Friday, December 20, 2013

A Religion of Compassion?

A Religion of Compassion: A Letter to Pope Francis
by Matthew Fox
July 28, 2013

Will Pope Francis set the Catholic Church against the powers of injustice in our world today?

I have taken note of the fact that you and Rabbi Abraham Skorka in Argentina have become good friends; he speaks highly of you to the press. I have enjoyed reading your dialogs with him and I commend you for learning and listening from him. This pleases me very much because as we both know anti-Semitism has haunted Christian history since its earliest days and it built up over the centuries, spurred on by the sixteenth century pope Paul IV who invented the ghetto for Jews in Rome. It became even more fierce and unchecked with the horrors of Hitler’s crusade and fascism in general has always dined on that sordid, anti-Semitic legacy. As we both know, Jesus and his earliest followers were Jewish, so surely church renewal has something essential to do with embracing and celebrating a Jewish consciousness and with undoing our ignorance of, and what is sometimes contempt for, Jesus’ lineage.

Recent scholarship on Pope Pius XI reveals how he asked a North American Jesuit, Father John LaFarge, who had written about racism in America, to draft an encyclical on the evil of fascism. LaFarge unfortunately sent his document first to his Superior General, Father Wlodimir Ledochowski, who it turns out held fascist sympathies and did not pass it on to the pope. Eventually he did release it but the whole process was slowed down and Pope Pius XI died the night before he was to deliver an anti-fascist speech and before he published his anti-fascist encyclical. (Cardinal Eugene Tisserant of France, who was the pope’s best friend, wrote in his diary that the pope had been murdered.) The next pope, Pius XII, as we know, never wrote an encyclical condemning fascism. How much history might have been changed—how possible is it that Pius XI’s encyclical might have prevented Hitler’s and Mussolini’s advances had it been promulgated—we will never know.

I too have been blessed by knowing and working with rabbis including Rabbis Zalman Schachter (founder of the Jewish Renewal movement), Arthur Waskow, Michael Lerner (editor of Tikkun), Rami Shapiro, and others. But I especially want to invoke in this subject of religious renewal the brilliant spirit and solid analysis of Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel who wrote so many books of depth and beauty including the classic work, The Prophets. He not only composed that scholarly volume, he also lived it. He literally walked his talk when he marched with Martin Luther King at Selma to protest racism and segregation and he was vilified by his own Jewish community for doing so because they felt his public presence on behalf of black people would arouse still more anti-Semitism. He marched anyway and when his ten year old daughter asked him what it was like marching amidst the dangers at Selma he replied: “I felt my feet were praying.”

Find the rest of the article GO and find: "A Religion of Compassion, a Letter to Pope Francis"

Please note: This article is an exclusive excerpt from Matthew Fox’s new book, Letters to Pope Francis: Rebuilding a Church with Justice and Compassion (South Orange, NJ: LevelFiveMedia, 2013). Reprinted with permission of LevelFiveMedia, all rights reserved. This selection comes from Chapter Two, “Why Religion is in Decline: Wisdom from Rabbi Heschel” (pp. 31-41).

Matthew Fox is a spiritual theologian and author of more than thirty books, including Christian Mystics and The Hidden Spirituality of Men. He is a visiting scholar with the Academy of the Love of Learning and his web page is

Credit: Creative Commons/Catholic Church England and Wales.
The photo was found at TIKKUN magazine

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Eid Mubarak to our Precious Friends/Readers (who've been fasting)

-- A time for great celebration, peace and thankfulness to our Creator

We who are not Muslim have SO much to learn from our devout brothers and sisters.

Detroit Free Press food writer on 8 August 2013 (on Detroit mother and daughter cooking for Eid)

A Nigerian leader for peace

Reuters photo of Palestinian women preparing traditional food for ending of Ramadan
Internet Cache

Morning Prayer end of Ramadan AFP - Getty Images

Notice both on this blogsite (on behalf of other Ramzan/Ramadan fasts and breaking of fasts) as well as yesterday and today around the world such as a that faithful are including one another in peace as fasting draws to a close and and eating, celebration, community and service unite many. (I have also several earlier posts here in this site such as Bethlemem Christians Fast with Muslims in Bethlehem under August 2010 in archives.

There is no religion or race larger than the HUMAN RACE and no family bigger than the FAMILY OF GOD

Here are a few links which compel similar discussions of our common ground (the following are from - Pakistan where floods have added quite a lot of difficulty to Eid in Karachi. Prayers for our friends there!):

My Name is Human By ARIEB AZHAR(The comments here are as interesting as the article.)

Children of Lesser Gods By NIAZ MURTAZA (newer than the article above -- keep going back to see comments on his site Niaz Murtaza )

The following wise sayings perhaps among the most beautiful of any devout commemorations. To me, they sum up many of the reasons for our spiritual fasts and celebrations.

The Fast of Ramadan - The Inner Heart Blossoms:
"The real fast is the blossoming of the inner heart." — M. R. Bawa Muhaiyaddeen

There wouldn’t be such a thing as counterfeit gold if there were no real gold somewhere.

-–Sufi Proverb

If you make intense supplication
and the timing of the answer is delayed,
do not despair of it.
His reply to you is guaranteed;
but in the way He chooses,
not the way you choose,
and at the moment He desires,
not the moment you desire.

Give yourself a rest from managing!
When Someone Else is doing it for you,
don’t you start doing it for yourself!

Actions are merely propped-up shapes.
Their life-breath is the presence of the secret of sincerity in them.

A feeling of discouragement when you slip up
is a sure sign that you put your faith in deeds.

Aspiration which rushes on ahead
cannot break through the walls of destiny.

(the above are all from Ibn Ata’llah

(Due to lack of time and place to perfect this simple post, I plan to add additional links, topics and thoughts later in the comments section. I encourage readers to do the same here on this site: just add a thought now below under comments. Thanx for coming by.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

We are all made from one blood

During a recent devotional time with my bedfast Mother I was startled by this bit of scripture from the New Testament

"God has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth."  Acts 17: 26 

Shortly thereafter, in a book called "Agape Love" by chance, I found the same reflection a Persian Poet:

"The descendents of Adam are members of one body, for from the moment of Creation they are made of a single substance.

If the hands of fate causes pain in a single member, the other members will lose their tranquility and peace.

If thou are not saddened by the affliction of others, thou are not worthy to be called human.

Saadi, Thirteenth-Century Persian Poet (Trans. S. H. Nasr)

(See more translations below)

The reflection following the quote from Acts, spoke of a conversations between a writer and her 7-year-old friend who was of a beautiful color of brown.  He was wondering why so many Bible-story books indicated in paintings that Adam and Eve were white.  This led the writer to a sense of heart-sickness  and to let the little friend know that all people have their roots in the One Creator God and therefore we are all equal. 

The writer's reflection continued with the following: No race nor ethnicity is superior or inferior to another.  He gives to all life and breath. 

"Every life has been created, God's handiwork displayed:  When we cherish His creation, we value what He's made."


I found the following via the internet search.  You may also want to look at:

The most famous aphorism of Saadi

Saadi is well known for his aphorisms, the most famous of which, Bani Adam, in a delicate way shows the essence of Ubuntu and calls for breaking all barriers between the human beings:

Iranian Poetry 'Bani Adam' Inscribed On United Nations Building Entrance
بنى آدم اعضای یک پیکرند
که در آفرینش ز یک گوهرند
چو عضوى به درد آورد روزگار
دگر عضوها را نماند قرار
تو کز محنت دیگران بی غمی
نشاید که نامت نهند آدمی
The poem is translated by A.Marandi as:
Humans are peers of a united race,
Thus in creation, share the same base.
If one is affected with pain,
Others share the faith of same.
When you are indifferent to this pain,
You shall not earn the Humans' name.
Also translated by M. Aryanpoor as:
Human beings are members of a whole,
In creation of one essence and soul.
If one member is afflicted with pain,
Other members uneasy will remain.
If you've no sympathy for human pain,
The name of human you cannot retain!
by H. Vahid Dastjerdi as:
Adam's sons are body limbs, to say;
For they're created of the same clay.
Should one organ be troubled by pain,
Others would suffer severe strain.
Thou, careless of people's suffering,
Deserve not the name, "human being".
and the last translation by Dr. Iraj Bashiri:
Of One Essence is the Human Race,
Thusly has Creation put the Base.
One Limb impacted is sufficient,
For all Others to feel the Mace.
The Unconcern'd with Others' Plight,
Are but Brutes with Human Face.
The translations above are attempts to preserve the rhyme scheme of the original while translating into English, but may distort the meaning. What follows is an attempt at a more literal translation of the original Persian:
"Humans (children of Adam) are inherent parts (or more literally, limbs) of one body,
and are from the same essence in their creation.
When the conditions of the time hurts one of these parts,
other parts will be disturbed.
If you are indifferent about the misery of others,
it may not be appropriate to call you a human being."

How sad that even this poet himself was so abused by Christians during the Crusades even without any
cause yet did not seek revenge.  He himself understood so much more clearly than so many from a Christian background today the wisdom taught in our own New Testament.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Peaceful Co-Existence Inside and Outside Family


Even if you don't have diverse neighbors and friends, just a little perusing inside a few family magazines and sites makes so clear how much we all have in common and how we can help our children to be true to themselves and still respect others.

Also see the current issue of the long-standing American Magaine, "Parenting" for the following.  I applaud "Parenting" magazine for publishing this article and the author, Dr. Aliya Hasan for writing the same: 

Some crucial points are made in the article above on raising children with gentleness, love and forgiveness.  At the same time, there may be one or two assumptions about South Asia.  From what I've been learning about Pakistan and Bangladeshi for example -- there are plenty of amazing families and family teachings on mercy and love just like everywhere else.

Maybe you'll add your own sites, references and opinions on family?

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Make of yourself a pearl

Continuing with the same theme of the last two posts...The following is from  "The Second Birth"  p. 36 pb edition "Perfume of the Desert"

...Think of an oyster you fish out of the sea

That hasn't given birth to a pearl ---

What use is it? Who wants to buy it?

Its value will not appear to any eyes,

However experienced they may be.

You must, then, give birth to yourself a second time

Like silver and gold that are born from earth

And free yourself from all danger

And live in peace under God's protection...

When the soil of the mine is thrown in the furnace

It melts and transmutes and becomes precious.

You, too, if you are a real seeker; must melt away

Through the passion of the fire of love

In the furnace of absolute sincerity.

How else can you free yourself from the veils

Of your existence and become drunk on God?

...So you can know the secret of Union.

Dedicate your soul to the path of Reality

So you can receive the help and teaching of God.


Just a few notes:

The body everywhere sometimes seems to reign supreme.

Here in California there are the glamorous ones of every size, age and gender. Their build
and clothes dazzle every minute.  I marvel that the young everywhere have a chance to find
out who they REALLY are with such temptation on every hand.  I admire those who are able
to pursue a deeper path. The most beautiful persons who walk about appear pleasing without
seeking rather desperate attention -- even conventionally so.

Then there are the super-athletes here who's body astounds. In forested areas, there are the
mountain bikers.  In California, there are the "spinners", cyclists and walkers. Their aloneness or comraderie feels quite healthy to a point.  Of course, there is superb inspiration concerning health and discipline with much of this.  Yet by itself this too is limited.

Of course the TV, FaceBook and other media are full of bodies all over the world.

Yet of what value and good is just the body by itself alone?  All too soon there's not much
anyone can do to slow down time's mark.  Or by some hard work and miracle, a few are
able to do so, of what good is a perfect body not only at the end or along the way home?

The body is a necessary and beautiful part of life.  Yet it is only a part of the whole.

I love this poem of which part is above because just about anyone in their "right mind" can
do something about this secret -- no matter how limited their means nor how imperfect their body.
Finally, the pay off is huge:  receiving help and teaching from the Divine.  What could be more
important than that?


Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Pearls and Poultices

A Teaching Story from Perfume of the Desert: Inspirations from Sufi Wisdom by Andrew Harvey and Eryk Hanut  (A highly recommended book -- a perfect gift from a friend who takes such a story as the following to heart.)

Here's a story by Junayd titled "The Pearl."

"Shibli sought out Junayd as a teacher and said to him, 'Many people have informed me that you are a supreme expert on the pearls of awakening and divine wisdom. Either give me one of these pearls or sell one to me.'

"Junayd smiled. 'If I sell you one, you won't be able to pay the price; if I give you one, coming by it so easily will drive you to undervalue it. Do like me; dive headfirst into the Sea. If you wait patiently, you will obtain your Pearl.' "

To Practice: Dive deeper into your spiritual practice and watch for a Pearl.


To  add more layers to the metaphor above, sometimes waiting for the gift of the Pearl may take time no matter how prepared we may be.  So, what about rejoicing with the little "gifts" along the way -- which are also often greater than we may notice at the time.  In fact these may be JUST what we or a loved one may need most.

See Steinbeck's The Pearl.  Here's the excerpt:

The baby, having been cured by the poultice of seaweed, the gift of the sea, does not need the doctor, but Juana does not fully appreciate the power of the sea, and hopes for a pearl so that they can pay the doctor to treat him. To satisfy their misguided understanding of what is best for their child and for their family, Kino violently cuts into the flesh of the oyster, making its "lip-like flesh...(writhe) and...subside)", and takes the pearl, in his ignorance and greed destroying the natural order between the land and the sea (Chapter 2).


Tuesday, April 16, 2013

BECOMING a human being...

May I open up a little conversation from an highly-trusted spiritual classic...
"Becoming a human a mandate and a mission, a command and a decision.  We each have an open-ended relationship to ourselves...

'We, however, are challenged and questioned from the depths of our boundless become
human through the exercise of our freedom -- that is the law of our Being...(yet) not devoid of law
and necessity. (This freedom)  reveals itself at work when we accept and approve with all our heart the being that is committed to us...Thus, the free process of becoming ...human...unfolds as a process of service...obedience and faithfulness to the humanity entrusted to us...

'By its very nature this process is a trial; imbedded in it is the danger of going awry...We are always a potential rebel.  We can secretly betray the humanity entrusted to us...we can try to run away from ourselves, from the burdens and difficulties of our lot, even going so far as to take our own life.  Under the myriad evansions of (the materialistic), we can stifle the truth of our Being...

'On the other hand, we may withstand this temptation and lovingly accept the truth of our Being.  For the moment we shall call this attitude "love of self"...the deep and positive significance of an attitude whose ethical and religious scope is usually overlooked and underrated...Understood correctly, our love for ourselves, our 'yes' to our self, may be regarded as the categorical imperative of faith:  You shall lovingly accept the humanity entrusted to you!  You shall be obedient to your destiny.  You shall not continually try to escape...

'You shall be true to yourself.  You shall embrace yourself."

From the forward of Johannes Baptist Metz'  "Poverty of Spirit" (an classic which has been translated by John Drury and includes Inclusive Language by Carole Farris):

NOTE:  funny that I just read the above and then a few hours later found this same discussion among a precious online community of people across the world with whom I've learned such similarly deep concepts.  So, I am hoping, inshallah, to come back to encourage some similar quotes from these dear friends.

Well, I heard the Spirit speaking to me twice before noon with this very same message and want to
get this out to some of my readers before I lose the essence.  I posted this beginning here on "No More Crusades" because I feel deeply it's time for each of us to embrace that which is so embedded in each one of us and thereby be slowly yet steadily done with violence toward one another once and for all.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

where Muslims pray alongside Christians

St John’s church in Aberdeen is believed to be the only place in the UK where Muslims and Christians worship side by side.  Photograph: Narendra Shresthaepa/EPA

A Scottish reverend has invited Muslims to pray alongside Christians in an Aberdeen church because the nearby mosque is so small that some worshippers were forced to pray outside.

The rector of St John’s church, Rev Isaac Poobalan, has made parts of the building available to the congregation of the mosque. Up to 100 Muslims now pray in the main chapel five times every Friday.
Church leaders believe this may be the only place in the UK where Christians and Muslims worship side by side; there have been similar moves in the US, including in Memphis two years ago.

The building which now acts as the Syed Shah Mustafa Jame Masjid mosque was built on the grounds of St John’s Church at St John’s Place, off Crown Street, in the mid-1980s. In 2006 it was turned into a prayer room, but developers did not anticipate that up to 200 Muslims would want to worship there.

“If they all squeezed in very tightly about 60 or 70 people could fit inside,” said Poobolan. “One day when I was walking past the mosque, I found 20 or 30 people outside on the ground around the pavements with their hands and feet exposed. You could see their breath. When I spoke to people at the church about the situation, someone actually said to me this was not our problem, but I had seen it with my own eyes, so it was a problem.”

The two faiths have been working closely together in Aberdeen for several years. On Christmas Eve 2010 the church and the mosque held simultaneous prayers and then both opened their doors to provide food for local people.

On 11 September 2011, Poobalan and the chief imam held a joint service, and together read from scriptures of the Bible and the Qur’an, commemorating the 10th anniversary of the US terrorist attacks. “We had the sense that we were in this together and we really wanted to convey the message that, if we are genuinely seeking peace, we had to work together and pray together,” said Poobalan.

Poobalan grew up in India and had many Muslim and Hindu friends. He said: “Religion does not play a role when it comes to friendship and hospitality. They transcend the religious divide.”

St John’s Church also opens its doors to people from a local mental health hospital every Wednesday. Poobalan said some members of his congregation were reluctant to accept those with mental health problems into the church, and later hesitant to accept Muslim worshippers, but they were learning to “transcend” such instincts.

The church is part of the Scottish Episcopal Church, which belongs to the Anglican Communion and not the Church of Scotland.

The Bishop of Aberdeen and Orkney, the Right Rev Dr Robert Gillies, said: “Internationally, the news speaks of tension and struggles between Islam and Christianity. Yet, here in Aberdeen, a mosque and a church have built bonds of affection and friendship. It must be stressed that neither has surrendered or compromised any aspect of the historic faith to which each holds. But mutual hospitality and goodwill exists.”

(Credit for photo above also goes to original post)

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

May we be filled with the vision of peace.

War is STILL not the answer. Occupation is not liberation.

We pray to let go of the belief that we need wars...

A War Never Ends...
an interfaith response from

by Phil Bentley of Jewish Peace Fellowship,
Rabia Harris of Muslim Peace Fellowship, and
Janet Chisholm of Episcopal Peace Fellowship

We are Americans, US citizens
Followers of many spiritual traditions
Compelled to speak, for ourselves and for others.
Convinced that war achieves neither freedom nor peace.
Called to speak the truth as our faiths demand.
May we be filled with the strength to seek peace.

War will not end when the guns are silent.
Violence can never lead to peace.
Our government does not faithfully represent us
Therefore it is our obligation to speak.
We will bear the responsibility.
We will willingly accept what is required.
We will stand against the forces of death.
We will stand for life.
May we be filled with the courage to seek peace.

Duty calls upon us to prohibit violence
Directed at our helpless brothers and sisters
To limit the monstrous domination of war
To repair the ruin, whenever, wherever we can:
The direct horrors inflicted on the people
The damage to their homes, lands, heritage, institutions
The disruption of their eating, drinking, traveling,
breathing, living
May we be filled with the compassion to seek peace.

We grieve for the harm to our own country
The degradation suffered here in common
The contagion of fear and distrust
The restriction of our freedoms
The quashing of our dialogue and dissent
We grieve the terrible wounding of sisters and brothers sent to fight
Children captured by the demons of war
Who will suffer illness of body and spirit
Whose families too absorb the blows of violence
We grieve the rupture of families when a member is killed
Parents, spouses, infants overcome with grief
Losing a source of sustenance and survival
May we be filled with the endurance to seek peace.

War will not fulfill those government promises.
For it is based on lies, and lies have been told.
Here we stand on truth, and stand together.
United as one humanity, here we are.
We grasp the horror of war in all its fullness.
And embrace it with our joined compassion.
May we be filled with the vision of peace.

Recognizing our weakness
We call on the Spirit of Mercy to guide us now.
Nothing is stronger. The spirit will prevail.


Light a Candle for Peace  on your own or GO to:


What we need besides prayer

Contemplative nonviolence should be a key to prayer

Long ago, Daniel Berrigan told me a tragic story about being invited to speak to a packed church of cloistered nuns somewhere on the East Coast in 1965. They wanted him to read from his latest book of poetry. He did, but then began to quietly denounce the growing U.S. war in Vietnam. The congregation exploded. "How dare you attack our country?" they shouted. "If we don't kill those communists, they'll invade and take over," they said.

Dan was shocked. Here were holy contemplative women who spent seven hours a day in prayer and liturgy advocating death in another land by our country. How could this be? he thought. How is it that prayerful women can support the worst violence of our most violent men? Why do we compartmentalize our private spiritual life, even our communal prayer life, from our public work in the world and the evil that nations do? Shouldn't these North American contemplatives be the first to see the children of Vietnam as our sisters and brothers?

For decades now, Dan Berrigan and I have reflected on the shocking disconnect between prayer and peacemaking. We see it every day everywhere we turn, among every one of us, especially our religious leaders. I, too, could tell many stories about devout religious people who are gung-ho with the latest round of killing our nation's enemies. I'll share one other story.

Years ago, while making a retreat at a contemplative monastery, I met the former abbot and struck up a friendly conversation. He knew of my work for peace and how I had co-authored the Pax Christi "Vow of Nonviolence" and proudly told me how he and three other monks had professed that vow of nonviolence at a liturgy in January 1991, just as the U.S. was embarking upon its first killing spree in Iraq. I was happy to hear this, but then I grew disturbed.

"Only four monks professed the vow of nonviolence?" I asked. "What about the rest of the community (some 30 other monks)?" He put his head down and whispered sadly, "The rest of them were all in favor of the war. They are die-hard, patriotic Americans, and fully supported the killing of Iraqis, and I don't know what to do about it."

These extreme examples highlight our common disconnect between prayer and the spiritual life and our support for war and killing. It's an age-old problem -- from the devout Pharisees who fasted and prayed and were hell-bent on killing those who didn't meet their standards to those pious Christians who burned women at the stake and held slaves to the priests who say Mass at the Pentagon or bless nuclear weapons at Los Alamos, N.M ...Each year before commencement, ROTC cadets gather at the Alumni Memorial Chapel at Loyola University in Baltimore to profess the U.S. military oath (in front of the Blessed Sacrament) in what I call a "Mass for War." midst of wolves," not "wolves sent into the midst of lambs."

There is something radically wrong if we are spending time in prayer, going to church on Sundays, reading the Bible, and at the same time hurting others, supporting war, even actively working for war and weapons manufacturers. Contemplative prayer, as Merton taught, leads us to the God of peace, which means it leads us out of the culture of war to the point that it starts to disarm the roots of war within our own broken hearts.

The contemplative life, therefore, is first and foremost a life of contemplative nonviolence. Contemplative prayer helps us see beyond the lies of the culture of war to recognize every human being on the planet as our sister and brother and to deepen that communion of peace that was given to us by the God of peace. Contemplatives, therefore, are by their very nature peacemakers, not war-makers.

(plz read the full piece if you have time -- I believe if you are a true peacemaker, you may not agree with all of this but in some way you will be comforted.)

Sunday, February 3, 2013

No bloody crusades BUT here's a very effective campaign launched our website in January of last year, and since those first few days we have seen our membership shoot up to nearly 850,000 organized citizen-consumers in nearly every country around the world. We’ve been overwhelmed by your enthusiasm for our campaigns -- together we've taken over 5.5 million actions and counting -- and want to thank you for making all our fantastic victories possible.
And we’re not kidding about fantastic victories -- just in the past three months, we’ve won some campaigns that no one thought possible, like getting the FCC to regulate predatory prison phone companies, and getting Whole Foods to create a certification process to help chocolate producers remove child labor from their supply chains. You’re also helping us achieve progress on a host of other campaigns, from siding with striking Walmart workers to stopping Uganda’s horrific gay death penalty bill.
We wanted to take some time to catch you up on everything that we’ve been pouring over these past few months, and let you know that your actions are having a real impact on the lives of others. Thank you for all that you do.
--Kaytee Riek, Campaigns Manager,

Campaign updates

MAKING WAVES! Walmart: End factory deathtraps in Bangladesh
Background:Fire aftermath In November, a fire tore through the Tazreen garment factory, a Walmart supplier in Bangladesh. Emergency exits were locked from the outside, and managers told workers to return to their sewing machines as smoke filled the factory. 112 workers were killed. Weeks later, the New York Times revealed that Walmart executives had been aware of the dangers in their Bangladeshi factories, but had blocked a program to improve fire safety.
Partners: The International Labor Right Forum, United Students Against Sweatshops, Corporate Action Network, Change To Win, and Jobs with Justice.
What we want: We want Walmart to sign onto the Bangladeshi Fire Safety Agreement, an independently monitored program which requires global retailers to provide funds for improved fire safety in their Bangladeshi suppliers.
Current status: Over 110,000 of us signed a petition calling on Walmart to strengthen fire safety in the factories it buys from worldwide, and we delivered the petition during a rally at Walmart's lobbying headquarters. Walmart has claimed that it toughened rules governing its Bangladeshi suppliers, but these reforms are meaningless without independent monitoring funding for basic safety measures. So now we're raising the stakes by collectively donating $20,000 to bring both a Bangladeshi labor activist, and a survivor of the deadly Tazreen factory fire to confront Walmart executives.
Read More: The original petition | Shareable graphic | Fundraiser | Petition delivery photos
Press coverage: Huffington Post

VICTORY! No child labor at Whole Foods
Whole FoodsBackground: Whole Foods, America’s largest organic retailer, likes to brag about its efforts to popularize fair trade goods. But Whole Foods shelves were partially stocked with cheap chocolate produced by forced child labor.
Partners: The Teamsters and the International Labor Rights Forum
What we want: We wanted Whole Foods to commit to only selling certified fair trade chocolate, since only independent supply chain certification can guarantee that chocolate is free of child slavery, which runs rampant in the cocoa industry. Additionally, we wanted Whole Foods to stop doing business with companies that continue to profit from child slavery in the chocolate industry.
Current status: Whole Foods agreed to create a certification process to help chocolate producers monitor and control their supply chain. Whole Foods will challenge suppliers to improve working conditions in their fields, by creating quality-based ratings system. This system will help encourage any companies that sell to Whole Foods to remove child labor from their supply chains.
Read More: The original petition

VICTORY! FCC: Regulate prison phone rates
Prison PhonesBackground: A small handful of telecom companies with monopoly contracts can impose exorbitant phone costs -- upwards of $1 a minute -- on prisoners and their families. Most states do not regulate rates, since they frequently receive kickbacks from highly profitable phone operators. These rates exploit vulnerable people, including the 2.7 million children with an incarcerated parent, and, by cutting them off from their families, increase the rate convicts will commit another crime upon release.
Partners: The Prison Policy Institute and the Center for Media Justice
What we want: We want the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to protect incarcerated people and their families from exploitation by regulating interstate phone call rates.
Current status: After circulating the petition to our list, we received over 36,000 signatures and more than 2,000 original comments to the FCC. On the day we delivered the comments, the FCC announced that it would be issuing new rules to lower long distance rates for prisoners.
Read More: The original petition
Press coverage: Afro

MARKED PROGRESS! Pepsi: Speak out against the Uganda Kill the Gays bill
Background:Uganda protest Ugandan legislators are considering legislation that would institute the death penalty for gays and lesbians, and allies in Uganda felt that if multinational companies spoke out publicly against the bill, it would sway Members of Parliament (MPs) on the fence to vote against it. Pepsi has a history of supporting equality and has a massive presence in Uganda.
Partners: Ugandan Civil Society Coalition on Human Rights and Constitutional Law and Health GAP
What we want: We asked Pepsi to publicly oppose the bill and communicate its opposition to MPs in the Ugandan Parliament.
Current status: Over 116,000 signatures were delivered to Pepsi HQ in December, and, we took out an ad in Advertising Age, an industry publication, to get Pepsi's attention. Just this week, Pepsi's VP of Global Policy and Government Affairs met with Kaytee, our Campaign Manager. He heard our concerns, and agreed to continue watching the situation closely, and ensure Pepsi uses its voice effectively to stop passage of the bill. To that end, we are putting Pepsi executives in touch with LGBTI groups in Uganda so they can coordinate opposition on the ground.
As far as the bill itself, thankfully it did not pass before the Ugandan Parliament disbanded for Christmas. But allies in Uganda warn that there is a good chance the bill will be considered when Parliament reconvenes next week, so we will stay in touch with allies in Uganda and make sure Pepsi keeps its word to help stop this horrible law.
Read More: Original petition | Our ad in Advertising Age
Press Coverage: Huffington Post | All Africa | Queerty | Dan Savage

MASSIVE ACTION! Walmart: Stop selling assault weapons
Background:Walmart guns Walmart is the largest gun retailer in the country, and sells assault rifles -- including the AR-15 used in the Sandy Hook shooting -- at hundreds of its stores across the US. In the wake of the tragic shooting of 20 children in Newtown, CT, Americans joined together to fight against easy access to assault rifles.
Partners: Courage Campaign,,
What we want: We demanded that Walmart stop selling military-grade assault rifles, like those used in recent mass shootings, entirely.
Current status: Nearly 300,000 people, including 115,000 members, signed the petitions to Walmart. 60 people delivered those signatures, along with a letter from 75 survivors of mass shootings, at the Walmart just down the road from Sandy Hook Elementary one month after the tragic shooting. The petition delivery was covered in over one thousand media outlets, including USA Today, CNN and Bloomberg. Walmart released a statement that it respected its customers and would follow the law -- a pointless statement that shows we need to keep the pressure on Walmart until these guns are no longer on the shelves next to baby food and school clothes.
Read More: Original petition | Our delivery
Press: USA Today | Bloomberg | US News & World Report

VICTORY! Pfizer, leave the Heartland Institute!
Heartland's lossBackground: The Heartland Institute has long been a right-wing front group for corporate climate change apologists and tobacco companies looking to overturn against nicotine regulation. Early last year, the Heartland Institute unveiled its most outrageous campaign yet when it compared advocates of carbon regulation to terrorists and serial killers. Shortly after the backlash began, and thanks to the work of and Forecast the Facts, Heartland lost over half its funding, but Pfizer, a major donor, stubbornly remained.
Partner: Forecast the Facts, 350
What we want: We wanted Pfizer to join over twenty other groups in fleeing the Heartland Institute.
Current status: Victory! In November, Pfizer announced that it had decided not to renew its annual funding for the Heartland Institute, depriving the group of a major source of income. Thanks to your work, the Heartland Institute has been so defunded and demoralized that it was forced to cancel its annual climate denial conference.
Read More: The original petition
Press coverage: Think Progress

AMAZING PROGRESS! Walmart: Respect your workers.
Backgrouwalmart protestnd: This autumn, Walmart workers across America took a huge risk and launched a series of strikes at the world's largest retailer -- the first in the chain's history. The campaign culminated on Black Friday, the biggest shopping day of the year. Hundreds of associates walked off the job to protest low wages, inconsistent scheduling, dangerous working conditions, and retaliation against workers who had asked for better treatment.
Partners: Warehouse Workers United, Warehouse Workers for Justice, OUR Walmart, and Making Change at Walmart
What we want: We want to help Walmart workers win the respect they deserve from management. We want to see Walmart end retaliation and sit down with workers to see how it can treat its employees fairly.
Current status: When Walmart workers went on strike, members around the world donated over $75,000 to support striking Walmart workers. It was our most successful fundraiser ever! In fact, we raised so much that the workers' organization, OUR Walmart was able to use some extra money to hire Walmart associates who had been working to improve working conditions as organizers, starting with Semetra Lee, of Richmond, CA. Semetra was a temporary worker who began working with OUR Walmart after experiencing bullying and racism at her position. She was written up, and her contract was not renewed due to her activity organizing her fellow workers.
Walmart is starting to feel the impact of these strikes. In January, Walmart committed to improving its scheduling system and implementing a monitoring program to improve conditions in its warehouses -- key victories for OUR Walmart and Warehouse Workers United members. Of course, these changes aren't enough -- for instance, the warehouse monitoring program is based on Walmart's disastrous global monitoring program, which allowed the Tazreen fire in Bangladesh to happen. So Walmart workers will keep fighting, and we'll be there to support them
Read More: Original petition | Striking worker solidarity statement | Campaign donation page | Our ads blanketing Walmart's hometown newspapers
Press coverage: Los Angeles Times | Arkansas Democrat-Gazette
As you can tell, we’ve been busy! But we wouldn’t have it any other way. We are excited to build a movement together, and we’re honored that you’re a part of it. We want to keep up our momentum and make sure that corporations are taking our voices into consideration. As we are still a tiny organization, we make sure that your donation does the most it can to help better our world. Please consider becoming a donor in order to help our movement grow!
We are truly independent -- we don't take a dime from corporations or governments. That allows us to run campaigns like the ones we've described today. But that also means we depend on members like you to keep us going. Any donation that you can make not only improves our ability to campaign for corporate accountability, but also energizes us, knowing that you are invested in what the SumOfUs can do. Thank you so much for being one of us.
Thanks for reading, and for continuing to support our growing movement for corporate accountability.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Algerian Kidnappers Misuse Aafia's Name...

( The following is from the official site kept up-to-date with clear information in both English and Urdu by Dr. Aafia Siddiqui's family.  Please go to for much more.  Find there complete archives as well as scholarly and legal information and links.  The statement below is crucial as the family brings light once again to misuse of info and clearly false assumptions concerning Dr. Aafia Siddiqui.  Such careless journalism were misused during Aafia's trial and are still planting seeds of rumor. )

January 19, 2013
Now some people will make their own claims about what Aafia thinks and with whom she associates. The reality and facts don't even get a mention.So once again, terrorists, murderers and kidnappers have chosen to hide their crimes behind the name of Dr. Aafia Siddiqui. Not the woman. Not the mother. Just the name.
We are here to set the record straight. We are Aafia's family. We are speaking for her. With every atom of our hearts and souls we condemn this evil, and we pray to God that the suffering of the victims are eased just as we pray for Aafia.
In the fall of 2010, after being sentenced to eighty-six years in prison for a crime she did not commit, Aafia spoke to the public for only the second time since she and her three small children were kidnapped by Pakistani agents and turned over to representatives of the United States government in 2003.
She spoke of forgiving the judge, and the people who had wronged her and her family, and asked that no violence be done in her name.
Several months later senior members of al-Qaeda made statements demanding her freedom. Now we can add their buddies in Algeria to the list.
None of them had mentioned her before. Not when she and her children were kidnapped in 2003. Not when reports began to emerge in 2006 from the bowels of Bagram Prison in Afghanistan about the lone female inmate whose cries haunted all who heard them. Not in 2008 when the name Prisoner 650 was applied to this specter.
Did they speak out when a disoriented Aafia was found wandering the streets of Ghazni, Afghanistan, or when she was shot a day later by panicking American soldiers?
No. They just didn't care. They didn't care until they discovered that a lot of Muslims did. They saw Muslims marching in the streets in the tens of thousands demanding her release. By joining the chorus they are hoping that no one has noticed their absence, and by associating her name with their acts of violence they hope to borrow Aafia's moral stature as their own, making this their claim as the leaders of the Muslim world.
It doesn't work this way any more. These people do not realize that their day is over. Their indiscriminate campaign of murder and mayhem has disgusted all but the tiniest minority. They have failed.
Cases like Aafia's generate great support and emotional involvement because the suffering she has endured can't be ignored. Her story touches anyone with a conscience and those are the emotions that extremists like to exploit.
One tragic result of this event is that once opportunists have committed violence in her name a taboo will have been broken and we will see more of this as some people lose faith in our appeal to reason.
We condemn this violence. It is abhorrent to us. It violates everything we have been taught by our parents, God, and his prophets.
Those of us who know and love Aafia can tell you that she would be distraught if she knew that there are people bragging about this murder and mayhem and using her name to justify it. She would also be praying for the victims and their families. Aafia is one of too many people around the world who understands the toll that injustice demands from all of us.

Aafia Siddiqui: Updates from her family

( Please go to the official site for more detailed information: )

New Year Message from the Family of Dr Aafia

Dec 31, 2012
A Message of Thanks from the Family of Aafia...
We send our thanks and prayers to all of our friends around the world for everything you have done for Aafia.
2012 marked nine years in chains for Aafia, but the movement to free her made huge gains. International support for the Free Aafia campaign has expanded to include groups in two dozen countries. Support for Aafia is nearly universal in Pakistan despite the government's limitations on press coverage, especially in the English language media, and several official "protective" roadblocks.
Some of you marched peacefully with thousands of other people on to the streets to demand her freedom. Some of you sent Aafia a postcard telling her that you love her, that you believe her, and that you are praying for her and her family. Some of you raised money. Some of you gave your time. Many of you prayed. Many of you were there among the thousands who joined the "Caravan of Dignity" (Karwan-e-Ghairat) rallies.
You proved that a quilt of interfaith harmony can be a powerful weapon against injustice as Aafia was remembered at Ashura, Ramadan, Naurooz, Easter, Holi, Diwali and Christmas, united under a banner demanding that our common humanity be recognized everywhere.
All of you are part of our family in a way that we can't explain but we will always be grateful for.
Below are some of the notable events of 2012.
A fatwa from a senior religious body in Makkah, Saudi Arabia is made public calling for support for securing Aafia's freedom. It is censored in the Pakistani media and Saudi officials asked the family not to make a public issue of it. Pakistani agencies have repeated this message to us and added "or else".
On February 10th a large peaceful rally near the US consulate in Karachi was violently assaulted. In the unprovoked attack coordinated by Pakistani and foreign security personnel using water cannons and baton charges, several people were seriously hurt and needed hospitalization including Aafia's sister, Dr. Fauzia and Altaf Shakoor. Our sources told us that the slogan "86 years=Bullshit" that had been displayed at an earlier demonstration offended someone in the consulate who demanded retribution.
Far from silencing us, it brought us an international spotlight and became a catalyst for a major series of events across South Africa. This kicked off a successful campaign which has now multiple active chapters with new ones opening in neighboring African countries. (more here)
The ninth anniversary of the kidnapping of Aafia and her three children is marked by candlelight vigils and rallies across fifteen countries including a vigil outside the United States' embassy in London, a rally outside the Federal Courthouse in Fort Worth, Texas, just a few miles from where Aafia is being held at Carswell Prison, and a large demonstration outside the US consulate in Johannesburg, South Africa(more here)
For several years the Pakistani TV channel ARY has made a tradition of dedicating their Mother's Day morning show to Dr. Aafia and her children. A worldwide audience watched Ahmed and Maryam as they continue their journey from trauma to normalcy. (video here)
On this same occasion we were also reminded of the baby Suleman who was only 6 months old when abducted. His fate remains a mystery. Little interest is shown by Pakistan's authorities. As one official said to our family, "He was just a Pakistani kid - who cares?" *(Ahmad and Maryam were born in the United States and are American citizens. Suleman, born in Pakistan, was just a Pakistani kid.) (more here)
An Independence Day campaign to send tens of thousands of cards to the White House was launched and over 50,000 were mailed world wide.
As our successes grew, the shadowy security agencies were not idle. A malicious rumor of Aafia's death was spread. Aafia is kept is total isolation and had no contact with family or even lawyers so we were in no position to verify. This was eventually proven to be nothing more than a spiteful response to the campaign directed at Aafia's elderly mother.
During the Ramadan, two significant developments occurred. The American government confirmed that the Pakistani government had never made a formal request for Aafia's repatriation and so the United States could take no action. This exposed the complicity of some highly placed Pakistani authorities in keeping Aafia locked up. (more here)
The second development was perhaps the most dramatic of this entire ordeal. Aafia spoke. Her own words. Her own voice. A video from 1991 of nineteen year old Aafia giving a talk on the Role of Women in Islam appeared on YouTube. The video garnered 100,000 views in days, despite a news media black out by Pakistani, Turkish, and Arab TV stations. While acknowledging its authenticity, "editorial" decisions prevented the video from being broadcast or even mentioned. (video here)
Former United States Attorney General Ramsey Clark visited Pakistan. He described Aafia's imprisonment and the underlying premise as unjustifiable and called the American system in this case "unfair" and terming Aafia's trial "illegal". (more here)
Former United States Senator Mike Gravel visited Pakistan to emphasize that this was purely a political case and its solution lay in the political arena. He urged action, making the famous comment, "If the Pakistani government took serious action, Aafia could be home in two days". (more here)
A delegation of US antiwar groups led by UNAC and Code Pink came to Pakistan to protest the evils of the "collateral damage" of the war on terror, including the drone attacks and the case of Dr. Aafia. (more here)
Former United States Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney and International Action Center (IAC) director Sara Flounders visited Pakistan and spent a "Free Aafia Week" across Pakistan, again highlighting the inaction on the part of the Pakistani government. (more here)
Our campaign websites were hacked and selective data damaged. Aafia's sister was detained multiple times and her family threatened. Her livelihood placed at risk when her clinic, one of the few in Pakistan that treats epilepsy, was targeted under the guise of "extortion".
Also in 2012, Khurshid Mehmood Kasuri, the foreign minister for the former military dictator Pervez Musharaf, admitted in his infamous tweet: "I'm so sorry for handing over the innocent @DrAafiaSiddiqui to the Americans. It was my biggest mistake ever!.Khurshi Kasuri"
Not surprisingly, after this tweet went viral, Mr. Kasuri removed it, but he has not repudiated it either.
And these are just the highlights!
By God's grace, 2012 was eventful and has set the stage for more in 2013. We are energized by the success of so many events and the growing international support.
We wish all sincere supporters a happy, healthy, safe and prosperous 2013...
Christian Youth Seeks Aafia Release as Xmas Gift

Dec 20, 2012
A young Pakistani Christian boy asks US President Obama to Release Dr. Aafia as a special Christmas gift.
For video of the boy's emotional plea and full prayer services, link here or click on picture...
pak christian wish for xmas-12
christian plea on xmas-12
Threats, a Bullet and HarassmentPDFPrintE-mail
12 Dec 2012
Following the successful conclusion of the FeeAafia Week set of events, Dr. Fauzia, the sister of Dr. Aafia received several threats from the same source and a demand for ransom or face death. (See reports below)
At the same time Dr. Fauzia was being threatened, Ms. Cynthia McKinney was harassed and detained by an "Indian" agent and US federal agents upon her return to Atlanta, GA. (story here).
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