or one out of every twenty-nine humans, lives in a country different from the one they were born in. Mass migration has become the defining human phenomenon of the twenty-first century.

Today, according to UNHCR there are at least 70.4 million forcibly displaced people worldwide,[7] both within a country (IDPs) as well as abroad. Never before has there been so much human movement. In addition, never before has there been so much organised resistance to human movement. One effect of this is the withdrawal of countries from multilateral institutions and treaties.

Walls, fences or barriers will do nothing to stop people on the move. Not at the Mexican & USA border, not anywhere else. They will keep coming, on foot or in boats, by digging tunnels, on planes or on bicycles, whether you want them or not. Drive is a human element. Nevertheless, open borders is not an option in principle. However, at least people should keep their hearts open.

It is very important to listen with an open heart to the stories of refugees. What they have experienced and what difficulties they are in. In most cases, migrants have left a love behind, sometimes their whole family. Many of the refugees have taken big risks and travelled in dangerous situations. Their only option is to leave from a country of misery toward a better and promised country. Is it because our globe already has many inhabitants that we are denying migrants to look for a better life?

Consequences of colonialism

The many conflicts and wars of the last centuries have caused a lot of migration. People do not want to be involved in armed conflicts. They seek protection for themselves and their families, preferably in their own neighbourhood, or if necessary further away.

A deeper reason is to be find in colonialism, which began with a huge migration, when millions of Europeans moved overseas to invade, settle and rule other countries and even over other continents. That resulted in huge displacement of locals and in worldwide slavery. Slavery was abolished in the last century. However, in some countries slavery existed until a few decades ago.

Many of the issues that make people emigrate are home-grown: corruption, malfeasance and mismanagement by local rulers, and inherent societal issues that preceded colonialism, such as the treatment of women. Western values have been imposed on other civilisations, which contrasted with the individuality and the character of the local population.

All around the world, civil upheaval causes people to flee, and many conflicts have been ongoing for years or decades. There are the wars that everybody knows about, such as in Afghanistan, Yemen and Syria; then there are the little-known ones, such as the Moro Muslim conflict in the Philippines,[8] which has cost a cumulative 120.000 lives, and the Ituri conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo,[9] which has taken over 60.000. Many of these conflicts have their origin in colonialism or botched colonial population transfer or map making. One of the latest dramatic examples is the 2015 Rohingya crisis in Myanmar.[10] Almost a million of them have fled over the border to Bangladesh.

Small arms

War creates refugees. The purchase and sale of small arms is another cause of people on the run. Just as the sale of small arms fuels domestic strife and spurs migration, the sale of heavy weapons is instrumental in creating conflict between nations. To date, 130 countries have signed the 2014 United Nations Arms Trade Treaty,[11] the only serious effort to stem the trade in conventional arms around the world.

Climate change

Climate migration is not new. In the twenty-first century, the number one driver of migration might be climate change. According to the UN, a fifth of the world’s population will be affected by floods by 2050. Therefore, many of them will move to dry land. According to the International Organisation for Migration,[12] at least 200 million people will be displaced by climate change by 2050. The figure could be as high as one billion, which would be one out of every ten people. That means that in some parts of the world, national borders will become irrelevant.

You can set up a wall to try to contain 10.000, 20.000, and one million people, but not 10 million. Migration by climate change has been dramatically increasing in the recent past. Since 1992, droughts, floods and storms have affected 4.2 billion people. Today, 1.8 billion people are suffering the effects of drought, land degradation and desertification. According to the UN high commissioner for refugees, since 2008, 22.5 million people have had to flee their homes because of climate-related extreme weathers events, like hurricanes or droughts. Climate change affects everyday life.

In conclusion

This debate requires individual and common solidarity. Solidarity is one of our norms and values. Solidarity will first be structural, organized solidarity. It is painful to see that most governments remain stuck under the .7 % of the development cooperation budget. The same governments argue for the elimination of the causes of migration but do little or nothing specifically about it. You cannot maintain double and contradictory rhetoric.

Today, and since the 1980s, solidarity is not a buzzword. It remains in full completion. Trends within political groups push solidarity towards the private sphere. It is not always certain that the necessary involvement with other people will continue to exist. Charity is good and it is good for interpersonal relationships. It is also necessary, but rather temporary, fragmentary. If solidarity dies, it harms the citizen.

From a justice perspective, we know that you should always look at a social system from the point of view of the least-favoured, in this case the people on the move. So from the bottom up. Never from the top down. The ratio essendi, the ground of our being, the ground of existence of each of us is being human, unique and irreplaceable. Everyone must be given a fundamental equality. Why not?