EID IN NEW YORK: HOME AWAY FROM HOME

By Fatima Peregrino Brimah, SNDatUN Intern

Fatima EidMuslims observe Ramadan (holy month) as a strict fasting period when Muslims are to restrain from any sexual activities and instead participate in charitable events. This is part of the five pillars of Islam known as the “Zakat”, meaning giving alms to the poor. During this time there are intense prayers throughout the thirty days. Muslims use this period to ask for forgiveness and also for long life and good tidings. At the last quarter of Ramadan, to do well Muslims give donations like rice, oil, chicken, etc., to the needy in order for them to be able to celebrate Eid al-Fitr like everyone else. This donation is known as the “Saddaqah al-Fitr”. Eid al-Fitr is a very important Islamic holiday. On the day of Eid, Muslims gather early in the morning to perform a mass prayer, a special prayer which consists of two rakats (units). It could be in a mosque or an outdoor area. Many Muslims dress in their best outfits on this day. There is a lot of feasting among family and friends on this day. Gifts and greetings are exchanged among family and friends also.

Fatima Eid 2

Years back, Eid in New York was quite boring due to the fact that Muslim holidays were not public holidays. After years went by, with the help of former mayor Bloomberg Muslim communities are now able to pray in public parks with full NYPD security on duty. New mayor de Blasio made it easier for Muslim kids by making both Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha official public school holidays. Ever since, Eid in New York has never been the same. It feels like home away from home. We get to pray and have a picnic after. This involves a lot of merry-making.

Eid GhanaSincerely, “Home is where the heart lies”. Back home in Ghana, after Eid prayers we have a durbar with chiefs in attendance and a lot of horse riding on the streets. This is when chiefs from all tribes meet and pay homage to each other and most importantly pray and wish for better years full of good tidings and good harvest.

[Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha are also United Nations official holidays.]

AFGHANISTAN: ON THE WAY TO PEACE AND PROSPERITY?

Anna ShketBy Anna Shket, Intern in SNDatUN Office

The government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan along with its President Ashraf Ghani made its commitment to ensure a transparent, peaceful, and cooperative way towards the improvement of its people’s lives. The year 2015 marks the beginning of the Transformation Decade for the country, set to last till 2024. Afghanistan still faces tremendous challenges, such as diverse extremist groups like ISIS, insurgent groups in the form of Taliban, foreign fighters, illicit economy in the form of narcotics production (13% of GDP), etc. However, the government has been demonstrating its readiness towards a better future which can provide its people with peace, stability and prosperity.

IMG_1454The UN Security Council Meeting on June 22, 2015 on the situation in Afghanistan, meant to demonstrate the commitments of the government, revealed progress and tackled problems. Special Representative of the Security-General and Head of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) Nicholas Hayson noted the progress along with the remaining problems in three areas – economic, security, and political. The progress, as he mentioned, is modest, undervalued due to the enormous difficulties in the country and the region itself. Massive civilian casualties remain present in the country – 4216 civilians killed or injured only this year, and this number includes a considerable amount of children and women. In order to prevent future deaths, continued regional and international cooperation is essential. Together with UN and UNAMA, the international community should not leave the burden of terrorism on the Afghanistan government’s shoulders. Correspondingly, the country requires favorable external environment for promoting the reconciliation process. It is important to realize that the escalating conflict in the country will bring instability to region as a whole, which will have a deteriorating effect on other countries’ security and, consequently, economic stability.

Afghani people are in a long-term process of combating the hardships brought by war. They are finally on the way towards peaceful times. Years of devastating conflict ruined the country’s economy and hopes for the prospects of political stability. Today, ensuring the security in the country means future international investments, new deals and agreements, and overall development of the country. Ongoing clashes between the democratically elected government lead by Ghani and the Taliban along with other political groupings are the barriers towards the future prosperity and peace.

The international community was asked to continue to support the government of Afghanistan during the Transition Decade, which should be a critical point in reconciliation between all Afghani people. In return, the government reaffirmed its commitment to the principals of transparency, accountability, growing participation of women and civil society, protection and promotion of human rights, and strong cooperation on all levels towards a better future.

Learn more:

www.worldbank.org/en/news/feature/2012/07/01/afghanistan-transition-transformation
www.afghanistan-today.org/

 

SNDATUN NEWSBRIEFS: ENGAGING OUR READERS

93x85Constant Contact bestows an annual All Star award on businesses and nonprofits that excel at using online tools to build relationships. Our e-newsletter results rank among the top 10% of Constant Contact’s international customer base. As in 2012, we are proud to be recognized for engaging well with our readers.

CONCERN FOR OUR SHARED FUTURE: INDIGENOUS ELDERS SPEAK ABOUT FUKUSHIMA AT UN

In September 2013 Indigenous Elders and Medicine People of North and South America gathered in Council to consider the continuing crisis in Fukushima. At the conclusion of four days of prayer and discussion, they made a formal statement. They stressed that “the Fukushima nuclear crisis alone is a threat to the future of humanity. Yet, our concern goes far beyond this single threat. Our concern is with the cumulative and compounding devastation that is being wrought by the actions of human beings around the world. It is the combination of resource extraction, genetically modified organisms, moral failures, pollution, introduction of invasive species and much more that are threatening the future of life on Earth. Powerful technologies are out of control and are threatening the future of all life.”

Fukushima CC crop

Chief Arvol Looking Horse of the Sioux Nation presented the Council Statement at an NGO gathering at the Church Center for the UN in November 2013. At the same time a draft resolution was submitted to the General Assembly calling for an International Independent Commission of Experts to assist Japan in reducing radiation and minimizing public health risks. No action has yet been taken by the UN.

What you can do:

• Support the Council Statement:     caretakersofmotherearth.com/
• Read the UN Resolution:                   UNdraftFukushimaResolution.pdf
• Learn more about the workers:      fukushima-workers-special-report
• Take a video tour of the plant:        www.youtube.com/watch?v=fh-pAJwwHV8

• Remember the people of Japan in a special way on March 11, the 3rd anniversary of ‘311’

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Always consider how a particular decision affects the next seven generations.
Deodata Bunzigiye

REMEMBERING MANDELA: MAY HIS LEGACY CONTINUE

Samantha Power, U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations, was one of many at the United Nations who marked the death of Nelson Mandela, December 5, 2013:

“Today, an eloquent voice has been silenced, a beautiful mind stilled, and a bountiful heart stopped. The epic soul of Nelson Mandela is now at rest.

It is routine to suggest that the legacy of a man or woman will outlive that person, but in this case, the world will never be the same now that Nelson Mandela has occupied it. The example of his leadership – from prison to the presidency – from a land riven by fear to a people reconciled through truth and justice – will stand for all time.

Nelson Rolihlahla MandelaFifteen years ago, in an address to the United Nations, Mandela wrote his own epitaph: ‘As I sit in Qunu and grow as ancient as its hills, I will entertain the hope that there has emerged a cadre of leaders in my own country and region, on my continent and in the world, that will not allow any to be denied freedom as we were; that will not allow any to be turned into refugees as we were; that will not allow any to be condemned to go hungry as we were; and that will not allow any to be stripped of their dignity as we were.’

Nelson Mandela was a man of profound dignity. As we mourn his passing and celebrate his life, we must also find inspiration in his memory – striving daily to promote peace, freedom, and dignity for others.”

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For a background document on the history and work of the Nelson Mandela Foundation, Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund and Mandela Rhodes Foundation, as well as details of how to support their work, go to:    www.nelsonmandela.org/#info

Nelson Mandela’s retirement charity launch 2 minute video:   http://youtu.be/X9jKQM3Mi9Q

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Ring the bells that still can ring,
Forget your perfect offering,
There’s a crack in everything.
That’s how the light gets in.
Leonard Cohen

THE PERILOUS JOURNEY OF MIGRANTS

In October, barely three weeks after the tragic death of over three hundred African migrants in a shipwreck off the Italian Island of Lampedusa, the BBC World Service presented an additional news story on the death of more migrants, only this time from the scorching sun of the Sahara desert. According to the BBC World Service, bodies of over 80 migrants from Niger Republic, majority of whom were children and women, were discovered scattered across different locations along the Sahara desert, presumably en route to Algeria. The news story stated that the migrants died from thirst when the vehicle they were travelling in broke down as they tried to cross into Algeria.

As shocking as the deaths from these two particular terrible incidences might be, one can imagine that these events represent only a fraction of the total number of people who die each month while trying to escape into other countries in search of a better life and security. Thousands of migrant women, men and children die each year in harrowing circumstances across the world. According to a BBC report, humanitarian agencies estimate nearly 20,000 migrants have perished while trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea into Europe over the past 20 years. Many of these individuals were never accounted for because they were lost to the seas. Other migrants succumb to the hot desert sun, or even lose their lives to attacks by wild animals. Recently, I listened to some of the traumatic accounts from rescue workers in the Lampedusa and Sahara desert tragedies on BBC. There were two particular stories that have continued to stay with me and that I simply cannot get the images off my mind. One rescue worker vividly described how he pulled the body of a woman out of the water with the umbilical cord of her newly-born baby still attached to her body. Both mother and baby were later buried next to each other. A similar story was also told by one of the journalists who visited the scene in the Sahara desert. There again was the body of a mother who died holding on tight to her little child.

Lampedusa tragedy. Photo: UNHCR/ANSA

Lampedusa tragedy. Photo: UNHCR/ANSA

Stories like these must prompt nations of the world to re-assess their immigration policies, and also encourage individuals to re-evaluate their opinions of immigrants. Often, stories of migrants are reduced to statistics. But these individuals are not just numbers, rather these are people, individuals with names, identities, and dignity. Migrants are not simply out to take advantage of the countries of their destination, as many believe. These children, women and men also come with so much potential that could contribute to the economic, social and political advancement of the recipient countries. On October 3 and 4 of this year, a High-Level Dialogue on International Migration and Development took place at the United Nations in New York. The purpose of the High-level Dialogue was to identify concrete measures to strengthen coherence and cooperation at all levels, with a perspective focused on enhancing the benefits of international migration for migrants and countries alike and its important link to development, while reducing its negative impacts.” In his speech at the High-Level Dialogue, Mr. Wu Hongbo, the UN Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, stated that “migration, when governed fairly, can make a very important contribution to social and economic development both in the countries of origin and in the countries of destination.”

Migration is not a new phenomenon. Many communities around the world have stories and historic accounts of how their ancestors moved from certain parts of the world to the areas they are situated today for reasons ranging from war, persecution, drought, or in search of better pastoral lands for their animals or fertile farmlands. However, because of the current global trends not limited to intra-state conflicts, poverty, natural disasters, religious/political/ethnic persecution—the incidence of transnational migration has continued to rise. The new figure released in 2013 by the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs shows that the number of migrants has reached a record high of 232 million people. According to the report, 3.2 percent of the world’s population in 2013 lives abroad worldwide, compared with 175 million in 2000 and 154 million in 1990.

Migrant workers in India. Photo: World Bank/Curt Carnemark

Migrant workers in India. Photo: World Bank/Curt Carnemark

As a result of this continuous increase, migrants world-wide consistently face violence, discrimination, exploitation, marginalization and other forms of human rights violation. Human traffickers take advantage of the stringent immigration policies, as some migrants fall victim to ruthless human smugglers to whom they sometimes pay large sums of money with the hope of gaining entry into the countries. Many of these individuals who undertake this route often do not make it to their destination because the smugglers abandon them en route to the destination at the sight of immigration authorities. Even for those that eventually make it to their destination, the prospect of falling into the hands of human traffickers or being exploited as cheap or slave laborers still looms high. Some of the migrants are so desperate to escape from their situation that they are willing to take on unimaginable risks.

It is therefore, incumbent on the international community to act to protect and safeguard the lives of millions of women, children and men world-wide who must leave their countries in search of better life, safety or security. On the other hand, the countries concerned must seriously address those issues which lead to the mass migration of their citizens. According to Ms Navi Pilay, an expert from the UN human rights office in Geneva, “as human mobility becomes more complex, the journeys taken by many migrants more perilous, and the situation in which they live and work more precarious, the need to base policy responses to migration on human rights standards becomes ever more important.” Pope Francis in his message on the World Day of Migrants and Refugees also notes that, “the reality of migration, given its new dimension in our age of globalization, needs to be approached and managed in a new, equitable and effective manner; more than anything, this calls for international cooperation and a spirit of profound solidarity and compassion.”

Read more:
www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-24713609
www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=45819#.Um03JxA0jQg
www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=45771&Cr=migration&Cr1=#.Um0sEBA0jQg
www.un.org/esa/population/meetings/HLD2013/mainhld2013.html
www.zenit.org/en/articles/pope-francis-message-for-world-day-of-migrants-and-refugees

TAKING THE CONFLICT OUT OF CONFLICT MINERALS: HOPE FOR CONGO

A recent report by the United Nations Group of Experts on the Democratic Republic of Congo indicates that legislation passed on the national level in various countries, including the United States, is helping to curb illegal activities in eastern Congo.  Individuals are making a difference too.  The Enough Project shares that “actor and activist Jeffrey Wright’s mining company, Taia Lion Resources, is helping take the conflict out of conflict minerals. His company’s approach in Sierra Leone has parallels for eastern Congo, where the fight to control the lucrative minerals trade is fueling the world’s deadliest war.”

Watch Jeffrey Wright’s compelling 3-minute video > http://bit.ly/PCOfeB  (in English)

Jeffrey Wright

Photo: Wikipedia

Related article:

Jeffrey Wright: Creating Conflict-Free Companies for the 21st Century (huffingtonpost.com)