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Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Weekly Wire for January 5, 2011

Happy New Year!

Christmas in Saskatoon

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Counselors needed for Camp Kimtah

We’re starting to work on staff recruitment for Camp Kimtah this summer! We are looking for Canadian male and female counselors. It will be the week of August 6th-13th. Staff gather on Saturday the 6th, campers come on Sunday the 7th, and camp ends on Saturday the 13th. We are looking for responsible adults, 23 years of age or older.Kimtah 2010aKimtah 2010b

If you're interested please contact Catherine Peter, Director, at / 253-740-9277 or Sean Langdon, Business Manager, at / 425-293-6366. Thanks!

Peace In!
Sean Langdon


Music Writing Contest

Well it seems like some of you talented people out there require a little push to put your pens to paper.  Try thinking of the music this way… put down your favorite memories of either Samish Island or Hills of Peace.  Write a lyric for this music as a tribute to the place you have so many fabulous memories of.  Maybe it was one particular summer or perhaps a culmination of a lifetime of days well spent. 

I hope this helps because the contest will end on Valentines Day, February 14th.  And remember that only Brian Gibson and I will read your lyrics, and only I will know who they’ve come from…unless of course you’re the winner!  So there’s no need to feel shy about what you write. (I am the privacy officer after all).

Good Luck and I look forward to receiving your lyrics.

Here is the sheet music:

Canada West Mission Song Contest 1


Here is a link to the recorded music click on “song competition band track”.

And here is how the contest will work:

All lyrics will be submitted to me and given an anonymous file number before it is passed on to Brian Gibson. Brian will then choose the lyric which he feels best expresses his music.  

The winning lyric will be sung and recorded at a professional studio!


Peace and Justice  --  Human Rights

December 31, 2010

Welcome to this issue from the “In The Forefront

Within a few hours of writing this paragraph, a new calendar year will begin, and in some parts of the world it is already 2011.  With one exception I will skip any reflections on this past year, since I find this time of year is already full of such reflections, and from a human rights standpoint, it is just another day. 

However I will pause, firstly, to THANK all who have taken action during the year. 

Secondly I wish again to raise the notion of HOPE -- one of the driving influences in life.  It is the acknowledgement that we are not so prescient as to know the future with certainty, combined with the belief that life-giving dynamics will eventually prevail over the grotesque distortions and misuse of life.  And when hope moves from being an unattached, vague feeling, to a firm resolve, then it can anchor us to maximize life’s possibilities for the poor and marginalized around the world.  May we make 2011 a well-anchored, hope-filled year!

This newsletter is short, containing two actions.  The first highlights a final push for Darfur and Sudan.  The second action relates to the just-ratified new START Treaty on nuclear arms.


Pour la traduction française: cliqueter ici; et cliqueter alors le bouton de traduction sur la page Web.

Para la traducción española: clic aquí; y entonces hace clic en el botón de traducción en la página web.



Periodically I like to clarify the two-level nature of these newsletters for any new subscribers.  On one level they contain web-based actions on a wide variety of topics, so that readers may remain aware of the extensive range of issues that affect our planet and actions that can bolster better directions.  On a second level they follow a single issue through to its conclusion, helping illuminate what inhibits and enhances a solid resolution.  Darfur has been the “single issue” for almost seven years now.  It was selected: (a) for its own sake, as should all human rights abuses; (b) because it contained genocidal-like dynamics that gained the global spotlight and mobilized substantial organizational power; (c) because it became attached to two global concepts that are needed to take the world to a firmer level of interrelationship – the “Responsibility to Protect” doctrine (R2P) and the International criminal Court (ICC) – the idea being that if those two concepts could take root then they could become useful resources in resolving other conflicts.

Well, seven years later we have a good sense of what inhibits progress (see for details).  Darfur reveals that the international community holds only a primitive, unwieldy set of tools when the government in question - in this case Sudan’s President Bashir and cabal – is intransigent.  The R2P concept remains feckless.  The UN Security Council remains locked in self-serving agendas.  The UN member nations either ignored or gave extremely tepid support.  The ICC may someday yield results, but its overall approach with Darfur remains controversial.  The advocacy community itself came under criticism and to its credit, many have learned some lessons from it, if not aware from the outset; it is less clear that those doing the criticism have learned their own separate blind spots.

That said, even with the primitive tools, the international community was able to shine the light on the conflict, saving unknown thousands of lives.  Aid agencies were able to provide some minimal levels of help; a UN peacekeeping force (UNAMID) was eventually created and provided a tiny sliver of security and scrutiny.  The primary remaining tools – dis/incentives to help pressure Sudan, together with concerted international diplomacy – are mostly on the table now, and will determine the shape of both Sudan and Darfur by the end of 2011 or 2012.



In just over one week, Southern Sudan will vote on a referendum, which will likely result in its declaration to secede from Sudan.  There has been a renewed flurry of international diplomatic activity, including good moves (if not too little too late) by President Obama; and highly significant moves, if not somewhat predictable, by China to significantly bolster relationships with South Sudan.  Even if the chosen path is to avoid war, there are enough spoilers and unintended trigger dynamics, that much violence could still ensue.  Thus the following action calls for the most robust leadership in the coming months.

President Obama: Maintain the Most Robust Diplomacy (open to all):

Interesting development: A consortium of people, spearheaded by actor George Clooney has created a website soon to be active, below, that will use satellite feeds to watch for any violence along the N-S Sudan border.  You may recall a similar action over a year ago, which kept watch on a few Darfur villages. While technology cannot resolve conflicts, this continues an interesting development that attempts to peel back a hidden layer, not only among belligerents but also their political filters.

Preparing satellite surveillance of North-South Sudan Border:



On December 22, 2010, the U.S. Senate ratified the new START Treaty, which will reduce the number of nuclear arms between the U.S and Russia.  Given the destructive capabilities of nuclear weapons, this treaty is a welcome step.  If nothing else it is much preferable to no treaty, since such an uncertainty is often an opening to manipulate fear and hence to foster further build-ups.  It is also welcome as a sign that the two major nuclear countries can work together.  And, of course, an actual reduction in the world’s huge nuclear arsenal is highly desirable.

Thus Global Solutions - one of the organizations pushing for the treaty - has provided a way to thank those who helped pass the legislation, via easily locating and writing a “Letter to the Editor” of a newspaper.  While the action is aimed primarily at U.S. citizens, it should be considered open to all, since this nuclear issue and consequences are truly global in scope.

Thank U.S. Senators Who Voted for New START Treaty:

Balancing Opinion by Richard Falk (blog):




Child Labour and the Bitter Taste of Chocolate

For those who prefer some visual input, the following documentary from CBC’s The Passionate Eye, delves into the world of chocolate.  These newsletters have highlighted efforts to remove child labour and slavery from the industry as well as create Fair Trade market for chocolate.  The 45 minute feature shows that there is still a long way to go.

Documentary: Chocolate - The Bitter Truth

Japanese Whaling – Corruption Admitted

These newsletters have tracked the whaling issue for several years.  It represents issues of potential species loss, of large factory whaling and of flouting international standards.  After more than two years of pressure by Greenpeace and the famous "Tokyo Two" trials, officials with the Japanese Fishing Agency publicly admitted last week that they received whale meat as "gifts" from private companies contracted by the government to slaughter whales.  While the officials have been punished, the corruption in the whaling program is much bigger and institutionalized. Greenpeace is demanding a third-party investigation to reveal the true face of the whaling program.

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Missed an action email?  An archive is kept at:

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In appreciation and support,

  Rod Downing

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