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ISSUE 71 AUTUMN 2015 Full pdf

WOMEN FOR PEACE

Peace Matters Index

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ONLINE contents
Selection from paper publication

- assassination inc uk
- believe it or not
- sinister forces at work
- keir hardie centenary
- writing for peace
- women making peace
- migration, climate and security
- we can stop wounding the world

 

WHEN THE PPU began to write biographies for its website of the Men who Refused to Kill, the conscientious objectors of WW1, I knew this needed to be balanced with accounts of the women who supported them and worked for peace (as women were not conscripted in WW1). This led me on a journey of discovery researching the lives of some amazing and formidable women. I have been privileged to know a few in the PPU - such as Sybil Morrison, Myrtle Solomon and Hilda Morris - but I was ignorant about their predecessors. I now know a lot more about the struggle for women’s suffrage, and the way in which the peace movement benefitted in WW1 from many women who had learnt their political and campaigning skills struggling for the right to vote. There were the women who devoted themselves to the No Conscription Fellowship, those who helped arrange the Women’s conference in the Hague in 1915 which led to the foundation of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (now celebrating its centenary), and remarkable individuals like Emily Hobhouse and Sylvia Pankhurst: some of their inspiring stories can be found on the PPU website including my favourite Unknown Grandmother.

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In September WILPF UK and Pax Christi (supported by the First World War Peace Forum and Ekklesia) arranged a joint conference on ‘Women & Peacemaking - Personal & Political - finding energy today, following the women of 1915’. The title reflected their aim of linking the work of WILPF in WW1 with women campaigning today on issues of war and peace. I think only a conference arranged by women would have asked the speakers to relate their own personal experiences to their current peacemaking, which brought a lot of powerful issues to light. The most moving speaker was Marie-Lyse Numuhoza, a survivor of the genocide in Rwanda and a refugee who had eventually finished her long escape by reaching the UK. She works over here with fellow Rwandans - and here both Tutsi and Hutu Rwandans work together for peace. She told us of Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza, serving a 15 year prison sentence for working for democracy in Rwanda, and Mama Khadiga Hussein from the Sudanese Mothers for Peace, working here and in Sudan, who has also served prison sentences in the past there and has collected 2 million signatures on a women’s peace petition. WILPF are reaching out to similar voices from Africa by relating to different African communities here who campaign for peace in their own country.

We also heard from Mia Tamarin, an Israeli woman CO who had also spoken at the First World War Peace Forum ceremony on International COs Day this year. She had served prison sentences for her peace witness. Mary Dobbing spoke in particular about her work with the Afghan Peace Volunteers, an amazingly brave small group of men and women pursuing nonviolence in the midst of the war and chaos of their country. They have recently started the campaign hashtag Enough! - writing this on their hands and posters. Conference participants joined in with a group photograph saying #Enough! They are using social media to reach out around the world, taking part in Global Days of Listening, where groups (including schools) can link up on Skype. (Anyone communicating with them is asked to refrain from using religious references or language.) They are actively supported by the Voices for Creative Nonviolence. Finally Virginia Moffatt spoke of her years of work campaigning on peace issues in this country such as drones and how to fit this in with bringing up her family - social media providing a tool for action from home.

Many years ago I joined a WILPF delegation to Belfast and Dublin. It was a very powerful few days learning about the Northern Ireland conflict, and being brought face to face with those at the sharp end of conflict. I met some wonderful campaigners for peace and valued that experience of reaching out to those working on the ground, trying to listen and learn before taking positive action, which I think is the success of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom 100 years after they began. I am grateful for the chance to hear from some brave campaigners of today.

Lucy Beck

Peace Pledge Union, 1 Peace Passage, London N7 0BT. Tel +44 (0)20 7424 9444 contact   |  where to find us