October 28th, 2009
On a glorious and sunny autumn day, while cruising the Hudson and East Rivers, members of Peaceful Tomorrows – Phyllis Rodriguez, Bev and John Titus, John Leinung, Adele Welty, Anne Mulderry, Andrea LeBlanc and Terry Rockefeller – watched Abdulsattar Younus from Erbil, Iraq, receive the Fellowship of Reconciliation’s Pfeffer Peace Prize on behalf of the La’Onf Nonviolence Network.
Here is how Abdulsattar expressed the meaning of this event for the activists in Iraq who are working to reclaim their society and their nation through engaged nonviolence:
It is my pleasure that I’m here today with all of you. It is one of my happiest days ever. Therefore I want to thank all of you, thanks to Terry Rockefeller and to Peaceful Tomorrows, and of course thanks to FOR.
The LAONF group works to promote the culture and knowledge of non-violence as an effective way for resistance. We want to explain and teach the nonviolence techniques and tools as an alternative to war.
We believe in nonviolence because we know that nonviolence is the most effective way to struggle for an independent, democratic, peaceful Iraq..
Since it was founded in 2006, until now, the LAONF Group has done many different activities all over Iraq. We have had three nonviolence weeks, in 2006, 2007 and 2008. Through these weeks many different activities were implemented. We had marches, we taught about peace in schools, we signed a petition to end the sale of toy weapons. Every year the number of organizations that took part in the week of nonviolence grew larger..
We have also had a campaign to “Stop Violence Against Women.” This was started in Iraqi Kurdistan, in 2008, where many women are suffering greatly. There are many widows..
We printed and distributed booklets, brochures and posters. Several documentary films about peaceful struggle were translated to Arabic and Kurdish.
Our most recent activities include some big marches in Baghdad to protest the killing of innocent civilians and on the occasion of “International Peace Day,” October 2nd. There was singing, speeches, performances and many people came.
What LAONF said then was:
Human rights and basic freedoms – particularly freedom of assembly and expression – is linked to the achievement of security and peace in our beloved Iraq.
There is no alternative but non-violent popular struggle for expressing the interests of the people and bringing change, ensuring human rights and social justice.
Dears, the Iraqi People have thousands of problems nowadays, economic, political, social and regional problems, but I think the biggest one is the violence. All of us need to work to end it.
LAONF groups believe that day after day the Iraqi people will learn that there is no alternative way other than the nonviolent struggle for an independent, democratic, peaceful Iraq. We think the future of Iraq will be made by Iraqis and then it will be a very shining future.
Receiving this prize will be a very big factor in helping us do this work. It is important support for more work and continuity of our struggle for peace. It means that we are not alone, but there are people in America and Europe supporting us and also working for peace.
Thank you again.
Following the ceremony Abdulsattar, members of Peaceful Tomorrows and other friends gathered at the Peaceful Tomorrows’ offices where Colleen Kelly provided a lovely evening meal and we all spoke with our dear friend, Father Michael Lapsley of the Institute for the Healing of Memories, in South Africa. Michael was a key participant in Peaceful Tomorrows’ 2006 International Conference, which led to the creation of the International Network for Peace. He will be giving a workshop at the end of October in New York that both Abdulsattar and our friend from the INP, Father Romain of Rwanda, will attend.
During October, Abdulsattar has been touring the U.S. meeting with members of human rights, peace and justice organizations, attending conferences and workshops on nonviolence and reconciliation, and speaking to local community groups in New York, Boston, New England, Washington, D.C. and Memphis, TN. On November 3, Abdulsattar will return to Iraq, accompanied by Peaceful Tomorrows member, Terry Rockefeller, to attend the first Iraqi Nonviolence Forum in Erbil, Iraq.