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31.03.2021 – Inter Press Service

Why Rehabilitation is as Vital as Rescue for Child Trafficking Survivors
A survivor of child trafficking in Bihar, India. Extreme poverty, illiteracy and socio-economic inequalities are the main drivers of child trafficking for forced or bonded labour. [captured via videolink] (Image by Neena Bhandari/IPS)

By Neena Bhandari

Twelve-year-old Babloo’s (Name changed) parents, who worked as daily wage agricultural labourers in the eastern Indian state of Bihar, were finding it difficult to feed their family of six. They had recently lost their eldest son to sudden illness, when a distant relative convinced them to send Babloo with him to work in a city. He promised to pay Rs 5000 ($70) a month, a significant amount for the impoverished family.

The relative took Babloo and his 14-year-old cousin from the village and handed them to a trafficker, who took them by rail to Jaipur, capital of the western Indian state of Rajasthan, nearly 1200 kilometre away from their home.

“We were locked in a small room. The windows were sealed and there was no natural light. There were 10 other children already there. We were made to grind glass stones and then stick the stone embellishments and beads on lac bangles from 6am till midnight everyday,” Babloo tells IPS via Zoom from his village in Nawada district in southern Bihar.

“If we slackened out of fatigue, exhaustion or illness, we were beaten with a wooden pole. We would cry in agony and fear for our lives. But we were so terror stricken that we didn’t attempt to escape,” adds Babloo, who was trafficked in 2018 and rescued after six months in 2019.

Extreme poverty, illiteracy and socio-economic inequalities are the main drivers of child trafficking for forced or bonded labour. Traffickers have been manipulating vulnerable rural families by using relatives or giving reference of a relative to gain their trust.

“There is only one breadwinner in some families with six to eight children. These families, seeking a better life, become easy targets of traffickers, who have started recruiting fewer than four children at a time to evade suspicion from authorities,” Kanhaiya Kumar Singh, Director of Tatvasi Samaj Nyas, a Bihar-based NGO, tells IPS via WhatsApp.

Children comprised one-third of the overall 48,478 detected victims of trafficking in 106 countries, according to United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime’s (UNODC) Global Report on Trafficking in Persons 2020.

Though Bihar has formulated a comprehensive action plan, Astitva, for preventing and combating human trafficking and rehabilitation of the victims and survivors, similar fate awaited Ramu (name changed). He was trafficked at the age of 13 years in 2017 with another boy from his village and two others from a nearby village in Nalanda district (Bihar). They were also taken to Jaipur to work in a bangle-making sweatshop.

“We were always hungry because we were given limited food twice a day. If we requested to speak with our family, we were verbally abused and thrashed. I still get nightmares,” Ramu, who was rescued in 2018, tells IPS via Zoom from his village.

These children are amongst the fortunate ones to have been rescued by law enforcement agencies with the support of other government departments and civil society organisations, including the Child Labour Free Jaipur (CLFJ) initiative. CLFJ is a multi-stakeholder partnership, which has been working with the government, businesses, non-governmental organisations and local communities in Jaipur and Bihar to end child labour.

Almost 80 percent of trafficked children rescued from garment, handicrafts and jewellery sweatshops and factories of Jaipur, are from Bihar, one of the country’s poorer states. In 2019, 261 boys and 33 girls were rescued in Bihar and 636 boys and 17 girls were rescued in Rajasthan.

“Children rescued from Jaipur are repatriated to Bihar, where we help them reintegrate in their community with measures such as, enrolling them in school, providing them vocational training, helping them with access to victim compensation and government entitlements, and assisting them and their families to pursue legal cases against the traffickers,” says Abhijit De, Programme Advisor for CLFJ based in Patna (Bihar).

These boys are now part of CLFJ’s Survivors’ Collective, which meets twice a month. “We provide them with skills and training to become advocates for anti-trafficking in their own communities,” De tells IPS via Zoom.

Ramu, who is studying in Year 8, wants to be a policeman. “I want to protect my family and villagers from criminals, especially traffickers, so no child has to experience the torture that I did,” he tells IPS via Zoom. His fellow survivor, Babloo, who has been enrolled in Year 5, wants to become a doctor. “Our village only has a dispensary. The hospital is too far away and many people die for want of proper medical care,” he tells IPS via Zoom.

Another survivor, sixteen-year-old Veer (name changed), who was also freed from a workshop in Jaipur, wants to be a farmer. “We don’t have enough to eat that is why we are easily deceived by traffickers. I want to study agriculture and improve crop production,” he tells IPS via Zoom from his village in Nalanda district.

If these children can receive their [state] compensation amounts as soon as possible or within six months of being rescued, it would fast track their rehabilitation and further reduce re-trafficking. Now we have less than two percent re-trafficking rate amongst this survivors’ group,” De tells IPS via Zoom.

“Time lag in receiving compensation has been a major challenge,” agrees Sanjay Kumar, Chairperson of the Child Welfare Committee (CWC), Nalanda District. CWC is the statutory body tasked with dealing with children in need of care and protection.

Seventeen-year-old Ali (Name changed), who was trafficked in 2019 from Katihar district (Bihar), was escorted by CLFJ to Jaipur to provide testimony in a court case against the trafficker. “It was terrifying to come face-to-face with the trafficker. He kept making signs, telling us not to say anything against him in court,” he tells IPS via Zoom from his village. Now courts are pioneering the use of video testimony by child survivors of trafficking to provide them effective protection from potential intimidation or retaliation.

“There have been six convictions against child traffickers, four with life sentences between August 2019 and December 2020 in Jaipur. These convictions really send a strong message to deter the traffickers, and it helps everyone to see that child exploitation is no longer accepted and tolerated,” Ginny Baumann, Senior Program Manager with The Freedom Fund, tells IPS via WhatsApp.

A survivor of child trafficking. Traffickers have been manipulating vulnerable rural families by using relatives or giving references from a relative to gain their trust. [captured via videolink] Credit: Neena Bhandari/IPS

In 2019, 27 traffickers were chargesheeted, [A charge-sheet is a final report prepared by the investigation or law enforcement agencies for proving the accusation of a crime in a court of law] by the police in Bihar, according to the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB).

“The biggest problem is that cases can take several years to be decided. It puts survivors, their families and civil society assisting them in the prosecution of traffickers at grave risk. We have formed voluntary Community Vigilance Committees, which alert villagers if they see anyone suspicious looking for soft targets to traffic,” says Singh via WhatsApp.

According to the NCRB’s Crime in India 2019 Snapshot, there were 2,914 children out of a total of 6,616 victims reported to have been trafficked. In Bihar, 180 people trafficked were for forced labour, 59 for domestic servitude and 50 for sexual exploitation and prostitution.

“Many boys trafficked for labour may sometimes also be sexually abused,” Priti Patkar, co-founder of Prerana Anti-Trafficking Centre in Mumbai, tells IPS via WhatsApp.

The UNODC’s 2018 findings confirm the 15-year trend of changing age and sex composition of detected victims. The share of children has increased to over 30 per cent of detected victims and the share of boys detected has risen significantly when compared to girls globally.

PM Nair, a career Indian Police Service officer and a national expert on human trafficking, emphasises the need for agencies – the police, the CWC, the district administration, the caregivers, and NGOs – in destination states to converge and liaise with the corresponding agencies in the source state, where the children have been returned.

“This lack of liaison has created a mess and it is impeding progress in stemming child trafficking,” Nair, who is currently with the Indian Police Foundation, tells IPS via WhatApp. “The post-rescue care is grossly inadequate and insensitive.”

“The Anti-Human Trafficking Units [an integrated taskforce of personnel from police and other departments, and the NGOs, in districts], together with Anti-Human Trafficking Clubs set up in the colleges across the country, Panchayats Against Human Trafficking [grassroots democratic institutions], and the NGOs including the Childline has the potential to be a dominant force against human predators and therefore all concerned must strengthen them and help the mission to end human slavery,” Nair adds.

This is part of a series of features from across the globe on human trafficking. IPS coverage is supported by the Airways Aviation Group.

The Global Sustainability Network ( GSN ) is pursuing the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal number 8 with a special emphasis on Goal 8.7 which ‘takes immediate and effective measures to eradicate forced labour, end modern slavery and human trafficking and secure the prohibition and elimination of the worst forms of child labour, including recruitment and use of child soldiers, and by 2025 end child labour in all its forms’.

The origins of the GSN come from the endeavours of the Joint Declaration of Religious Leaders signed on 2 December 2014. Religious leaders of various faiths, gathered to work together “to defend the dignity and freedom of the human being against the extreme forms of the globalisation of indifference, such us exploitation, forced labour, prostitution, human trafficking” and so forth.

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Manifesto of the Saharawi people in defense of their natural resources

The international campaign, Western Sahara is not for sale (WSNS), has published a manifesto asking for support from the international community.

Support the manifesto through the following link: https://www.westernsaharaisnotforsale.org/manifesto/

MANIFESTO “Our country, our resources: STOP the exploitation of Western Sahara’s natural resources ”.

The Moroccan occupation of Western Sahara has lasted for 45 years, during which the fundamental rights of the Saharawi people have been trampled with impunity, through systematic abuse, the construction of an apartheid wall that claims the lives of Saharawis every day, and the systematic exploitation of the natural resources of Western Sahara, in violation of all international resolutions.

On November 13, 2020, we witnessed the renewed armed conflict in the region after Morocco disregarded the ceasefire signed in 1991 under the auspices of the United Nations.

As a Saharawi civil society organization and based on the results of the international civil resistance conference “Sahara Rise”, which took place in February 2018 in the Wilaya of Smara, in the Sahrawi refugee camps, we promote the international campaign against the exploitation of natural resources in Western Sahara “Sahara is not for sale”.

This campaign is based on a vision and principles aimed at ending foreign investment in occupied Western Sahara by multinational corporations that contribute to the systematic exploitation of Sahrawi resources by Morocco.

One of the main goals of the campaign is to raise awareness and mobilize international civil society to increase the pressure on the Moroccan occupation state so that the regime and its colonial project will lose popular and economic support, which will inevitably lead to the end of the illegal occupation of Western Sahara.

The campaign is an initiative led by civil society organizations in different parts of the world: in the occupied territories, in the refugee camps, and in the diaspora, to help denounce the illegal practices of the Moroccan occupation and their violations of the fundamental rights of the Sahrawis as well as the very negative ones. And, to highlight the negligent role of some foreign companies involved in the illegal exploitation of the resources of Western Sahara, and what this means in terms of material and political support for the illegal Moroccan occupation and thus for the continuation of their systematic violations of the rights of the Sahrawi people.

The campaign targets foreign companies involved in the violation of international law by entering into contracts and agreements with the Moroccan occupying state to carry out projects in occupied Western Sahara or to participate in the transport or import of Sahrawi products.

For all of these reasons, we demand with this campaign :

  1. The immediate cessation of all types of foreign investment in occupied Western Sahara and the withdrawal of companies that are contributing to the exploitation of natural resources and the spread of the conflict.
  2. The demolition of the wall of humiliation that divides Western Sahara in half.
  3. Morocco’s submission to international law and an end to its illegal occupation of Western Sahara.
  4. The taking of measures by states and organizations to put pressure on Morocco in various forms, including boycotts, to end its occupation of Western Sahara and thus enable the Sahrawis to lead a normal life in freedom and dignity.

Background

Western Sahara is not for sale ”(WSNS) is an international campaign against the exploitation of natural resources in Western Sahara, led by various organizations from the Saharawi civil society, the occupied territories, the refugee camps and the diaspora.

WSNS emerged from the international conference “Sahara Rise” (deida uld Yazid) on nonviolent civil resistance, which took place in the Saharawi refugee camps in February 2018, with the aim of putting an end to the operations of foreign companies and their illegal exploitation of natural resources in occupied Western Sahara.

With this initiative, we want to give a voice to the Saharawi people who are resisting the exploitation of their natural resources and make their suffering in the occupied territories visible due to the systematic oppression and in the refugee camps due to the conditions of exile and flight.

The mobilization of the international community and civil society organizations is essential to increase the pressure on the Moroccan occupying state to make its expansion campaign unprofitable (neither economically nor in terms of population) and to end its illegal occupation of Western Sahara. »

Translation by Lulith V.,  from the voluntary Pressenza translation team. We are looking for volunteers!

Interview with Professor Jody Williams, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate and chair of the Nobel Women’s Initiative
Professor Jody Williams, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate and chair of the Nobel Women’s Initiative (Image by Greg Gorman)

“We need to focus on human security for sustainable peace”

Landmines are among the most insidious and cruel weapons of all, because they do not distinguish between armed soldiers, civilians or even children. According to the Landmine Monitor 2020, explosive devices hidden in the ground killed or injured at least 5,554 people worldwide last year alone – that’s an average of 15 deaths and serious injuries per day. With her International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL), Professor Jody Williams (70) has been advocating a ban on landmines for almost 30 years. Together with her campaign for the banning of landmines she received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1997 for her commitment.

Professor Williams, thank you for taking the time for this interview with the Faces of Peace initiative. To begin, we would first of all like to ask you: What does “peace” mean for you personally?

Peace is not simply the absence of armed conflict. That is the baseline on which sustainable peace can be built. For me, sustainable peace is peace built on human security, not national security. We do not need more, “modernized” nuclear weapons. We do not need fully autonomous weapons that on their own can target and kill human beings. We need to use our resources so that the needs of people are met, not the needs of arms producers. People should be able to live dignified lives, with equal access to education, health care, housing, etc. We need to focus on human security for sustainable peace, not national security to protect the infrastructure of the state. Peace and security should be people centered!

On 3 December 1997, 122 states signed the treaty for the banning of landmines. You and your campaign received the Nobel Peace Prize for this. How did you, as an American, come on the topic of landmines?

Actually, I was asked by two organizations – the Vietnam Veterans of America Foundation and a German humanitarian relief organization, “Medico International” – if I thought I could create an international coalition of nongovernmental organizations to pressure governments to ban antipersonnel landmines. It was an amazing challenge that totally sparked my interest so I accepted that challenge and the International Campaign to Ban Landmines was born. Today, some 164 nations are part of the Mine Ban Treaty.

Speaking of the Landmine Monitor 2020: With 5,554 dead, the global death toll remains high 23 years after the ban on landmines. Is this a sobering figure? What else can the international community do?

It is a very sobering question and demonstrates how long it takes to clean up the mess as chaos caused by war and violence. The international community must maintain its focus on supporting countries still plagued with landmines and that are working on mine clearance.

The danger of landmines – especially improvised explosive devices – still exists. And the world has not become more peaceful anyway. What are the biggest threats to peace in 2021?

To my mind, the global obsession with weapons and violence while at the same time painting people who believe that peace is possible as intellectual “light weights” who don’t understand the harsh reality of the world are the two sides of the double-edged sword that keeps the world believing that only more weapons will keep us safe. The biggest threats are the “modernization” of nuclear weapons and the new “revolution” of weapons – killer robots. The weapons are fully autonomous and can target and kill human beings on their own. A devastating “marriage” of artificial intelligence and weapons of war!

Bombs do not kill ideology: Just in office, U.S. President Joe Biden ordered an airstrike in Syria – and another was called off at the last minute. What are your thoughts about that?

As you point out, bombs cannot kill ideology. In fact, bombing and other acts of violence can strengthen ideological conviction and make recruiting new people easier. I did not support Obama’s extensive use of drone warfare either.

And speaking of Joe Biden: The US has so far not signed the Ottawa Convention. What do you think the chances are of this happening during Joe Biden’s presidency? Does the world need US leadership?

I cannot predict what Biden will do regarding the Mine Ban Treaty. But it is very likely he will roll back Trump’s policy and align his administration’s policy with that of the Obama administration, which brought the US very close to compliance with the treaty even if it was not signed.

Professor Williams, you are also chair of the Nobel Women’s Initiative. What exactly does this initiative do and how can one support your important work?

The Nobel Women’s Initiative was launched in 2006. It brings together five women recipients of the Nobel Peace Prize, who use our influence and access to shine a spotlight on grassroots women’s organizations in conflict areas around the world working for sustainable peace with justice and equality.

Professor Williams, thank you very much for the interview!


About the Faces of Democracy and Faces of Peace initiatives:

With almost 100 prominent figures from politics, business, the media and society – including the former President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker, the Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Norway Erna Solberg, the President of the Republic of Estonia Kersti Kaljulaid, the German Federal Minister of Foreign Affairs Heiko Maas and OSCE Secretary General Thomas Greminger – the Faces of Democracy initiative is now in its fifth year of existence. The first “faces” of the 2019 founded Faces of Peace initiative are SIPRI Director Dan Smith, the Chairman of the Atlantic Brücke e.V. Sigmar Gabriel, the OSCE CiO 2019 and Minister of Foreign and European Affairs of the Slovak Republic Miroslav Lajčák and the Chief of Staff of the 69th Submarine Brigade of the Northern Fleet Vasili A. Arkhipov.

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We support two European Citizens’ Initiatives: Basic Income and No Profit on Pandemic

The European Commission has several technocratic ways of consulting with EU citizens. It also has several ways, again technocratically, to apply pressure to have certain issues (which citizens believe are not being adequately acted upon) discussed and on which a position should be taken. In a second context, during this period there are two on-going European Citizens’ Initiatives which our agency is supporting in various ways. So far, both of these have reached 10% of their goals. And both of them have been officially extended – because of the pandemic – in spite of the fact that they have not passed their expiry dates. Let’s take a look at them.

1.European Citizens’ Initiative on Basic Income

The table writes:

European Citizens’ Initiative on Unconditional Basic Income 2020-21

The Granting of the Unconditional Basic Income throughout the EU

Start day for collection of signatures:

25 September 2020, last day: 25 March 2022

The debate on a Basic Income that is universal, unconditional, sufficient and personalized is not new. However, it took on a new dimension from the moment the pandemic broke out. Countries have been obliged to grant – on a monthly basis – a type of income, due to measures to suspend commercial and business activities. Despite the fact that the Basic Income is not an allowance but a human right, it looks like we are experiencing an increasing familiarization of the issue through the policies which are put in place due to the pandemic. Different countries had already carried out pilot schemes before the pandemic and at the moment the debate is in favour of those who believe that the time has come for a redistribution of resources, more objective taxation and even taxation of corporate communications and social media platforms such as Facebook. In parallel with this, labour is taking on a completely different form due to technological progress and with the introduction of Artificial Intelligence in the workplace, leaving hundreds of thousands of people outside the work environment and unfortunately boosting the gig economy. At the same time, voices are multiplying which talk of the recognition of other forms of labour which do not necessarily provide an income but which help the cohesion and development of our communities such as the care of children by their parents, the care of the aged in their homes and community service.

Sign the Basic Income initiative.

Watch and share the video of the Greek team.

2.European Citizens’ Initiative on Patent Free Vaccines, Pharmaceuticals and Diagnostics

The table writes:

We deserve protection from Covid-19. Support the European Citizens’ Initiative NO PROFIT ON PANDEMIC #right2cure

We all have a right to healthcare. In a pandemic, research and technology must be disseminated widely, quickly and all over the world. No private company should have the power to decide who will have access to treatments or vaccines and at which price. Patents allow a single company to have a monopolistic hold on basic pharmaceutical products. This limits the availability of drugs increases their cost and makes it difficult for people who need them to access them.

Details about the costs of production, public financing of research and development as well as the effectiveness and the safety of vaccines and treatments must be made public. Contracts signed between public authorities and pharmaceutical companies must be made public for the sake of transparency and accountability.

Taxpayers have paid for the research and development of vaccines and treatments. Whatever has been paid for by taxpayers must be used for the public good. We cannot allow large pharmaceutical companies to privatize key health technologies which were developed with public funds. A collective threat needs a communal approach and solidarity: not private profitability.

Public funds must always be provided with guarantees of the availability of the treatments and vaccines, and guarantees of affordable prices. This was stressed, among other policies, by the Greek Minister of Health, Vassilis Kikilias, after the way in which certain pharmaceutical companies behaved by not keeping their promises to provide a specific number of vaccines to EU countries and the unfortunate declarations about “vaccines as a  public good”.

Signed the No Profits from the Pandemic initiative.

Translation by Jeannette A. Arduino,  from the voluntary Pressenza translation team. We are looking for volunteers!

29.03.2021 – US, United States – David Andersson

Please, Latin America, Take Care of Your Children
(Image by UNICEF)

Last week, President Biden nominated Vice President Harris to oversee the immigration issue at U.S. southern border, where thousands of unaccompanied minors are arriving from Central America. A few days later, ex-President Trumps said that “he will probably visit the southern border in coming weeks,” taking the crisis as an opportunity to get back in the media.

Some analysts have used the COVID pandemic to explain the present situation, but studies show that the numbers before the virus were not much better. Immigration authorities apprehended a record-setting 76,020 unaccompanied minors at or near the U.S.-Mexico border during the 2019 fiscal year, an increase of 52 percent over 2018. Detention of Central American children rose roughly 130 percent in the first half of 2019 compared to the same period in 2018. Some studies claim that as many as 45% of children in Latin America are street children, a range of 8 million to 50 million. (The wikipedia page called “Street children in Latin America” will give you an overview).

There are no politics or immigration laws that will correctly address and respond to this horrific situation. It’s 2021, but we’re back to Zola’s Les Miserables. Having children treated as fourth-class citizens is despicable and dangerous. Children hold a very special place in our social fabric. They are not a productive working force, nor part of any voting population; children don’t have any power or any political representation. At the same time, however, they represent the future. They will be the generation that replaces and transforms the one currently in power.

These children are not migrating but escaping hardship and violence in all it forms, and few of them are applying for asylum; they prefer to use other “routes,” mistrusting any institution. This predicament at the border is not an immigration issue but a humanitarian emergency. All the countries of Latin America need to declare a state of emergency and work together to create a special task force to transform the situation of these children. As we are already see in Guatemala and Honduras, it is impossible to develop a peaceful and just society at the same time that there are children living on the street. It is a contraction that can’t be reconciled. Of course, the Latin American countries could ask the international community and UNICEF for support, but they need to get a multi-year plan along with a strategy to really transform not only the social structures but also the cultural values that created this situation in the first place (prejudice, discrimination, selfishness, dehumanization and disregard for human life). The U.S. cannot and will not resolve this issue. The the only thing that might happen with this crisis is that it will help to get an even more authoritarian president than Trump elected in four years.

It is the responsibility of everyone in Latin America to address the situation. The living conditions of their children today — ripe with harassment, rejection, gang violence, scarcity, and abandonment — is the formative landscape of the society they will build tomorrow. Changing these living conditions today will transform the continent’s tomorrow.

Nicholas Kristof, New York Times columnistNick Kristof is the New York Times’s  Certified Good-Guy columnist. While he’s an intrepid reporter, who has earned two Pulitzers, he’s best known for an uncanny ability to make even an unfolding tragedy like the one he recounts here feel like an upbeat family story. Almost effortlessly he turns it…

The Nice Guy and the Madman Prophet — A Friendly Letter

Quaccheri e cristiani non evangelici senza chiesa

Bill Gates’ Global Agenda and How We Can Resist His War on Life
(Image by Kartikey Shiva)

In March 2015, Bill Gates showed an image of the coronavirus during a TED Talk and told the audience that it was what the greatest catastrophe of our time would look like. The real threat to life, he said, is ‘not missiles, but microbes.’ When the coronavirus pandemic swept over the earth like a tsunami five years later, he revived the war language, describing the pandemic as ‘a world war’.

‘The coronavirus pandemic pits all of humanity against the virus,’ he said.

By Vandana Shiva

In fact, the pandemic is not a war. The pandemic is aconsequenceof war. A war against life. The mechanical mind connected to the money machine of extraction has created the illusion of humans as separate from nature, and nature as dead, inert raw material to be exploited. But, in fact, we are part of the biome. And…

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28.03.2021 – Portland, Oregon – Pressenza IPA

Report from the Place Where We Do Not Die
Image by Pexels from Pixabay

TESTIMONY

“We do not die…!”

This was what, in astonished recognition, I told myself one day more than twenty years ago, when I stumbled without warning into the Place Where We Do Not Die.

I do not know how I got there – perhaps it had something to do with certain nerves being stimulated by the abdominal massage I was receiving for my insomnia. But the “how” doesn’t matter – I hastened to get more massages after that, and they always left me in the most ordinary of realities.

What matters is the possibility that we do not die.

For me, a chance massage made that possibility a certainty, and that certainty changed my life, filling it with new and joyous meaning.

Naturally, I’ve yearned to share the good news with all the world ever since – yet until now, apart from a few conversations with friends and a few poems and stories, I have kept the whole thing to myself. After all, I had no desire to be pigeonholed as some kind of naive spiritual grandstander, and anyway I couldn’t imagine anyone in the mainstream media giving me the time of day.

Now, however, current events have changed all that. Given the overwhelming dismay so many are feeling in the face of humanity’s current plight, I can no longer keep silent.

I am encouraged in this decision by the example of Argentine sage Silo, who declared his own faith in transcendence in his 1980 talk on the Meaning of Life:

“Those who achieve that faith or that transcendent experience—even if they cannot define it in precise terms, as one cannot precisely define love—will recognize the need to orient others toward meaning in life, though never do they try to impose their own landscape on those who do not recognize it.

“And so… I declare before all of you my faith and my certainty from experience that death does not stop the future, that death on the contrary modifies the provisional state of our existence to launch it toward immortal transcendence. And I do not impose my certainty or my faith upon anyone, and I live in harmony with those who find themselves in different states with respect to meaning in life. But I am obliged in solidarity to offer this message—a message that I recognize makes the human being happy and free. For no reason will I evade my responsibility to express my truths, though they may seem doubtful to those who experience the provisional nature of life and the absurdity of death.”*

Here, then, is my testimony, taken from the notes I jotted down immediately upon returning from my “rapture”:

“I am here again, in this place I lived long ago in my agonized youth. Now, as if no time at all had passed, my good friends and I are together again, all of us young and vital, talking quietly as we share soup and bread around the long plank table in our old Santa Cruz adobe. The warm evening sun is pouring in through the open back door, nasturtiums are climbing gold and green around the doorframe, and we can hear the sound of the sea that rushes up to us across the white dunes…

“Everything is the same as it was in my dim and painful youth, with one profound difference. Now, for the first time, I am here with all my being, fully and joyfully present. In those old times, when I was not yet young enough at heart to know myself, I spent almost every waking moment turned inward on myself, fascinated by the horrific shadows of my fears, and so hardly noticed the beauty and warmth of my surroundings or the shining faces of my companions…

“But now, oh glory, now at last I am truly here, life filling every cell and fiber of my being with an ocean of contentment and peace. I know now that all is well, always has been, and always will be. I know that we do not die, and that nothing good is ever lost, and that all negativity is nothing but a misinterpretation of reality. Even all the years of my youth that I thought lost in misery are here, shining in all their beauty, because the essence of every moment is eternal…”

That is what I wrote – and that is all. I knew at the time that there was much more, if only I could remember it – but it had already slipped away…

Back in the day-to-day realm, or almost back, I found myself lying on the floor, receiving my massage from the very young man who had just set up his new San Francisco office.

Still half lingering in that blissful other time and space, wondering if I could somehow stay there, I asked him, “Will they arrest you for murder if I don’t come back?”

Taken aback, he only chuckled uncertainly, and said, “You had a strong experience…”

“Yes,” I told him. “I was in the Place Where We Do Not Die. Do you know anything about that?”

He did not know what to say.

As for me, I left his office bowled over, delighted beyond belief, feeling like I was beginning an entirely new life, a life in which never again would I be truly afraid of death.

I have never had another such experience, and I know that from a rational point of view none of this makes any sense. Yet never for a microsecond have I doubted its truth. Even today, when the experience is only a memory, the certainty is still with me. I know in my bones that we do not die.

Not that I’m trying to convince anyone. I know we each have to find our own truth. I just want to share my experience because it fills me with such relief and gladness that I want to sing it from the rooftops and bring others joy.

Imagine the wonderful mayhem when our immortality suddenly becomes common knowledge!

First the headlines:

WE DO NOT DIE!

DEATH EXPOSED AS AN IMPOSTER!

Then the feature story:

After seven million years of pulling the wool over everyone’s eyes, Death, the former Big Boss of all humanity, has finally been exposed as a shameless fraud. Inside sources report that after heavy losses of an undisclosed nature, the Grim Reaper has been forced to abandon his multiple estates on all the continents and is living out of his car somewhere in the vicinity of Las Vegas, Nevada…

Then, almost as an afterthought, in a quietly dignified black box on the back page, Death’s obituary.

With that the floodgates open, and the testimonials begin to pour into everyone’s Twitter feed: Yes! I had the same experience! And finally even the scientists begin to test the radical new “Entirely Benign Theory” of human existence…

When that day comes – and it will! – imagine the dancing and singing and riotous celebrating that will erupt all across the planet! The pharmaceutical companies will lose a sizable chunk of their business because no one will be anxious or depressed or stressed. Even the mother of all fears, the Fear of Death, will finally be able to relax and start enjoying life, maybe take up watercolors…

It is in anticipation of that day that I am sharing my story. I realize my account is only anecdotal, and look forward to the day when those with proper credentials devise the double blind studies that will confirm the truth of the matter once and for all, saving billions of skeptics millennia of needless suffering. Until then, I am speaking my piece as one more bit of evidence that it is possible to live without fear.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m not enlightened. While the discovery that we do not die changed something deep inside me, it unfortunately left the ramshackle castle of my surface life quite shakily intact. I still wake up every day to uncertainty, and I still fear losing my health, my loved ones, my home, my money, my physical life – as befits this realm of pain and pleasure and constant change.

But – and this is the best thing about knowing we don’t die –  my life is no longer completely run by fear. I may still be swept into the panic of the moment, but my roots go deep, and through them I can feel the calm that comes up from the depths.

And I know where I’m going, and what I want. I’m heading to the Place We Do Not Die, and when I get there, I want more than anything to throw open the door for everyone, everyone, everyone to enter.

Until then, I am happy to be here with everyone on this wild carnival ride we call life. To keep from falling off,  I try to do what the sages suggest – pray, meditate, live joyfully, be kind, and give thanks.

So in gratitude for walking the path of life, and in deep appreciation for all the signposts, rock pyramids, and fluttering flags of hope and encouragement left by other travelers along the way, I am planting here beside the path my own joyous banner:

“We Do Not Die.

Nothing good is ever lost.

Negativity is just a misinterpretation of a thoroughly benign reality…”

*from Silo’s talk on the “Meaning of Life,” Mexico City, 1980Click on the link to the video of the author reading her testimony:Report from the Place Where We Do Not Die(https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GrgRksHAtac)

27.03.2021 – Human Rights Watch

Don’t Arm Robots in Policing
Bio-inspired Big Dog quadruped robot is being developed as a mule that can traverse difficult terrain.tiff (Image by Wikimedia Commons / This image or file is a work of a Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), an agency of the United States Department of Defense, employee, taken or made as part of that person’s official duties. As a work of the U.S. federal)

Proposed New York City Law a Model for Regulation

Elected officials and local authorities across the United States and around the world should consider replicating an innovative legislative proposal that would prohibit police from arming robots used in their law enforcement operations.

The bill, introduced on March 18 by New York City council members Ben Kallos and Vanessa Gibson, would “prohibit the New York City Police Department (NYPD) from using or threatening to use robots armed with a weapon or to use robots in any manner that is substantially likely to cause death or serious physical injury.”

The proposed law comes after a social media outcry over the use of an unarmed 70-pound ground robot manufactured by Boston Dynamics in a policing operation last month in the Bronx. US Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez criticized its deployment “for testing on low-income communities of color with under-resourced schools” and suggested the city should invest instead in education.

In a statement published in Wired and other news outlets, Boston Dynamics CEO Robert Playter said that the company’s robots “will achieve long-term commercial viability only if people see robots as helpful, beneficial tools without worrying if they’re going to cause harm.” Playter also said that the company prohibits customers from attaching weapons to its robots. The company’s terms of service require buyers of its ground robot — which is unarmed — to not intentionally use it “to harm or intimidate any person or animal, as a weapon, or to enable any weapon.” Other technology companies such as ParavisionSkydio, and Clearpath Robotics have similar measures in place.

Such contractual requirements are a start, but laws are needed to ensure police forces don’t ignore these dangers as they expand their use of artificial intelligence and emerging technologies. Pledges not to weaponize robots will not prevent a future of digital dehumanization and automated killing.

Fully autonomous weapons systems need to be prohibited in all circumstances, including in armed conflict, law enforcement, and border control, as Human Rights Watch and other members of the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots have advocated.

Allowing machines to select and attack humans without meaningful human control crosses a moral line. Regulation in the form of new laws is the only viable option when faced with the serious ethical, legal, operational and other challenges raised by the removal of human control from the use of force.

 The original article can be found on our partner’s website here

27.03.2021 – Agora des habitants de la Terre

Launching of the Campaign: Water is a Global Public Good
(Image credit: Pezibear | https://pixabay.com/fr/photos/personne-humain-fille-enfant-face-775073/)

23 March 2021. Water continues to be a commodity, ransacked, subjected to devastating commercial and financial domination. Water is diseased everywhere, polluted, exploited to the point of exhaustion. Rivers are dying, lakes are drying up. More than a third of the world’s groundwater is unfit for human use. More than a thousand children under the age of 6 die every day from diseases caused by the lack of water or its poor quality. 2.1 billion people do not know what clean water is. 4.2 billion people do not have a “safe” toilet.

Today, there is no stopping the brutal and predatory takeover of the Earth’s water by money-hungry private interests.

On March 22, 2021, the official World Water Day, the Agora of the Inhabitants of the Eartha is launching a campaign to fight for water-a global public-good.

The goal: to stop the devastation of water perpetrated by powerful global oligarchies that continue to treat water for life (once a common good) as an increasingly scarce and therefore profitable “commodity”. By listing water on the stock exchange on 7 December, these true predators have explicitly confirmed that they have no intention of changing their plundering of water and nature. In the context of growing scarcity, water insecurity has become a feature of life on our Earth. Let’s stop the plunderers.

The campaign has three main objectives:

– Freeing water from predatory finance, starting with banning publicly traded companies from speculating on water, necessary for life, water for life, and turning over the management of water services at the watershed level to a public community water government;

– Secure water by ensuring its preservation, its good ecological state and its natural regeneration capacities, as a non-transferable and non-privatisable global public good, recognizing the rights of nature by granting legal personality to water bodies, such as rivers, lakes, wetlands, etc.

– To take water out of the culture of rivalry and violence by promoting practices of life, from the local to the planetary, based on joint responsibility, sharing, respect for the universal rights to life of all the inhabitants of the Earth, solidarity and brotherhood. Contrary to what is happening and what will certainly happen in the absence of a reversal of the trends, resilience must be collective, global.

For more details, see the short description of the campaign at: https://agora-humanite.org/

Expressions of interest and support are welcome.

Write to: agora.humanity@gmail.com

First information web meeting: 15 April at 6 pm.

The link will be sent on request.

Agora of the Inhabitants of the Earth

Resolution of the World Assembly of March 22, 2021

Brussels, 23 March 2021

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Dietrich Bonhoeffer

We must act and dare the appropiateness and not whatever comes to our mind not floating in the likelihood but grasp the reality as brave as we can be freedom lies in action not in the absence of mind obedience knows the essence of good and satisfies it, freedom dares to act and returns God the ultimate judgment of what is right and what is wrong, Obedience performs blindly but Freedom is wide awake Freedom wants to know why, Obedience has its hands tied, Freedom is inventive obedient man respects God’s commands and by virtu of his Freedom, he creats new commands. Both Obedience and Freedom come true in responsability (Dietrich Bonhoeffer)

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