Friday, March 21, 2008

Action for Tibetan Monks

Many news reports about the recent demonstrations in Tibet refer to the past large-scale protests in Lhasa in 1987-1988. Long-time members of AI Group 22 will recall that our former adopted prisoner of conscience, Tibetan monk Ngawang Pekar, was arrested at that time. Rights Readers started in 1999, and our third selection was the book Sky Burial, an account of the Lhasa events by a young American tourist. The author's companion was John Ackerly, who was so marked by his experience that he went on to become the president of International Campaign for Tibet. Today he wrote:
In the past 20 years, I have never had such an exhausting, heartbreaking, and exciting week. Exciting because the Tibet issue is exactly where it should be -- on the front pages of our newspapers and high on the agendas of politicians and human rights organizations everywhere. Heartbreaking because Tibetans have taken huge risks to make their voices heard and are experiencing the worst repression and crackdown since the earliest days of the Chinese occupation.
Amnesty International has posted an urgent action for the 15 Tibetan monks arrested March 10 in a peaceful demonstration. They are considered at high risk of torture. You can see their photos here. Please take action to support them!

Some non-AI actions are located here and here. A local organization is Los Angeles Friends of Tibet.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

For July: China Road by Rob Gifford

For July, we have selected Rob Gifford's China Road,
Route 312 is the Chinese Route 66. It flows three thousand miles from east to west, passing through the factory towns of the coastal areas, through the rural heart of China, then up into the Gobi Desert, where it merges with the Old Silk Road. The highway witnesses every part of the social and economic revolution that is turning China upside down.

In this utterly surprising and deeply personal book, acclaimed National Public Radio reporter Rob Gifford, a fluent Mandarin speaker, takes the dramatic journey along Route 312 from its start in the boomtown of Shanghai to its end on the border with Kazakhstan. Gifford reveals the rich mosaic of modern Chinese life in all its contradictions, as he poses the crucial questions that all of us are asking about China: Will it really be the next global superpower? Is it as solid and as powerful as it looks from the outside? And who are the ordinary Chinese people, to whom the twenty-first century is supposed to belong?

Gifford is not alone on his journey. The largest migration in human history is taking place along highways such as Route 312, as tens of millions of people leave their homes in search of work. He sees signs of the booming urban economy everywhere, but he also uncovers many of the country’s frailties, and some of the deep-seated problems that could derail China’s rise.

The whole compelling adventure is told through the cast of colorful characters Gifford meets: garrulous talk-show hosts and ambitious yuppies, impoverished peasants and tragic prostitutes, cell-phone salesmen, AIDS patients, and Tibetan monks. He rides with members of a Shanghai jeep club, hitchhikes across the Gobi desert, and sings karaoke with migrant workers at truck stops along the way.

As he recounts his travels along Route 312, Rob Gifford gives a face to what has historically, for Westerners, been a faceless country and breathes life into a nation that is so often reduced to economic statistics. Finally, he sounds a warning that all is not well in the Chinese heartlands, that serious problems lie ahead, and that the future of the West has become inextricably linked with the fate of 1.3 billion Chinese people.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Our March Author: Wangari Maathai

Before you go any further, visit the Amnesty International USA site to take action on behalf of Wangari Maathai, author of our March selection, Unbowed.

Kenyan human rights defender and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Professor Wangari Maathai received three death threats on her cellular telephone on February 19, 2008, as did two people working for her.

These threats read, ‘‘Because of your opposing the government at all times, Prof Wangari Maathai, we have decided to look for your head very soon, you are number three after Were, take care of your life.” The threats were signed ‘‘Mungiki.” The “number three” refers to the two Members of Parliament who were killed at the end of January.

The website for the Greenbelt Movement does provide some reassurance that Wangari Maathai's security detail was reinstated on March 5. Of course the site is worth exploring to learn more about the movement (pictures!).

There are many Wangari Maathai interviews available on line. This interview is the one that brought Unbowed to my attention, and here's another recent one from Democracy Now. Asked about Iraq,

And in Africa, in particular, I know we have many wars. We have a war in Darfur. We have wars in many other countries like the Congo, in West Africa, in Somalia right now. We are still having these wars. And these wars, when you look at all of them, you realize that they are all about resources. It’s the question of who is going to control the resources in this country, who is going to be included, who is going to be excluded, who is going to be in charge of these resources.

I think that if we would get the message that the Norwegian Nobel Committee gave us in the year 2004, we would sit back and rethink again: Isn’t there another way of managing these resources, of sharing these resources, of being more inclusive, of allowing everybody to play a part to benefit, so that we do not have to fight and kill each other, so that we can have the supreme control of these resources?

Speaking of Faith has an interview and slideshow of Kenyan women (accompanied by Wangari Maathai singing!)

In addition to the Greenbelt Movement's activities, learn more about the United Nations Environmental Programme's "Plant for the Planet" project to plant one billion trees in 2008 here. NPR has a report on how this program is working in Indonesia.

For a taste of Wangari Maathai's inspiration: Mount Kenya is a UNESCO World Heritage site and a photo gallery and video can be found here. PBS Nature has a feature on the fig tree, The Queen of Trees. When I first saw the title, I thought this was a reference to Wangari Maathai herself! Watch a trailer here.

The latest Amnesty reports and actions on Kenya can be found here. Also of interest, another Rights Readers author, Michela Wrong, offers some insight into recent events in Kenya in the New Statesman.

Finally, while there are many Wangari Maathai videos available on YouTube, try this for a taste of her storytelling skills,

Friday, March 14, 2008

Wangari Maathai's Nobel Peace Prize Acceptance Speech

Our group's Kenya expert, Paula Tavrow, who spends large parts of the year doing health-planning work in East Africa, has told us that the Nobel Prize acceptance speech by this month's author, Wangari Maathai, is well worth reading. Here's a link to read this online.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...