Friday, September 8, 2017

The world is in crisis! What’s the solution?

The world is in crisis!   

What’s the solution?


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Monday, April 10, 2017

George Russell: The Song of the Greater Life

George Russell:
To see things in the germ, this I call intelligence

by Rene Wadlow

“Are there not such spirits among us ready to join in the noblest of all adventures— the building up of a civilization —so that the human might reflect the divine order?  In the divine order there is both freedom and solidarity. It is the virtue of the soul to be free and its nature to love; and when it is free and acts by its own will, it is most united with all other life” George Russell: The Song of the Greater Life

George Russell (1867-1935) whose birth anniversary we mark on 10 April was an Irish poet, painter, mystic, and reformer of agriculture in the years 1900 to the mid-1930s. He wrote under the initials A.E. and was so well known as A.E. that his friends called him “A.E.” and not “George”.  He was a close friend and co-worker with William Butler Yeats who was a better poet and whose poems are more read today.  Both A.E. and Yeats were part of the Irish or Celtic revival which worked for a cultural renewal as part of the effort to get political independence from England.


Ireland lived under a subtle form of colonialism rather than the more obvious Empire in Africa or India where domination was made more obvious by the distance from the center of power and the racial differences.  The Irish were white, Christian, and partially anglicized culturally. English and Scots had moved to Ireland and by the end of the 19th century became the landed gentry.  Thus Russell and Yeats felt that there had to be a renewal of Irish culture upon which a state could be built. Yet for A.E. political independence was only a first step to building a country of character and intellect “a civilization worthy of our hopes and our ages of struggle and sacrifice”. He lamented that “For all our passionate discussions over self-government we have had little speculation over our own character or the nature of the civilization we wished to create for ourselves…The nation was not conceived of as a democracy freely discussing its laws, but as a secret society with political chiefs meeting in the dark and issuing orders.”

For A.E. the truly modern are those engaged in meditation and spiritual disciplines, a way of reaching “the world of the spirit where all hearts and minds are one.” Unless the Celtic peoples create a new civilization, they will disappear and be replaced by a more vigorous race. An Irish identity must be open and unafraid of assimilating the best that other traditions have to offer.  As A.E.wrote“To see, we must be exalted.  When our lamp is lit, we find the house our being has many chambers…and windows which open into eternity.” As he said of Ireland, "a land where lived a perfectly impossible people with whom anything was possible."

When the Irish Free State was created in 1919, the island was partitioned, Northern Ireland remaining part of the United Kingdom.  Tensions between the Free State government and the Republicans who rejected the partition led to a civil war.  Even after the civil war’s end in 1923, Republican resistance and general lawlessness continued throughout the 1920s.  During its first decade the Free State government faced a serious crisis of legitimacy.  It had to assert the new state’s political and cultural integrity in the face of partition and the lack of social change.  In its economic structures, legal system, post-colonial Ireland looked much like colonial Ireland. Therefore the government stressed an “Irish culture” of the most repressive and narrow form. The Roman Catholic Church had a unique and virtually unquestioned monopoly on education in Ireland.  Popular Irish nationalism had been structured around the antithesis between Ireland and England, and this continued after independence when it was said that all “immorality” — obscene literature, wild dances and immodest fashions — came from England. After 1923, the Catholic hierarchy fulminated most consistently and strongly  against sexual immorality, not merely as wrong, but, increasingly from the 1920s on, as a threat to the Irish nation.

To counter this narrow, state organized vision of culture, A.E. put all his energies into a revival of rural Ireland through organizing the Farmers’ Co-operative Movement.  He stressed that “the decay of civilization comes from the neglect of agriculture.  There is a need to create, consciously, a rural civilization.  You simply cannot aid the farmers in an economic way and neglect the cultural and educational part of country life…On the labours of the countryman depend the whole strength and health, nay, the very existence of society, yet, in almost every country politics, economics, and social reform are urban products, and the countryman gets only the crumbs which fall from the political table. Yet the European farmers, and we in Ireland along with them, are beginning again the eternal task of building up a civilization in nature — the task so often disturbed, the labour so often destroyed.”

Both A.E. and Yeats came from Protestant backgrounds and were deeply influenced by Indian thought reading the Bhagavad Gita and the Upanishads where sexual passion is the link between body, soul, and spirit.  In his only novelThe Avatars, A.E. wrote “such was the playof Helen which made men realise that beauty was a divinity.  Such was the play of Radha and Krishna which taught lovers how to evoke god and goddess in each other.”  The Avatar in Hindu thought is a spiritual being which takes human form in order to reveal the spiritual character of a race to itself such as Rama, Krishna or Jesus. In Indian thought the Avatar was always a man and came alone.  But in A.E.’s story the Avatars are a man and a woman who teach the unity of all life as seen by the love between the two.  There is but one life, divided endlessly, differing in degree but not in kind.  “The majesty which held constellations and galaxies, sun, stars and moons inflexibly in their paths, could yet throw itself into infinite, minute and delicate forms of loveliness with no less joy, and he knew that the tiny grass might whisper its love to an omnipotence that was tender towards it.  What he had felt was but an infinitesimal part of that glory.  There was no end to it.”

A.E. knew that he was going against the current of the moment. As he wrote “There never yet was a fire which did not cast dark shadows of itself.” At the end of the novel, the Avatars are put to death, but their teaching goes on “It is this sense of the universe as spiritual being which has become common between us, that a vast tenderness enfloods us, is about us and within us.” Yet below the surface of narrow tensions in Ireland A.E. saw that “We are all laying foundations in dark places, putting the rough-hewn stones together in our civilizations, hoping for the lofty edifice which will arise later and make all the work glorious.”

He lived the last years of his life in London, outside of Irish politics. He had a close friendship with Henry Wallace who became the first Secretary of the USA New Deal in 1933 and saw in the efforts to help the depression-hit farmers under Wallace his hope for rural renewal.
Rene Wadlow
President, Association of World Citizens

Introducing the IAEWP National Chancellor of Australia

The Office of Deputy Secretary General is pleased to announce the appointment of charismatic personality and  World Peace Advocate Jessiee Kaur Singh as the Most Distinguished National Chancellor of Australia for the session 2017-2020.

World Peace Advocate and Peace Ambassador – Jessiee Kaur Singh

I am a Sikh, a world peace and rights educator, advocate and practitioner. I am also a humanitarian and married to Dya Singh, a world-music musician. We have three daughters, who all perform with Dya Singh World Music Group bringing the message of peace to the world through their music. I am the proud grandmother of a 10-year old boy and a 12-year old girl.


President: Women InterFaith Network Foundation,

President: Centre of Melbourne Multi-faith and Others Network (COMMON) COMMON was established in May 2006 to work with youth and communities to link local Multi-faith groups at the grassroots levels, to work with UNESCO Clubs Australia and worldwide universities and other educational institutions, government bodies, and NGOs.

Executive Director: MultiFaith Affairs of United Sikhs

MultFaith Representative: Sikh Council Australia


Over the last 15 years I have attended and assisted to coordinate many national and international conferences on Inter-faith, World Peace, World Aid, International Education and Health. Below please find a small selection:

URI SEAPac Regional Assembly, yearly

Coordinated and moderated multifaith forum ‘Identity’ Conflict, Construction, Connection on 5th Nov.2006 at Royal Indian Palace, Richmond Hill, New York.

Transforming the Legacies of Conflict, War and Genocide through Dialogue :- Voices for Freedom conference on Oct. 28th 2006 at Lincon Center Campus of Fordham University, New York.

Women in Religion in the 21st Century in New York 17th Oct-19th 2006, a conference commemorating, celebrating and continuing women’s legacy where I shared my personnel experiences making a difference in the world.

Attended a UN Religious NGOs meeting at the UN Church Centre 18th Oct. pm, 2006 . National Council of Women of Australia, Melbourne, October, 2006

Religions for Peace - 8th World Assembly, Kyoto, Japan, 25th-29th August 2006. Assisted with Conflict Transformation Workshops in Women’s Assembly and Main Assembly. Held meetings with Sikh communities in Kobe and Tokyo and involved them in conference proceedings.

The Global Peace Initiative of Women, Dharma Drum Mountain, Taiwan, August 2006. Compassionate Mind – Compassionate World – Transforming Suffering through Compassionate Action,. Networking & round table discussions with women and youth leaders from around the world.

Ancient Traditions and The World Congress of Ethnic Religions joint conference, Jaipur, India, February 2006. Sharing the opening prayer, networking and speaking on ‘Freedom of Religion’.

Inaugural Inter-faith Conference, Lahore, Pakistan, March, 2006. Gave opening Sikh Prayer and presented paper on ‘The Importance of Multi-faith Activities in the World’.

The International Conference of Sikh Leaders, Patiala, Punjab, India, March 2006.

The World Congress of Ethnic Religions, Belgium, 2005. Presented paper on ‘The Role of Women in Religion and Peace’. Gave the opening prayer including singing the Multi-Chants (prayers from various religions)
UNESCO Clubs Australia Community leaders training program emotional, intelligence and leadership program in Swinburne University 11-13 Nov, 2005 and 26th may 2006. Received certificate from Swinburn Unversity.

Religion in Peace and Conflict: Responding to Militancy and Fundamentalism, April 2005, Melbourne. Shared in group discussions.

‘Cultivating Wisdom, Harvesting Peace’ International Symposium, August, 2005 Multi-Faith Centre, Griffith University. Panel Speaker: ‘The Importance of Multi-faith especially in University Chaplaincies’.

Global Institute of Security, Conference on Disarmament, United Nations Building, New York, July 2005.

World Conference of Religion and Peace, UNESCO, Paris, July 2005. Meetings with leaders from different religions; Networking among Sikh Gurudwaras.

Audience with His Holiness Pope Benedict; Meetings with Arch-bishop Fitzgerald, Inter-faith Affairs, The Vatican on poverty and religious acceptance, 2005.

The World Congress of Ethnic Religions, Athens, 2004. Did reflections on conference and its future direction.

The World Sikh Conference, Sydney coodinated by Sikh Council, Australia. Gave opening prayer and talk on message of Guru Nanak and World Multifaith Movement. Held in Sdyney in September, 2004.

UN Good Governance, Seoul, Korea, 2004. Presented paper: ‘Culture and Pathway to Peace, Sikh Perspective’.

The National Tertiary Conference Adelaide, 2004. Gave paper on ‘The Importance of Multi-faith Religious Centres in all Universities’.

Parliament of Religions event Barcelona, 2004. Mediator between international Sikhs and local Sikhs; Assisted with coordination of local Youth Volunteers contributing to the ‘Langar’ (free meals to all participants). Nominated for The Paul Carus award for outstanding contributions to the inter-religious movement.

Education for Shared Values for Intercultural and Interfaith Understanding, November/December, Adelaide, 2004. On organising committee. Opening event of the conference: Co-ordinated and conducted the Multi-Faith Service with Rev. Dean of St. Peter’s Cathedral.

The Uniting Church Ministers Conference, Adelaide 2004. Presented paper on ‘Sikhism – Multi-faith and World Peace’. Mental Health Conference, Coordinator, Flinders University, 2004, Adelaide

Mental Health Conference, Coordinator, St. Lucius College, 2003, Adelaide
World Museum of Religions, Inaugural Conference on ‘Sacred Items in Museums’, Taipei 2003.

The Global Peace Initiative of Women, United Nations, Geneva, 2002. Presented paper on ‘The Role of Women from the Sikh Perspective’.

United Religious Initiative of San Francisco ‘Meeting of Religious Leaders of Asia-Pacific Region’, Bali, 2002. United Religious Initiative of San Francisco ‘Assembly of World Religious Leaders’, Rio de Janeiro, 2001.
UN Millennium Peace Summit of World Religious Leaders, New York, 2000

In Nov., 2000 had meetings at the Peking University, Beijing and Nanjing University, Nanjing encouraging China to have Department of World Religions which developed soon after. Met with Religious and Academic Leaders in Shanhai, Beijing and Nanjing.

International Seminar: International Public Service and a Culture of Peace, International Federation for World Peace, London, October 2000. Guest Speaker: ‘Unconditional Service and Love’.

Seventh World Conference of Religion and Peace in Jordan hosted by King Abdullah, 21-24th November 1999. Delivered message from the Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs the Hon. Alexander Downer, MP and the Premier of South Australia the Hon. John Olsen.

Works  with Youth

‘The 300th Celebration of the Sikh Kalsa’, Anandpursahib, Punjab, India 1999. Assisted with the running of Youth Camp of Akaal Purukh Ki Fauj.

Parliament of Religions event in Cape Town, 1999. Gave workshop on ‘Spiritual Development and Peace’. Delivered messages from the Premier of South Australia the Hon. John Olsen and the Hon. Alexander Downer, MP, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Australia.

Guest speaker in Schools in India and Pakistan, February, March 2006. Ongoing over the last 20 years Nationally around Australia.

Attended many international and national youth conferences and camps giving empowering presentations and lectures, including in Trinidad, Rotorua, NZ, Malaysia, Philippines, Indonesia, India, Thailand, Singapore, Taiwan, Geneva, South Africa, Kenya, Mauritius, China, Japan, USA, UK, Rome, Germany, France, Brazil, Pakistan, Belgium, Jordon, Eygpt, Dubai, Isreal and Kuwait.

Has been a regular speaker at many schools in South Australia on Sikhism and Multi-faith, 1993 - 2004. Done many radio and TV interviews around the world.

Works with Indigenous and Other Communities

Assisted with coordination of sending 50 reconditioned computers to Solomon Islands. Programs carried out in conjunction with UNESCO Clubs Australia and Federation of World Peace, Australia, February 2006.

Assisted with the Global Sikh and United Sikh tsunami relief operations for Aceh, Sri Lanka and Andaman Islands, 2005. Fundraising for Tsunami Relief, Victoria, 2005.

Visited and networked with community leaders from all faiths in Kenya, Tanzania and Mauritius. Discussed plans for aid to replenish soil, construction of water wells, and training programs for all sections of communities sponsored by UNESCO Clubs Australia, August, 2005.

International Indigenous Unity Run, Canada, Dakota USA. Attended with ten Australian Aboriginal Women as Equal Rights Advocate taking part in many sacred ceremonies. Honoured in Dakota Indigenous University for giving empowerment workshop and seminar, 1995.

Studied Pitjantjatjara Language at Underdale University, South Australia, 1993

Executive Board Member of the Multicultural Art-workers Committee, South Australia, 1990 – 1992.

Has been in a supporting role to Australian Aboriginal communities in South Australia, Arnhem Land, Darwin and Melbourne.

Assisted Pakistan Australia Association, Australian Sri Lankan Association, Fijian Association, Malaysian Association, Indian Australian Association, African Communities of SA, Chinese Association of SA and Sikh Society of South Australia at the early stages in organising many social and community events in early 1980s.

Volunteered and assisted many people over the years during their sickness and bereavement.

Contributions to the Arts

Host, Coordinator and Artistic Director for the following events:

•Coordinated charity concert for tsunami victims with the Sikh community, Sydney, February 2005.
•“Gratitude” Charity Concert, ‘Multi-faith Unity in Diversity’ hosted by Lord Mayor of Adelaide Mr Alfred Huang at the Adelaide Town 16th October 2004
•Dya Singh World Music Concerts, 1991 - 1994
•Earthquake Concert at the Thebarton Theatre, Adelaide in Aid of Indian earthquake disaster victims Dec. 11. 1993, raising $60.000 with the help of ABC National Radio and Community Aid Abroad;
•Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, March, 1992;
•Anup Jaloto, March, 1991;
•Jagit & Chitra, November, 1988;

•‘Café Musica” events at the “Fringe” 1985-1988 in South Australia;

Co-manager and Publicist of Dya Singh World Music Group, 1991 – 1993.

Background (Former positions)

Chair of Global Council Trustees for South East Asia & Pacific Region of United Religions Initiative &

President: GreenFaith Australia,
Played a major role in bidding and bringing Parliament of Religions event in 2009 to Melbourne, Australia. Travelled to Chicago

with the team to promote Melbourne’s bid.

  • Co-founder of Federation of UNESCO Clubs Australia, 2006 .
  • Coordinator of UNESCO Clubs Victoria, 2006 .
  • Steering Committee Member of World Education Forum, 2006 .
  • International Ambassador World Aid, 2005 .
  • National Coordinator for Multi-Faith Council, 2005 -.
  • Nominated for Australian of the Year, 2003 and 2004.
  • Awarded the Centenary Medal of Australia for Multi-faith Advancement in Australia 2003.
  • Nominated for National Award, 2002 - Woman of the Year in Non-traditional Areas of Work and Study. Treasurer of Multi-Faith Association of South Australia, 2003 – 2005.
  • Member of World Education Foundation 2004.
  • Multi-faith and Sikh University Chaplain 2004, Flinders University, Adelaide

President of Multi-Faith Association of South Australia, 1999 – 2003.

•Coordinated annual Multi-Faith week in South Australia
•Organised many forums on issues of equal opportunity, culture of peace, and religious acceptance. •Organised Multi-faith services, 2000 - 2003
•Organised Multi-faith concerts, 2000 - 2003

Member of UNESCO APNIEVE education and values team in Adelaide 2003. Secretary, Multi-Faith Association of South Australia, 1988 – 1992. Vice-President, Multi-Faith Association of South Australia, 1994 – 1999. Co-Founder of the Sikh Society of South Australia, 1982.

Member of national Tertiary Campus Ministry Association, TCMA.

Professional Qualifications

Post Graduate Diploma in Social Science (Counselling) University of South Australia, 1993.

Grief Management Sister, Repatriation Hospital, Adelaide. 1988-1992

Charge Sister and Acting Director of Nursing of the Senior Citizens Nursing Home, Bellevue Heights, Adelaide, 

1981 Manager of BIS, Bureau of Industry and Services: Pioneered project of recruiting British Nurses in Germany, 

1979. Acting Director of Nursing, Park View Private Hospital, Ealing, UK, 

1978. Psychiatric Nurse RPN, St. Bernard Hospital, Middlesex, UK, 

1976. Registered Nurse, General RN; Lister Hospital, Hertfordshire, UK, 

1974. Nurse of the Year 1973, Hertfordshire, UK.

Nominated ‘Nurse of the Year’ by Anglia Television, UK 

1973. Presented to Queen Mother at Opening of Lister Hospital, 1972.

Clerical Officer, Police Department, High Street, Kuala Lumpur, 1966 – 1970

Primary and Secondary Education in Methodist Girls School, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, completed 1965. 

Languages Spoken Punjabi, Malay, Hindi and English.
Language Interpreter Malay and Punjabi with TIS and CentreLink Services from 1985 and ongoing.

The  IAEWP President and Executive Office of the President are encouraged with the high caliber achievement of Madam Jessiee Kaur Singh and look forward to her services to support the IAEWP agenda in Australia.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Poorer countries host most of the forcibly displaced, report shows

Poorer countries host most of the forcibly displaced, report shows

According to a new UNHCR study, most of the 3.2 million who were driven from their homes in the first half of 2016 found shelter in low- or middle-income countries.
GENEVA – Conflict, persecution and violence newly uprooted at least 3.2 million people in the first half of last year, and low- and middle-income countries played the greatest role in sheltering the world’s displaced, a new report by UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, has found.
In the first half of last year, 1.7 million people were newly displaced within their own country, while 1.5 million had crossed an international border, UNHCR’s Mid-Year Trends 2016 report shows.
While the numbers of newly displaced were one third lower than during the same period in 2015, when 5 million people were newly displaced, the global total continued to rise. Prospects for displaced people to return to their homes remained slim while conflicts intensified.
More than half the new refugees in the first half of 2016 fled Syria’s conflict, with most staying in the immediate region – Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon and Egypt. Other sizable groups fled Iraq, Burundi, Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Eritrea, Somalia, South Sudan and Sudan.
While smaller in scale than the Syrian crisis, South Sudan’s refugee situation continues to grow and affect some of the world’s least developed countries – including Sudan, Uganda, Kenya, DRC, CAR, and Ethiopia. At mid-2016, there were a total of 854,200 refugees from South Sudan, a more than eight-fold increase in three years. Numbers grew even further in the second half of 2016.
Of all countries, Turkey sheltered the greatest number of refugees, hosting 2.8 million by mid-2016. It was followed by Pakistan (1.6 million), Lebanon (1 million), Iran (978,000), Ethiopia (742,700), Jordan (691,800), Kenya (523,500), Uganda (512,600), Germany (478,600) and Chad (386,100).
“Today we face not so much a crisis of numbers but of cooperation and solidarity – especially given that most refugees stay in the countries neighbouring their war-torn homelands,” said UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi.

By comparing the number of refugees to the size of a country’s population or its economy, UNHCR’s report brings the contribution made by host nations sharply into context. For example, relative to the sizes of their populations, Lebanon and Jordan host the largest number of refugees, while in terms of economic performance the biggest burdens are carried by South Sudan and Chad.
According to the latter economic measure, eight out of ten of the top countries hosting refugees are in Africa, with the remaining two in the Middle East. Lebanon and Jordan rank among the top ten hosting countries across all categories – absolute numbers, economic contribution and per capita.
At mid-2016, Syrians continued to be the largest group of refugees worldwide, making up 32 per cent (5.3 million out of 16.5 million) of the global total under UNHCR’s mandate.
Another key finding of UNHCR’s report was that submissions for resettlement increased, reflecting a rise in places allocated to the programme by a growing band of countries. More than 81,100 people were submitted to 34 states in the first half of 2016, with the final yearly figure having surpassed 160,000 – a 20-year high, and more than twice the number of submissions in 2012.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Syria: Armed Conflict Resolution and the Reconstruction of an Inclusive and Just Society

Syria: Armed Conflict Resolution and the Reconstruction of an Inclusive and Just SocietySyria: Armed Conflict Resolution and the Reconstruction of an Inclusive and Just Society 
by Rene Wadlow

On 5 April 2017, the European Union and the United Nations will hold a joint conference on the future of Syria and its region. "Civil Society" is invited to participate, but it is not clear in advance if the Brussels meeting will be a "fund raising" one, in which case most non-governmental organizations (NGO) in consultative status with the UN will have little to contribute  or if there will be wider aims. 


The EU-UN meeting is the third in a short space of time concerning Syria, a reflection of concern with the refugee flow and the continued violence and suffering in Syria and Iraq. The following is a text written on behalf of the Association of World  Citizens (AWC) that is being sent to governments in advance of the 5 April conference. The text notes earlier appeals and efforts of the AWC in the Syria-Iraq-Turkey conflicts.

Following the 23-25 January 2017 talks in Astana, Kazakhstan sponsored by the Russian Federation, Turkey, and the Islamic Republic of Iran, a new round of UN-sponsored talks, 23-31 March  was held in Geneva (informally called Geneva 4). The UN Special Envoy for Syria, Mr Staffan de Mistura has led the UN, Geneva and Lausanne-based talks.  Not all the parties involved in the Syria-Iraq conflicts are participants in the talks. ISIS and the Kurds were not present nor all segments of the opposition to the Government of President Bashar al-Assad have been formally present. 

What informal talks are held in Geneva hotels and restaurants during the negotiations are not officially reported. There is a large and active Kurdish community in the Geneva area and some may be spokespersons for the effort to create  Rojava, a Kurdish autonomous zone in Northern Syria that might form some sort of association with the Kurdish autonomous area of Iraq.

The Geneva-based talks have concerned short-term issues such as a ceasefire, safety of Syrian civilians and humanitarian access.  There have also been longer-range issues concerning political processes such as a transition administration, constitutional changes, and elections for a new, more broadly based government.

Parallel to the intra-Syrian talks mediated by Mr de Mistura, the United Nations has been concerned with the human rights issues having created an Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic as well as a joint UN-Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons investigative mechanism.

The Association of World Citizens,(AWC), a non-governmental organization in consultative status with the UN, active on issues of the resolution of armed conflicts and the promotion of human rights, had welcome a 20 July 2011 call of then UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon for an inclusive dialogue to respond to pressing grievances and longer-term concerns of the Syrian people. The AWC, in a message to the Secretary-General encouraged broad participation of Syrian civil society in such a dialogue and indicated that AWC,knowing the possible usefulness of international NGOs in conflict resolution, would help facilitate such discussions in any way considered appropriate.

In December 2011, there was the start of a short-lived Observer Mission of the League of Arab States.  In a 9 February 2012 message to the Secretary General of the League  of Arab States, Ambassador Nabil el-Araby, the Association of World Citizens proposed a renewal of the Arab League Observer Mission with the inclusion of a greater number of non-governmental organization observers and a broadened mandate to go beyond fact-finding and thus to play an active conflict resolution role at the local level in the hope to halt the downward spiral of violence and killing.
On many occasions since, the AWC has indicated to the United Nations, the Government of Syria and opposition movement the potentially important role of non-governmental organizations, both Syrian and international, in facilitating armed conflict resolution measures.

The fighting in Syria, Iraq and parts of Turkey has led to a large number of displaced persons and refugees.  The response of governments to the refugee flow has been very uneven, welcoming in a few cases, outright rejection in other cases. The AWC early on called for a UN-led conference on refugees and internally displaced persons. The AWC welcomed and participated in the UN conferences on refugees and humanitarian aid.

The armed conflicts in Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Afghanistan have led to serious violations of humanitarian international law: attacks of medical facilities and personnel, the execution of prisoners of war, the use of torture, the deliberate destruction of cultural heritage, the  deliberate attacks on civilian populations, the use of weapons banned by international treaties.  Therefore, the Association of World Citizens has stressed the need for a UN-led conference to reaffirm humanitarian international law.  If strong support for international law is not manifested now, there is a danger that violations will become considered as "normal", and thus will increase.  Strong measures of support for humanitarian international law are needed to be undertaken now.

The structures of government, the authority, and the geographic limits of administrative regions, the rights and participation in national life of minorities have been issues in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon since the  disintegration of the Ottoman Empire at the end of the First World War. Appropriate forms of government which allow both for local autonomy and regional cooperation need to be developed. The search for an appropriate structure for those considering themselves to be Kurds has been a particularly difficult issue often leading to violence.  The Association of World Citizens which has a decentralization, federalist tradition in the spirit of Alexandre Marc and Denis de Rougemont, has highlighted that federalism and decentralization are not steps toward the disintegration of a State but rather are efforts to find a more just structure of State organization and regional cooperation.

The Association of World Citizens welcomes the 5 April 2017 EU-UN conference on Syria and the region. The Association of World Citizens re-confirms its willingness to cooperate fully in the vast and critical effort for an end to the armed conflict and a development of an inclusive and just society.

Rene Wadlow
President, Association of World Citizens

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Erich Fromm: Meeting the Challenges of the Century

Erich Fromm: Meeting the Challenges of the CenturyErich Fromm: Meeting the Challenges of the Century
by Rene Wadlow

I believe that the One World which is emerging can come into existence only if a New Man comes into being - a man who has emerged from the archaic ties of blood and soil, and who feels himself to be a citizen of the world whose loyalty is to the human race and to life, rather than to any exclusive part of it, a man who loves his country because he loves mankind, and whose views are not warped by tribal loyalties.

Eric Fromm Beyond the Chains of Illusion

Eric Fromm (1900-1980), the psychoanalyst concerned with the relation between personality and society, whose birth anniversary we mark on 23 March, was born in 1900.  Thus his life was marked by the socio-political events of the century he faced, especially those of Germany, his birth place.

Erich Fromm was born into an orthodox Jewish family in Frankfurt am Main.  The families of both his mother and father had rabbis and Talmudic scholars, and so he grew up in a household where the significance of religious texts was an important part of life. While Fromm later took a great distance from Orthodox Jewish thought, he continued a critical appreciation of Judaism.

He was interested in the prophets of the Old Testament but especially by the hope of the coming of a Messianic Age - a powerful theme in popular Judaism. The coming of the Messiah would establish a better world in which there would be higher spiritual standards but also a new organization of society.  The Messianic ideal is one in which the spiritual and the political cannot be separated from one another. (1)

He was 14 when the First World War started and 18 when the German State disintegrated - too young to fight but old enough to know what was going on and to be impressed by mass behavior.  Thus he was concerned from the start of his university studies with the link between sociology and psychology as related ways of understanding how people act in a collective way.

As was true for German university students of his day, he was able to spend a year or a bit more in different German universities: in Frankfurt where he studied with the Frankfurt School of Critical Theory whose members he would see again in New York when they were all in exile, at the University of Munich, at the Berlin Psychoanalytic Institute, and at the University of Heidelberg from where he received a doctorate.

He had two intellectual influences in his studies: Sigmund Freud whose approach was the basis of the Berlin Psychoanalytic Institute and Karl Marx, a strong influence in the Frankfurt School.  Fromm chose a psychoanalyst path as a profession, learning and, as was required in the Freudian tradition, spending five years in analysis.  Fromm, however, increasingly took his distance from Freudian orthodoxy believing that society beyond family relations had an impact on the personality.  He also broke one of the fundamental rules of Freudian analysis in not overcoming the transfer of identification with his analyst.  He married the woman who was his analyst.  The marriage broke after four years perhaps proving the validity of Freud's theories on transfers and counter-transfers.

Erich Fromm's reputation and his main books rest on his concern with the relation of individual psychology and social forces - the relation between Freud and Marx. However, probably the most fundamental thinker who structured his approach was the Buddha whom he discovered around the age of 26. It is not Buddhism as a faith which interested him - Buddhism being the tradition built on some of the insights of the Buddha.  Rather it was the basic quest of the Buddha which interested him: what is suffering?  Can suffering be reduced or overcome?  If so, how?

Fromm saw suffering in the lives of the Germans among whom he worked in the late 1920s, individual suffering as well as socio-economic suffering. For Fromm there must be a link between the condition of the individual and the social milieu, a link not fully explained by either Freud or Marx.

Fromm had enough political awareness to leave Germany for the United States just as Hitler was coming to power in 1933. From 1934, he was teaching in leading US universities. In 1949 he took up a post as professor at the National Autonomous University in Mexico, but often lectured at US universities as well.

Fromm's work is largely structured around the theme of suffering and how it can be reduced.  There is individual suffering. It  can be reduced by compassion and love. One of his best known books is The Art of Loving. Love is an art, a "discipline", and he sets out exercises largely drawn from the Zen tradition to develop compassion toward oneself and all living beings.

There is also social suffering which can be reduced by placing an emphasis not on greater  production and greater consumption  but on being more, an idea that he develops inTo Have or To Be. Fromm was also aware of social suffering and violence on a large scale and the difficulties of creating a society of compassionate and loving persons.  His late reflections on the difficulties of creating The Sane Society(the title of a mid-1950s book) is The Anatomy of Human Destructiveness.  We still face the same issues of individual and social suffering and the relation between the two.  Erich Fromm's thinking makes a real contribution as we continue to search.

(1) See his You Shall Be As Gods for a vision of the Jewish scriptures as being a history of liberation

                     Rene Wadlow, President, Association of World Citizens