Partera Blog

More than the Sum of its Parts: Testimonies to Non-violence

Dec 9, 2012

In the morning rituals of greeting, Ferdinand responds with something other than the expected, ‘Tamaam! al humdillilah!’ I feel so tired. I forgot where I was – a training in non-violence – and what is the first thing I think of? A gun.
In the language appropriate to women-as-property, he explains: ‘My ten year-old cousin was “stolen” last night. About dinner time when all of the men in the family were in the market. Two men, both armed. They pistol-whipped my aunt and took my cousin. My aunt called us and we tried to find the traders in children but gave up some hours after midnight. And all I wanted was a gun.’ He drops his head.
‘What will happen to her?’ I ask. ‘She will be sold for cows to someone who has no wife. The thieves will then have cows.’

Return to Mindanao: Postcard #2

Oct 9, 2012

The rain is pouring down, obscuring the passing landscape. Our minibus roars its way first along the coastal road, where sunshine earlier displayed the waters of the Sulu Sea and the modest Nipa leaf-thatch-and-bamboo-slat huts of fisher families. I think of their Sri Lankan neighbours whose homes, of undoubtedly similar construction, and livelihoods and, for tens of thousands, their lives, were washed away with the tsunami of Christmas 2004.
Now we are climbing, wending our way through a wet green landscape of palms, bamboo forests and rice paddies in various stages on the way to harvest, punctuated occasionally by the large brown-black hulk of a carabao, the bovine workhorse of this part of the world. The driver reduces speed but ramps up the horn-honking as we pass through village after village of colourful houses, shops, tuk-tuks, flapping clotheslines and uniformed school-children caught in the downpour.

Sudan’s Student Protests: Hope remains strong despite detention, torture, ongoing repression

Aug 31, 2012

Two weeks ago, I wrote here about the waves of protests in the streets of Khartoum and other Sudanese capitals. President Omar al-Bashir’s announcement of austerity measures – from cuts in fuel subsidies to rises in the prices of staple items – prompted the protests, led by students who for months had been preparing for civil disobedience, preparing for the larger goal of overthrowing the dictator. Security forces surged onto the streets, harassing, beating and arresting thousands of protesters. Amongst the leadership arrested were many of those trained, over the last eight years, in non-violence and civil disobedience by Partera and my Swedish colleagues.

Help for Sudan! Help for Widad and Mai and Rudwan and 2,000 detained student protesters!

Jul 24, 2012

A few days ago, that was my Facebook headline; today, it is this: Good News! This morning, following the briefest of ‘trials’ that had raised fears of execution for the detainees, most of the detainees were released – but not Rudwan Daoud. The story unfolds below.
On 16 June, blossoming student protest movements came to full flower with a series of well-planned demonstrations, none of them more than a few thousand, staged in state capitals across the country. Drawing their inspiration from the Arab Spring, Occupy and their own Girfina (Arabic for Enough! We’re fed up!!), the students planned their actions in a way that would spread more thinly the deployment of security personnel across many locations, compromising the government’s capacity to concentrate their crackdown on a single group or location.

May day! Arrested in Toronto

May 3, 2012

Back in September when I was arrested for the first time in my own country, I entitled my blogged reflection on that decision and its outcome ‘Because I love my grandkids’. I was taking for my own a quote from Maude Barlowe’s Parliament Hill speech that day on the unspeakable generational crimes of tar sands development, delivery, shipping and consumption.
I was thinking about my grandchildren last evening, as well, as seven of us, all members of the Occupy Toronto Chaplaincy team, huddled to debate whether or not we would put up a modest ‘chapel’ on the site of Occupy Toronto’s 24-hour May Day occupation.

Pillars of Power

Nov 20, 2011

The Mattress Game is serious situational analysis – though sometimes it looks like riotous fun.  It is an extended role play, so essential to experiential learning, in which the participants in the training identify those traditions, institutions and bodies, both governmental and civil society, that serve to support oppressive power. The answers are the same, wherever.   Corporate/economic, military/security, religious, cultural rules and norms, the media, judiciary, education.

But this is not Khartoum or Dongola or Al-Fashur.  This is Juba, capital of the new South Sudan.  So a prior question is begged:  does the government of this new country, shrunken by the loss of 2.5 million of its citizens in 21 years of civil war, held under the boot of one of the world most brutal régimes – in this new dispensation as the UN’s 193rd state member, make use of the instruments of oppressive power?  Yes; there is no hesitation. We don’t go into the when? at what point did the SPLM government led by Salva Kiir Mayardit turn to take up the tools of the oppressor: sometime in its 120 days of existence? or sometime in the six and a half years since the CPA granted the South limited autonomy and the right to form its own parliament?  Or is the government an organic outgrowth of a culture of tribalism, nepotism and repression and a history of violence?  That conversation doesn’t take place.  Perhaps it doesn’t matter.

Of the list of ‘pillars’ emerging from the brainstorming session, four are chosen for further probing:  education, judiciary, military and religion.   Representatives of each of those institutions are selected and they decamp to the sandy compound.  Tucked around the corner, out of sight of the remaining participants, is a mattress, reclining harmlessly against the wall of the kitchen, but soon to rise on the shoulders of the pillars as the symbol of oppressive power. 


Muslim-Christian Trainings
Mindanao / Philippines Conflict Transformation
San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas, Mexico
Sudan third party non-violence intervention