Women and Peacemaking

Palestinian women haunted by abuse in Israeli jails

‘Sometimes they feel shame, even though we know that they are our enemy and they do this to break us,’ said one former woman prisoner

by Chloé Benoist for Middle East Eye

BETHLEHEM, West Bank – “I remember he brought his chair closer, opened his legs and sat very close to me. It was something ugly for me. It made me feel that he was trying to attack my body,” Khawla al-Azraq said, as she recalled the physical intimidation tactics and sexual harassment used by Israeli interrogators when she was only a teenager.

Decades later, al-Azraq, who is now 54, still shudders at the memory of Israeli interrogators brushing their hands across her legs to sexually intimidate her.

“They would sit in a way to be very close to us, to touch our bodies. I remember it was terrible for me at that age,” she said.

Al-Azraq is a member of the Fatah Revolutionary Council. Since the age of 14, she has been arrested by Israeli forces four times for her involvement with Fatah and taking part in protests against the Israeli occupation. When she was only 18, she was sentenced to three years in prison.


“The torture, ill treatment, and degrading treatment start from the first moment of the arrest,” said Sahar Francis, director of Addameer, a Palestinian prisoners’ rights group…

Read the entire article by clicking here.

Advent, Peace Spirituality, Women and Peacemaking

ADVENT 2017: A reflection for the Fourth Sunday of Advent, 24 December

by Rev. Paul Lansu
Senior Policy Advisor, Pax Christi International

2 Samuel 7:1-5, 8a-12, 14a, 16 | Psalm 89:2-5, 27, 29 | Romans 16:25-27 | Luke 1:26-38

Today’s gospel reminds us that it was a woman who was centre stage at the first Christmas. It was a woman who brought Christmas to the world. It is still true that so often it is women who continue to bring Christ to men and men to Christ. Today is an opportunity to say thanks to the women who have sown the seeds of faith in our hearts, who nurtured God’s love within us, who through their tenderness and love have brought many to know the mercy of God. Women do not need liberation. Instead, they are entitled to our appreciation and our recognition of the glory of God’s call to them. Without Mary’s response to God, there would not have been a first Christmas. Let today be women’s day in the run-up to Christmas.

In many cases, women and mothers have to take care of almost everything in daily life — not in the least in poor countries and societies. They take care of at least four things: (1) education of the kids; (2) earning a living; (3) cooking food in the kitchen; and (4) participate in the life of the Christian church community. They bear a great responsibility. They are indeed the mothers of life! The mother is the symbol of life.

That is why Pope Francis earlier in April this year reacted against the naming of the U.S. military’s largest non-nuclear explosive ever used to weaken the position of the Islamic State militants in Afghanistan. The USA called the bomb, “Mother of all Bombs”. Such a device cannot be called a mother. A mother gives life and a bomb gives death!

What was the military meaning of throwing this “bomb of all bombs”? Military speaking, hardly any difference. No difference at all especially in the political sphere. Where was the logic of this? Megatonnage is the message it seems. Mass communication by bombs! The cost of this single bomb was about 15 million Euro.

Ask the people active working in peacebuilding and development aid, ask the people active involved in daily healthcare what they can do with such a sum? Money makes a difference. Disarmament for development. “Development is the new name for peace,” Pope Paul VI said in his encyclical Populorum Progressio in 1967.

Shortly after this bomb dropping in Afghanistan, the Russian Federation came out with the “Father of all Bombs” – the nickname for a thermobaric air bomb. Both mothers and fathers are standing for life and creativity, not for death. Cold War, at least in rhetoric, is still alive! A mother and father gives life and not death.

We can think today of those who mother against the odds in our world. In places where there is no food, no clean water, the threat of disease, of torture; those who watch their children suffer from addiction or violence. Mothers are always there to protect their kids even in inhuman circumstances.

And we remember those who are the angel Gabriels of the world, bringing good news and hope that ‘nothing is impossible’. This Gospel reading is one big call to all believers to keep dreaming of a better and more human world. A human being cannot live without dreams, good dreams.

Mary, woman of Nazareth, home maker, cleaner, preparer of food, fetcher of water, God is with you in your everyday excursions in this ordinary town. Blessed are you among women and blessed indeed are women in their everyday lives, in the confines of family life, in the ambivalence of decision making. God bless all women and sanctify all those human beings taking care of life in all its dimensions. Because God is love and life!

Merry Christmas to all.

Peace, Women and Peacemaking

Be brave and imaginative when it comes to a world without war

by Mairead Maguire
Nobel Peace Laureate

(The following is a speech given by Mairead Maguire at the Vatican conference on disarmament in late-November.)

Buon Pomeriggio,

Eminences, Excellencies, Colleagues Nobel Laureates, Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is good to be with you all, and I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for your work for Peace and Humanity.

Thank you also for giving me the opportunity to speak about the Peace Process in N. Ireland.

N.Ireland is a deep ethnic/political conflict, and Religion plays both a negative and positive role in our society. This was brought home to me, when in the early l970s a young Irish Republican man, told me he was in the Armed Struggle of the IRA fighting a Just War and that the Catholic Church blesses “Just Wars“. We need to throw out the Just War theory, a phony piece of morality. Instead we can develop a new Theology of Peace and Nonviolence and articulate a clear unambiguous rejection of violence. Religion cannot be used to justify war or armed struggle.

There are many lessons to be learned from the Northern Irish conflict. One lesson is that violence never works, be it State, Relational, Paramilitary violence, or the violence of sectarianism, discrimination or injustice. For many years these methods were used and they plunged our country (one and a half million people) into the darkness of death and further segregation and polarization. A Light in the darkness came when in l976 thousands of people, 90% women, marched to call for an end to violence and for peace. They called for all inclusive, unconditional talks, including with those using violence, insisting we must talk to our perceived enemies, be reconciled together and find solutions. They insisted the UK Government uphold Human Rights and International Laws and not put aside the Rights of people, or use means which were illegal and counter-productive. In the first few months of this Civil Society movement for peace and reconciliation, there was a 70% drop in violence.

After a long process of dialogue, and diplomacy, across the communities, between people, paramilitary groups, and politicians, mediated by Civil Community and members of Clergy, eventually a Good Friday Agreement was reached in l998. This Agreement, based on Power Sharing between the Unionists, Nationalists, and others, was a ground breaking achievement in that it brought together many Political parties and tackled hard issues. Unfortunately, many of the Policies agreed upon were not fully implemented and continue to cause dissention within our Executive, Assembly and Community. What could have been set up was an independent body charged with the implementation of the Agreement whose recommendations for resolving disputes would be binding on the parties. In the absence of this, the Executive is obliged to address every crisis on a case by case basis and with no commitment to accepting recommendations to resolve the crisis.

Unfortunately our Executive has had many problems working on a power sharing basis but it is hoped that as time goes on they will adopt a more co-operative and compromising approach in working these institutions. For many the key to progress lies with the community where people live their daily lives. The integration of our society is very important and integrated Education, Peace Education, Therapy, Counselling, etc., will be ways in which to heal and reconcile our society. At the heart of a peace culture is a recognition that every persons life and their humanity is more important than a persons ethnic inheritance. This peace culture only develops when every citizens humanity is valued above that citizens ethnic/religious inheritance. Where a citizens’ vote is sought and cast on the basis of human worth rather than on perceived inheritance or identity. Enpowering local grassroots communities, including women and youth, to get involved in community peacebuilding, job creating, etc., will give hope and build self-belief, confidence and courage.

Post conflict we know how long and difficult the task before us. We accept this challenge to change ourselves and deepen our virtues of compassion, empathy, love, so necessary to change our society. Seeing the person in every one and loving and serving them will help us transcent selfishness, bigotry and sectarianism. Deepening our relationships, with family, friends, society, will keep us strong and give us wisdom and courage in the hard times. In a spirit of enjoyment and enthusiasm, aware of the beauty of life, creation, within and without, we can live joyfully each moment and celebrate the gift of being alive.

We join with everyone around the world to build a demilitarized peaceful world. We thank Pope Francis for his clear moral/spiritual leadership in calling for the abolition of the death penalty and Nuclear Weapons. It is an illusion that we are in control and that these weapons give us security. Above all for any of us to harbour the thought that we have the right to use nuclear weapons and commit genocide is the most disturbing thing of all. We have yet to learn the lessons of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. An apology to the Japanese people by the US Government, those responsible for the genocidal act of using Nuclear bombs will help the healing of relationships and ensure such genocidal acts will never happen again. The policy of Nuclear weapons, show that we have lost our moral compass. It is long overdue that we abolish nuclear weapons and put resources, human and financial, into abolishing poverty and meeting human security as set out in UN Development goals.

However, we need to do more than this. Be brave and imaginative. Join together for a common vision – the total abolition of Militarism and war. We do not need to limit ourselves to civilizing and slowing down militarism, (which is an aberation and system of dysfunction), but demand its total abolition. We can offer a new hope to suffering humanity. Follow the vision of Nobel on global co-operation to remove the scourge of militarism and war, and implement the architecture of peace based on Human Rights and International Law.

People are tired of armaments and war, which release uncontrollable forces of tribalism and nationalism. These are dangerous and murderous forms of identity and above which we need to transcend, lest we unleash further violence upon the world. Acknowledge that our common humanity and human dignity is more important than our different religions and traditions. Recognize our life and the lives of others are sacred and that we can solve our problems without killing each other. Accept and celebrate diversity and otherness. Heal the old divisions and misunderstandings. Give and accept forgiveness and choose love, nonkilling and nonviolence as ways to solve our problem.

Peace and Justice are necessary, and the ways of dialogue and diplomacy must be seriously undertaken, must be insisted upon by the International Community, as shown in the Iranian nuclear deal, and as could work for a North Korean Peace Treaty. We can transform the erroneous mindset that violence and threats of violence works, weapons and war can solve our problems. Punative Policies do not bring peace.

We can take courage and confidence, from the fact that the Science of War, is being replaced by a Global Science of Peace based on love, Harmony, reverence for life and creation. Thank you to Pope Francis and the Vatican Dicastery for Promoting Integral Disarmament. Your work of diplomacy, mediation, fearlessly speaking Truth to Power whatever the cost, gives hope to all of humanity.

Peace, Women and Peacemaking

Vatican’s nuclear disarmament conference emphasizes shift toward logic of peace

by Marie Dennis
Co-President, Pax Christi International

Shortly after participants in the recent Vatican symposium on nuclear disarmament heard Pope Francis definitively condemn the “very possession” of nuclear weapons, San Diego Bishop Robert McElroy said: “The church is in the midst of a fundamental reappraisal of how to balance the Christian obligation to nonviolence with the need to resist evil in the world.”

Speaking on a panel about the role of the church in promoting integral disarmament and the abolition of nuclear weapons, he continued: “The church must be a voice in the world constantly pointing humanity toward the path of nonviolence and the logic of peace. Too often, we acquiesce in the tolerance of weapons, threats and war, concluding that the logic of war can at least hold evil at bay. But ultimately, it is the logic of war which, once unleashed, invites evil into the core of our world, our nation, [and] our hearts.”

The church’s clear rejection of nuclear weapons may well be the cutting edge of a groundbreaking shift in Catholic dialogue with the world on issues of war and peace, calling us collectively to conversion, as McElroy said, from “reliance on weapons of war to the construction of weapons of peace. … The power of nonviolence, once relegated to the category of romantic idealism, has emerged as a potent force for social transformation and the building of lasting peace.”…

Click here to read the entire article.

Refugee Stories, Women and Peacemaking, Young Peace Journalists

Refugee Stories: The trauma faced from Uganda to England

The following interview was done by Clare Shanley, a member of the Young Peace Journalists. It is the latest entry in the Young Peace Journalists project featuring the stories and voices of refugees. 


When I met Angela, she introduced herself and told me that she was born in Uganda. I asked her why, in her opinion, she left Uganda? She told me: “The reason why I am here is because of our government; it wasn’t good for my family. They killed my mother and my father. When I was there, they kidnapped us and took us somewhere they called the safe house, but it was not safe. In there, you have to fight, until you get what you want. They can do anything they want to do and you can’t say anything. When you survive, you have to thank God. When I was there, I was waiting for my day to die. The man took me because I had a story – one of my friends used to say bad things to him. That day, he took one of my other close friends; my friend died. Then he killed another lady, because she was fighting for that girl. That was my day to go. The man wanted to do silly things, and I didn’t want to. I said no; I told him that if he wanted to kill me, he can do that. I was scared; he left me there and that was my escape. I went to somebody who knew my father; they did everything to bring me here.”

Angela then explained the journey from Uganda to England. She described how it was very difficult to get here. “I came with somebody’s passport,” she explained. “I do not know who that person is; they only told me their name. I didn’t know their date of birth or anything. At the airport, they asked me, what is your name? I said the name in the passport; it was not my name. Only God knows why that was the only question that they asked me. From Uganda to Heathrow, they asked me the same question, but they asked me another question when I was in Heathrow. What is your date of birth? And I didn’t know it. I looked at the lady and I began to cry because I didn’t know. Then she said okay, you can go – and I just go. I went to the social service; I explained to them what had happened to me and why I am here, and they said they could give me somewhere to stay until I went to the home office — and that’s why I am here. From Uganda to Heathrow I came with a person, but I don’t know her. After we came through the immigration, she took the passport and I never saw her again.”

I then asked Angela if she applied for asylum. “Yes”, she replied, “I did apply for asylum; the home office said no, we can’t believe you. I was struggling a lot for seven years. Afterwards when they stopped saying no, after a long time of suffering, I eventually got my status. I have kids. I have three kids, one who is 11, one who is 9 and one who is 7.”

I asked Angela what her experience of settling in the UK was like. “It was hard,” she described. “Some people are good and some people are not. Where I lived before, with the social service, I had a social worker. If you were lucky, sometimes the social worker was good, but mine wasn’t good. She was pretending to be a Christian, but she wasn’t good. Every season they would give us money; she used to take our money. In my situation I was given £100; only when I was lucky was she giving me £50. She took the other £50.

“One time when I went there to visit, she wasn’t there. It was someone else, and it was the manager. I talked to him, and he said that is was not right, that they should have given me £100. She wasn’t there the next day. Since that time I was struggling. When I had my first boy, my boyfriend left me because he was scared. I told him that we have been though a lot of things, so we can get through this. He said no, and he left. So I was struggling with my situation at that time; I didn’t have a status. Every time when I went to the court, they said no. I was upset. I couldn’t do anything, and the money they were giving me was not enough.

I asked Angela if she faced any discrimination when she came to the UK. “Yes,” she replied. “When I did, I would just remember that some people don’t have anything to eat. I remembered what my life was like before. One day I went to the shop to buy a drink for my son; it was hot. They refused to serve me, because I am black. It’s in the city centre. I walked out of the shop and a lady who was a customer in the shop offered to get the drink for me. I gave her money. She went into the shop and she gave that shopkeeper money, but the shopkeeper wouldn’t take the money because it was from me. The lady bought the money to me and she used her own money. I was thankful to her. When I arrived, my English wasn’t good and I used to explain to the people but they didn’t understand. But after a while, I got there; then everything was perfect. If you learn English, everything is okay.”

Angela then told me what helped her settle in to British society. She explained, “When I was in London, there was a lady called Angie from children’s rights; she was my friend. When I moved out of London, I was in a new place and I didn’t know what to do. I called Angie and she told me that there is a lady called Sue who has a charity and that I could go there and help her. They directed me to the refugee centre. I sat there and I saw a lady come over with another man. That lady Angie rang Sue and told her that there is somebody called Angela there and she asked her to help me. When she came to the refugee centre, I didn’t know what happened; maybe God directed her. She came to the refugee centre and asked if I was Angela. I said yes; she was so happy. Since that day, Sue has been my everything; she did everything for me, from nappies, milk, clothing, everything.”

I then asked how British society is different from society in Uganda. She explained how it is “very different”. She continued, “In Uganda, they don’t have law; you can die easily. Okay, here you can die easily but in Uganda, if you steal a sweet, they can kill you straight away. In Uganda they don’t care, even if you are on the street and have kids. In Uganda, there is land; you can do anything you want to do, but people are lazy. They don’t want to go in the villages; they want to be in the city. The government takes everything; if you are poor, you are poor and if you are rich, you are rich.”

Angela then told me the story about her brother from when they were in Uganda. “We were together,” she explained, “and he had got a fever, so I told one of the ladies that were looking after us that my brother was sick. She told me that he was not the only one dying in there, that everyone in there dies, and that it was not my home. I said, is there any way that you could help him? She said to me, if he wants to die, he can die; there is nothing that I can do. I said okay. I didn’t know what to do.”

“The next day, they took him somewhere. I thought maybe that they took him to the hospital. Two days later, they brought him back. I asked him if he was okay; he said no. I asked him if they gave him medicine; he said no. They only tortured me.” Angela described how he told her not to worry, that he would be okay, “I was strong,” she told me, beginning to cry. “He told me that he didn’t want to put his head on the floor because it was too hard, so I put his head on my lap, and I made him comfortable. We sang, and I was thinking that he was sleeping. Then around one a clock, a lady came to me, the one who I used to call my mum. She said let’s go. I said no, I want to see my brother. She told me that she was sorry, but that my brother had gone. I said where? She told me that I had to be strong. We went into a small room where she told me that my brother had died. When we got back, they knew he was dead. They covered him in a blanket and they took him. That was the end. I got nightmares all the time after that, when I was sleeping, I used to see them torturing him. I got a psychiatrist until those memories went away.

“Before they took my father, they beat him hard, and he couldn’t walk. They forced him to walk, but he couldn’t. They beat him until they broke his legs and then they wanted him to walk. So when I closed my eyes I used to see him crawling on the floor.” Angela went on to say that those things make her stronger. “I know that I do not have anybody, but I am happy that I have my kids.”

Finally, I asked Angela what her plans for the future are. “The future,” she repeats smiling. “I plan that I want to work, so that I can give my children a house. I know that one day I will die, and I want to leave the house to them.”

Angela’s story is just one example of the traumas that refugees are faced with throughout all stages of the process: before they leave their country, the journey and then integrating into a new society. Angela’s courage and strength shine throughout her story and helped her get through all of the unimaginable things that she encountered. For me, Angela’s trust and faith in God stood out from the interview; it was the thing that kept her going. She believed that if she trusted in God, she could get through anything and whatever hardship she was going through, God would get her through it. This same faith and strength will stay with Angela throughout her life and in the next stages of her journey.


Clare Shanley is a teenager from England who has a passion for literature and writing. She hopes to continue in education and, in the future, have a career surrounding these two fields and also continue with peace and justice work. 
Nonviolence, Women and Peacemaking

Nonviolence: A style of politics for peace (part #2)

by Dr. Teresia Wamũyũ Wachira (IBVM)

The following piece is the panel presentation given by Pax Christi International Board member Dr. Teresia Wamũyũ Wachira (IBVM) at the Nonviolence as a Style of Politics for Peace panel discussion in Brussels, April 21. The presentation is available as a PDF document corresponding to Dr. Wachira’s PowerPoint presentation.

To scroll through Dr. Wachira’s presentation, click here.