Tag Archives: politics

Congo peace activists celebrate defeat of M23 rebels

DRC edit 2

Women in Goma marched in the streets to celebrate the defeat of the M23.

For many months, I have heard tragic reports of rising conflict from our partners in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Eastern DRC has been engulfed by conflict since 1994, when Hutu militias fled across the border from Rwanda—where they had just slaughtered Tutsis and moderate Hutus in one of the most organized genocides of the 20th century.

But in the last week, we have started seeing signs of hope. The notorious M23 rebels have finally surrendered, after years of unrelenting attacks against both civilians and the DRC military.

Here in DRC, people have been celebrating this important milestone. Women have dressed in white to show their support to the Congolese army and government in Goma and Kinshasa. There is a festive mood in the air.

However, grassroots advocates for peace are also calling for caution.  People are waiting to see what happens next and how the pending peace negotiations between the government and the M23 unfold. Still, this is a huge step toward breaking the cycle of recurrent violence in the Eastern DRC. We hope the United Nations and the Congolese army succeed in fighting the remaining rebel groups. There will be challenges ahead, particularly when human rights groups seek justice for war crimes—but this is a huge first step.

Read on for reflections on this news from AJWS partners in Goma and Bukavu, DRC, who will continue working with their communities to recover from this conflict and demand their basic human rights.

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Dominicans of Haitian descent deserve full equality in the Dominican Republic

DR protest

Protesters organize outside the Dominican Republic’s Constitutional Court.

Daniela lives in a batey—a town of sugar cane workers—in the Dominican Republic. At 17 years old, she has just graduated from high school and now volunteers as a community health educator. Her dream is to go to college—but that dream was crushed last month, when the country’s Constitutional Court revoked citizenship from all Dominicans of Haitian descent born after 1929.

Daniela was born in the Dominican Republic, but the government no longer considers her a citizen—just because of her family’s Haitian heritage. The impact on Daniela and her family will be devastating. Her college dream is now shattered, and she might be deported from the only home she’s ever known. Read More »

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Ruth Messinger at the 2013 Clinton Global Initiative

CGI_Annual_Meeting_2013Last week, AJWS President Ruth Messinger attended the 2013 Clinton Global Initiative (CGI), which annually convenes global leaders to create and implement innovative solutions to the world’s most pressing challenges. This prestigious event draws heads of state from around the world, along with Nobel Prize laureates and hundreds of major philanthropists and heads of foundations and NGOs.

Ruth, pictured to the right with Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, reflected on her experience at this year’s event:

“The Clinton Global Initiative offers one highlight after another.  This year, there were some spectacular panels on the status of women and girls, on the challenges of land grabbing and on the importance of turning our beliefs and values into action.  As always, though, the most fun was simply in the opportunity to make new connections and work collaboratively with others.”

Attending CGI is a valuable opportunity for AJWS and our partners, allowing us to deepen our relationships with activists and policymakers in pursuit of global justice. We are grateful to CGI and its visionary leadership. Learn more about CGI here.

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New video highlights Obama speech on American Jews and social change


It’s no secret that American Jews have a rich legacy of involvement in American social movements—the labor movement, the civil rights movement, women’s liberation, LGBT rights and immigration reform, to name just a few.

That’s why we’re so moved by this powerful new video, Hineni, created by our friends and colleagues at the Jewish Social Justice Roundtable. Built around a moving speech by President Obama, this video chronicles how American Jews have played key roles in the arc of social change. As President Obama notes, American Jews have “made a difference on so many of the defining issues of the last half century. The world’s a better place for it.”

The video features AJWS President Ruth Messinger, along with many other familiar Jewish leaders. Take a look!

And if you missed Ruth’s op-ed about the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, check it out here. How will you carry this work forward in the new year?

Posted in Human Rights, Jewish Justice | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Letter from Goma: Living through the Congolese conflict

Last week, conflict ramped up in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where the Congolese rebel group M23 and the Congolese Armed Forces escalated fighting. At least 800,000 people have fled their homes in the DRC since the M23 launched its rebellion in April 2012 and laid siege to the city of Goma last December. In response, the United Nations has launched an intervention brigade with the strongest mandate in UN peacekeeping history.

However, civilians in North Kivu have begun protesting the intervention brigade, arguing that the UN has not done enough to protect civilians. This week, forces from DRC dropped bombs in Rwanda, creating a complex and controversial political situation. Rwanda has allegedly supported the M23 rebels and is now threatening retaliation. According to an AJWS consultant, the current situation is very unpredictable.

This post comes to Global Voices from Nelly Godelive Mbangu, who lives in Goma.

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A Silver Lining in Senegal’s Political Unrest?

Protesters gather to voice their opposition against President Abdoulaye Wade who is running for another term as president.

This week, Senegal’s presidential campaign opens amidst stones, tear gas, grenades, student protests and calls for popular resistance by a coalition of opposition parties and civil society organizations.

Senegal’s current president, Abdoulaye Wade, is seeking re-election despite his term limit and dwindling popularity. Though some Senegalese support Wade, there are escalating riots over his bid to stay in power. Last week, four people including a student died from clashes between demonstrators and the police. The president is down-playing the protests, but the mounting tension is notable in a country known for its political stability. Senegal seems to be heading into the ugly lane of pre-electoral violence. Read More »

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A Turning Point This World AIDS Day: Why We Need Science, Political Will and Money for an AIDS-Free Future

World AIDS Day comes at a critical moment in the history of the AIDS crisis. Reversing this epidemic depends on how our policymakers use three powerful forces: science, political will and money.

Why Science? The annual UNAIDS World AIDS day Report for 2011 shows that in 2010 alone, more than 700,000 AIDS deaths were averted and more than 2.5 million deaths have been averted since the introduction of anti-retrovirals (ARVs) in 1995.

Investments in fighting HIV/AIDS save lives. In the past year, new research revealed that treatment can also be prevention and that ARVs can also reduce the likelihood of one partner passing HIV to another by 96%. Read More »

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Between Forkfuls, Let’s Be Food Thoughtful – and Kosher

Rabbi Noah Farkas

Rabbi Noah Farkas, an alum of AJWS’s Rabbinical Students’ Delegations, and a big fan of Pursue: Action for a Just World, wrote this fabulous article in JWeekly, reminding us to pay attention to our food, its source, and the politics bound up in its production. “We cannot just look at our food,” Farkas writes, “we have to look ‘through’ our food — beyond its materiality to its history, its depth, and to its ability to empower or impoverish the hands that brought it from the field to the fork.”

Read the full article here.

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3 Reasons Why Elections Are a Sign of Progress for Liberia

Elections continue to be an expected trigger of violence on the African continent. They led to serious disputes and deadly crimes in countries such as Kenya and recently in Cote d’Ivoire. Liberia (where AJWS will be hosting a Study Tour in March 2012—join us!), is preparing to hold its second ever presidential and legislative elections on October 11th, and the stakes are very high. The elections will be a crucial test of whether democracy is firmly entrenched in this country that fought its way out of a deadly 14-year civil war. Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, Liberia’s current president and Africa’s first female head of state, is reported as the election front-runner, ahead of 15 other presidential candidates. Read More »

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Coalitions, Collaboration, and Our Visit to the White House

Originally posted on Pursue: Action for a Just World.

As the Pursue Program Officer in San Francisco for the past two and a half years, one of the biggest lessons I learned was the importance of collaboration among Jewish communal organizations.

Operating with limited resources, targeting similar demographics, and striving toward similar goals as many other organizations, Pursue began as a partnership itself, the innovative child of AJWS and AVODAH. We decided to make partnership a fundamental tenet of our work, and since our inception we’ve partnered with over 150 other organizations across the country to build and strengthen the Jewish social justice movement. Moreover, we hope that our partnership approach will influence the broader Jewish communal field to be more collaborative and cooperative in its work.

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