Of Mosul and Brussels

In two days there have been bombings and death in two places close to my heart – Mosul and Brussels. In Mosul the university – used by ISIS as a headquarters but surrounded by residential areas – cafes and other areas were struck in what was described as a ‘massive daylight barrage’ of bombs dropped by the US-led coalition. In Brussels, as yet unidentified bombers carried out a suicide attack on the airport and bombing of the Maalbeek Metro station. At least 25 civilians were killed yesterday in Mosul, possibly (probably) many, many more. At least 13 people have been confirmed killed so far in Brussels. And all of these…are people who had families, who had mothers and fathers, friends, relatives, colleagues. They had hopes, dreams, fears. They woke up in the morning, and now they are dead. The point is the horror, the killing, on all sides, is wrong. ‘We’ can’t use ‘their terror’ to justify our bombing and mass killing, because ‘they’re’ also using ‘our’ killings to justify their bombings and indiscriminate killings. And who dies? People, dreams, hope, civility, all that is best in us. And in their place, a graveyard of bankrupt policies, escalation of fears, hate mongering, military expenditures, devastation, destruction. I much prefer the seed of life, than the sewage of hatred and violence. My heart, my mind, everything that I am…mourns..for the people in Brussels, for the people in Mosul. For those who have done the bombings – whether from state of the art planes we misspent millions or billions of dollars to create as instruments of death, or by strapping bombs around themselves and blowing themselves up. They weren’t born wanting to hurt, to kill. What did we do along the way, how did we fail them, to reach this moment. This is not something we can simply angrily blame on ‘them’. On ‘others’. ‘Them’ is ‘us’ if we were in that situation. Them is ‘us’ in our own governments and companies fuelling, funding, arming ‘that’ situation. ‘Them’ whether in a fighter plane or suicide vest is ‘us’, as long as we don’t unite and stop it. There is no christian, no muslim, no Iraqi or Belgium. There are human beings. Someone who woke up yesterday morning, or this morning, and won’t anymore. And the emptiness, the hole, the unspeakable sadness and pain for those who knew them, loved them, laughed with them, cared for them, at least some of whom may now want ‘them’ to suffer, to be bombed or killed for what they’ve done…and the cycle continues. Until we stop it.
Mosul. Brussels. Ankara. Raqqa. Sinjar. Paris. Not sites of bombings. Not sites of killings. Sites of…millions, millions of people. Of life. Of creativity, hope, diversity. Let us make them sites, and seeds, of change, so that no other cities, no other lives, will be added to this list.
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Brussels Explosion: We can do this. Not alone, but together”
We are working to build a global movement to overcome the policies, drivers, causes and dynamics fuelling war and violence in all their forms – in Mosul, in Brussels, globally. This summer there will be a Global Youth Rising international forum – gathering f0r 10 days, going in-depth into how to build and deepen our peacebuilding work globally, going into building a solidarity movement with the people of Syria, Iraq, Libya and Yemen working for peace in their countries; and for all of us, everywhere, to engage in real, meaningful change in our countries. You can find out more at:

Global Youth Rising
Facebook Group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/Glo…


We don’t need to just accept what is happening. We can change it. You can help – by joining and helping to develop and build the global movement, and by helping to share and inform people about the global gathering this summer.
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Brussels Explosion: We can do this. Not alone, but together.

Thinking this moment…of friends in Brussels, of friends in Iraq and Syria, in South Sudan and Mexico. Thinking of our deep need to overcome currents of anger, hatred and fear and systems of violence and war. Thinking, feeling, hoping friends in these places and more are safe, and knowing that it will not end as long as we pour fuel onto fire, as long as we respond with the very same weapons of violence that we ourselves are hurt and angered by; that it will not end until our ‘we’ is extended to include each other and not only us versus them. Brussels, like Syria, like Iraq, like Mexico, like South Sudan and so many other places, is a place of vibrance, of parents and children, of at least 200 people I know working in peacebuilding and for people’s rights and justice around the world, of people who wake up with hopes and dreams as well as fears and insecurities, of Christians, Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, secularists, liberals, conservatives, socialists, communists, anarchists, bureaucrats, artists, journalists, street cleaners, guitar players, and so, so, so, so much more. It is a place of life. We’re not going to end the terror of violence – whether it comes from our soldiers, planes and missiles or other people’s bombs or corporations’ sales of weapons, unless we begin to deeply, fully, truly overcome our global war system, and the dynamics and drivers of hate, violence and war – within our own countries and internationally. This challenge is much, much more acute, intense now. Not ‘now’ today, but ‘now’ for more than a decade. We need the people of courage, of heart, of love, of determination, of vision, of passion, of humanity, of joy…who will work together, and together…transcend it. A better world is possible. It’s up to us to make it a reality. Not by hoping, not by aspiration, but by actual engagement and real choices. I’m thinking this moment, of friends in Brussels, friends in Iraq, Syria, South Sudan, Mexico and elsewhere, of my own children safe now at home, of so many children not safe in war zones, and I will recognise, witness, and honour this moment…by rising. We need to build a truly global movement to abolish war. We need to campaign actively to end arms sales to the MENA region and gradually take apart / abolish weapons companies. We need to introduce peace education into schools at all levels. We need to build upon the incredible, inspiring work that has been done in peacebuilding, especially in the last 10 years…and multiply it ten thousand fold. We can do this. Not alone, but together.
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Of Mosul and Brussels
We are working to build a global movement to overcome the policies, drivers, causes and dynamics fuelling war and violence in all their forms – in Mosul, in Brussels, globally. This summer there will be a Global Youth Rising international forum – gathering f0r 10 days, going in-depth into how to build and deepen our peacebuilding work globally, going into building a solidarity movement with the people of Syria, Iraq, Libya and Yemen working for peace in their countries; and for all of us, everywhere, to engage in real, meaningful change in our countries. You can find out more at:

Global Youth Rising 2016 – July 10 – 20

We don’t need to just accept what is happening. We can change it. You can help – by joining and helping to develop and build the global movement, and by helping to share and inform people about the global gathering this summer.
Those who wish for peace

It is time to Unite. Honouring Deah Shaddy Barakat (23), Yusor Mohammad (21), Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha (19) #Iamhuman

It is time to Unite.

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Honouring Deah Shaddy Barakat (23), Yusor Mohammad (21), Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha (19)

On Tuesday Deah Shaddy Barakat, Yusor Mohammad and Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha were shot and killed in the town of Chapel Hill in the United States. Deah and Yusor got married less than two months ago. All three are said to have been exceptionally bright, warm, committed people who worked in service to help improve the lives of others. Deah was involved in organising humanitarian support for Syrian refugees in Turkey.

Just Married 6 Weeks Ago
Just Married 6 Weeks Ago

In Chapel Hill and around the world there has been a tremendous outpouring of grief, support and solidarity for both families of those killed. There are people rising in Chapel Hill and across the United States…and around the world, to say: it is time. We need to stop the killing.

We need to stop the killing of ALL human beings – not to stop the killing of Christians or Muslims, of men or women, of “westerners”, “Arabs”, “French”, “Jews”, “Americans”, “Us”, or “Them”. We need to stop the killing…of all human beings.

Suzanne Barakat, Deah’s older sister, speaks beautifully of her beloved brother and Yusor and Razan. They lived beautiful lives, and they had all the possibility of the future ahead of them.

Sisters
Sisters

Their lives were cut short by violence. They were executed with shots to the head. On the same day (Tuesday, February 10) 28 people including Deah, Yusor and Razan were killed by gun violence – murdered – in the United States. Since January 1 2015 1,410 people have been murdered/killed with guns in the US, including 62 children (the youngest a few months old, the oldest 11) and 212 teenagers (between 12 – 17 years old). There have been 25 mass shootings / killings, and 229 ‘accidental shootings’ including one in which a 2 year old child killed his mother while handling her gun in a store.

Here is a truth: if this had been done by a foreign ‘organisation’ or a disease the entire country would be demanding action and mobilising to confront it. It wasn’t. It was done by people in the United States themselves, overwhelmingly by men.

In Syria, Libya, Iraq, the Congo, Mexico, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Ukraine and elsewhere thousands more have died. Have been murdered. Often by our own governments – military – police. Often by organisations claiming to fight for a belief.

Now…I am writing to you. I am writing to you and to each and all of us, and together with millions more around the world, I am saying: It is time for us to mobilise. It is time for us to unite. It is time for us to recruit one another – not to join ISIS, not to join an army, a militia, or police. Not to go out and kill in the name of religion, defence, belief, truth or justice. It is time for us to unite, to mobilise, to recruit each other to say: enough.

It is time for us to end armed violence and war.

In memory and to honour Deah, Yusor and Razan – to honour the thousands more killed around the world – to honour every mother, every father, every daughter, son and child – it is time for us to stop the violence and stop the killing.

There are moments when people think of those who have inspired them. When people think about the lives of Gandhi or Martin Luther King Jr. and so many others and think what they did was extraordinary. We see those who stood up for what they knew was needed and necessary, and who did so with vision, love, compassion, dedication, courage…and the very best of our humanity. We see them and we feel moved and inspired.

This is one of those times, but it is not a Gandhi or a King called upon to ‘rise’ or to mobilise and inspire us. It is ourselves.

Here is another truth. As a human being, I cried this morning as I listend to Suzanne speak of her brother; as I thought about him, his wife and her sister, and even the man – Craig Stephen Hicks – who killed them.Craig Stephen Hicks and his wife at Disney As I thought about people living in the United States and other war zones around the world whose lives are cut short by a psychotic system, institutionalisation and acceptance of violence which is a disease that, like other diseases – can be ended and cured.

So here is my pledge. Here is my commitment.

To the families of Deah, Yusor and Razan I want to send more than my condolences. I want to say thank you – for the beauty of your family members. For how they lived their lives and who they were, which is an inspiration for all who are learning of them.

More than that: I want to dedicate myself to the growing global movement to end and abolish war and armed violence. The movement of millions rising.

And I want to ask you to join as well.

It is time. It is time for us to unite. It is time to abolish war. That is my pledge. That is my commitment.

In honour and memory, and celebration of the lives of Deah Shaddy Barakat (23), Yusor Mohammad (21), Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha (19). Presente. You will not be forgotten, and we will continue in the service in which you dedicated your lives – to create a better world for every human being; a world in which every single person has the right and opportunity to feel loved, to be safe, to be whole, to be unafraid. To live.

I am asking you to help us together make that world a reality.

‪#‎Iamhuman‬

‪#‎timetoabolishwar‬ ‪#‎unite2endviolence‬ ‪#‎stopwar‬ ‪#‎endwar‬ ‪#‎endviolencenow‬
‪#‎ubuntu‬

To see the interview of

Suzanne Barakat talking to Anderson Cooper about Chapel Hill Shooting https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2rVLYyfn8XY

Living Peace – Statement from the 14th World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates

LIVING PEACE
Final Statement
Living Peace Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates
Nothing is as antagonistic to peace as the human mind without love, compassion, and reverence for life and nature. Nothing is as noble as the human being who chooses to bring love and compassion into action.

This year we honor the legacy of Nelson Mandela. He exemplified the principles for which the Nobel Peace Prize is granted and serves as a timeless example of a truth he lived. As he himself said: “love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.”

He had many reasons to give up hope, even to hate, but he chose love in action. It is a choice we can all make.

We are saddened by the fact that we were not able to honor Nelson Mandela and his fellow Peace Laureates in Cape Town this year because of the refusal of the South African government to grant a visa to H.H. the Dalai Lama to enable him to attend the planned Summit in Cape Town. The 14th Summit, which was moved to Rome, has nevertheless permitted us to consider South Africa’s unique experience in showing that even the most intractable disputes can be resolved peacefully through civic activism and negotiation.

As Nobel Peace Laureates we bear witness that – as has happened in South Africa during the past 25 years – change for the common good can be achieved. Many of us have faced guns and overcome fear with a commitment to live with and for peace.

Peace thrives where governance protects the vulnerable, where the rule of law brings justice and the treasure of human rights, where harmony with the natural world is achieved, and where the benefits of tolerance and diversity are fully realized.

Violence has many faces: prejudice and fanaticism, racism and xenophobia, ignorance and shortsightedness, injustice, gross inequalities of wealth and opportunity, oppression of women and children, forced labor and slavery, terrorism, and war.

Many people feel powerless and suffer in cynicism, selfishness, and apathy. There is a cure: when individuals commit to caring for others with kindness and compassion, they change and they are able to make changes for peace in the world.

It is a universal personal rule: We must treat others as we wish to be treated. Nations, also, must treat other nations as they wish to be treated. When they don’t, chaos and violence follow. When they do, stability and peace are obtained.

We decry the continued reliance on violence as a primary means of addressing differences. There are no military solutions to Syria, Congo, South Sudan, Ukraine, Iraq, Palestine/Israel, Kashmir and other conflicts.

One of the greatest threats to peace is the continuing view of some great powers that they can achieve their goals through military force. This perspective is creating new crisis today. If left unchecked this tendency will inevitably lead to increased military confrontation and to a new more dangerous Cold War.

We are gravely concerned about the danger of war – including nuclear war – between large states. This threat is now greater than at any time since the Cold War.

We urge your attention to the annexed letter from President Mikhail Gorbachev.

Militarism has cost the world over 1.7 trillion dollars this past year. It deprives the poor of urgently needed resources for development and protection of the earth’s ecosystem and adds to the likelihood of war with all its attendant suffering.

No creed, no religious belief should be perverted to justify gross violations of human rights or the abuse of women and children. Terrorists are terrorists. Fanaticism in the guise of religion will be more easily contained and eliminated when justice is pursued for the poor, and when diplomacy and cooperation are practiced amongst the most powerful nations.

10,000,000 people are stateless today. We support the campaign of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees to end statelessness within ten years as well as its efforts to alleviate the suffering of over 50,000,000 displaced persons.

The current wave of violence against women and girls and the perpetration of sexual violence in conflict by armed groups and military regimes further violates women’s human rights, and makes it impossible for them to realize their goals of education, freedom of movement, peace and justice. We call for full implementation of all UN resolutions addressing women, peace and security and political will by national governments to do so.

Protecting Global Commons

No nation can be secure when the climate, oceans, and rainforests are at risk. Climate change is already leading to radical changes in food production, extreme events, rising sea levels, the intensity of weather patterns, and is increasing the likelihood of pandemics.

We call for a strong international agreement to protect the climate in Paris in 2015.

Poverty and Sustainable Development

It is unacceptable that over 2 billion people live on less than $2.00 per day. Countries must adopt well-known practical solutions to eliminate the injustice of poverty. They must support the successful completion of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. We urge adoption of the recommendations of the High Level Panel of Eminent Persons.

A first step to ending the oppression of dictatorships would be the rejection by banks of money arising from their corruption as well as constraints on their travel.

The rights of children must become part of every government’s agenda. We call for universal ratification and application of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

The widening jobs gap needs to be, and can be, bridged and credible action must be undertaken to give the millions of new labor market entrants a viable job. An effective social floor can be designed in every country to eliminate the worst forms of deprivation. People need to be empowered to claim their social and democratic rights and achieve sufficient control over their own destinies.

Nuclear Disarmament

There are over 16,000 nuclear weapons in the world today. As the recent 3rd International Conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons concluded: the impact of the use of just one is unacceptable. A mere 100 would lower the earth’s temperature by over 1 degree Celsius for at least ten years, causing massive disruption of global food production and putting 2 billion people at risk of starvation. If we fail to prevent nuclear war, all of our other efforts to secure peace and justice will be for naught. We need to stigmatize, prohibit and eliminate nuclear weapons.

Meeting in Rome, we commend Pope Francis’ recent call for nuclear weapons to be “banned once and for all”. We welcome the pledge by the Austrian government “to identify and pursue effective measures to fill the legal gap for the prohibition and elimination of nuclear weapons” and “to cooperate with all stakeholders to achieve this goal”.

We urge all states to commence negotiations on a treaty to ban nuclear weapons at the earliest possible time, and subsequently to conclude the negotiations within two years. This will fulfill existing obligations enshrined in the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which will be reviewed in May of 2015, and the unanimous ruling of the International Court of Justice. Negotiations should be open to all states and blockable by none. The 70th anniversary of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 2015 highlights the urgency of ending the threat of these weapons.

Conventional Weapons

We support the call for a pre-emptive ban on fully autonomous weapons (killer robots) – weapons that would be able to select and attack targets without human intervention. We must prevent this new form of inhumane warfare.

We urge an immediate halt to the use of indiscriminate weapons and call on all states to join and fully comply with the Mine Ban Treaty and the Convention on Cluster Munitions.

We commend the entry into force of the Arms Trade Treaty and urge all states to join the Treaty.

Our Call

We call upon religious, business, civic leaders, parliaments and all persons of good will to work with us to realize these principles and polices.

Human values that honor life, human rights and security, are needed more than ever to guide nations. No matter what nations do every individual can make a difference. Nelson Mandela lived peace from a lonely jail cell, reminding us that we must never ignore the most important place where peace must be alive — within the heart of each one of us. It is from that place that everything, even nations, can be changed for the good.

We urge wide distribution and study of the Charter for A World Without Violence adopted by the 8th Nobel Peace Laureate Summit in Rome 2007.

*********

Attached hereto is an important communication from President Mikhail Gorbachev. He was unable to join us in Rome due to health concerns. He is the founder of the Nobel Peace Laureate Summits and we urge your attention to this wise intervention:

Mikhail Gorbachev’s Letter to Participants in the Nobel Laureates Forum

Dear friends,

I am very sorry I am unable to participate in our meeting but also happy that, true to our common tradition, you have gathered in Rome to make the voice of Nobel Laureates heard around the world.

Today, I feel great concern at the state of European and world affairs.

The world is going through a time of troubles. The conflict that has flared up in Europe is threatening its stability and undermining its capacity to play a positive role in the world. The events in the Middle East are taking an increasingly dangerous turn. There are smoldering or potential conflicts in other regions as well while the growing global challenges of security, poverty and environmental decay are not being properly addressed.

Policy-makers are not responding to the new realities of the global world. We have been witnessing a catastrophic loss of trust in international relations. Judging by statements of representatives of major powers, they are preparing for a long-term confrontation.

We must do all we can to reverse these dangerous trends. We need new, substantive ideas and proposals that would help the current generation of political leaders to overcome the severe crisis of international relations, restore normal dialogue, and create the institutions and mechanisms that fit the needs of today’s world.

I have recently put forward proposals that could help step back from the brink of a new cold war and begin restoring trust in international affairs. In essence, I propose the following:
• to finally start implementing the Minsk Agreements for resolving the Ukrainian crisis;
• to reduce the intensity of polemics and mutual accusations;
• to agree on steps to prevent the humanitarian catastrophe and rebuild the regions affected by the conflict;
• to hold negotiations on strengthening the institutions and mechanisms of security in Europe;
• to re-energize common efforts to address global challenges and threats.

I am convinced that each Nobel Laureate can make a contribution to overcoming the current dangerous situation and returning to the path of peace and cooperation.

I wish you success and hope for to see you.

This statement reflects the general consensus of the deliberations of Nobel Peace Laureates and Nobel Peace Laureate organizations gathered at the 2014 Rome Summit but does not necessarily bind any particular participant. For example, some organizations, such as the IPCC, by their constitution cannot endorse specific policy proposals.

* Participants in the Summit were the Dalai Lama, President Jose Ramon Horta, Lord David Trimble, Betty Williams, Jody Williams, Shirin Ebadi, Leymah Gbowee, Tawakkol Karman, Mairead Maguire and twelve Nobel Peace Laureate organizations: American Friends Service Committee, Amnesty International, European Commission, International Campaign to Ban Landmines, International Labour Organization, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, International Peace Bureau, International Physicians for the Prevention of War, Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, and the United Nations.

Happy New Year…and something much, much more

Rise

Happy New Year…and something much, much more

I would like to wish you a happy new year – to you, your family, friends and loved ones; but I would also like to wish you and ask of you something much more. It is important to live your life to your full potential. To laugh, to love, to sing, to dance, to breathe, to make mistakes, to admit mistakes, to say thank you, to say sorry, to fall, and get back up again. It’s important to be happy. What I want to ask of you is something still more than that too. I want to ask you to realise that your life matters. That it matters, and it matters more than just finding personal happiness or the happiness of your friends, your children, your family. That is important, yes, but it is not – contrary to what we so often promote and hear – everything. It is important, and so is remembering that we live on and in the world…a world of extraordinary, breathtaking and sensual beauty and wonder…and a world in need. Harvey Milk used to begin each of his speeches with the line “I want to recruit you”. And yes: I want to recruit you. I want us to recruit each other. I want to ask you to do more than celebrate this new year and make personal resolutions that you wish to follow, pursue, achieve to make your life better. I want to ask you to organise, to engage, to take part, to actively make yourself aware, to care. I want to ask you to breathe…to breathe deeply…to taste, cherish and experience the life that fills your lungs…and to choose to do something that actually matters with that life. To say yes – I am alive, I am on this world, and I’m going to do something about it – something that matters. I will not stand by while injustice, exploitation, war, violence, and discrimination continue. I will not stand by while this year as in so many past years millions of people around the world live in refugee camps. I will not stand by or simply drink my champagne to welcome in the new year while there are human being living on the streets or in shanty towns. I will not simply toast, kiss or smile at beautiful firework displays while billions are in poverty while some can drink champagne. I will choose to be more than that. To do more than that.

We have a global economic system that brings tremendous achievements in many ways and is fundamentally perverse, dysfunctional and destructive in far more. We have autocrats, oligarchs and in many cases systemically dysfunctional governance – or misgovernance – systems that do not create the basic parameters and foundations of opportunity and well-being for all..and often sustain tremendous barriers to that well-being and opportunity for most. Systems which fundamentally do not support the extraordinary potential of our species, or respect the extraordinary beauty and sanctity of life of other species.

We live in perhaps the greatest age ever (so far) of creative, innovative, technological and productive capabilities…while billions of human beings live with little – or without – basic dignity, security and necessities of life. We live in a world where (to paraphrase former President and commander-in-chief Dwight D. Eisenhower) we are spending not only the genius of our scientists and wealth and capacity of our societies investing trillions of dollars a year in weapons and war, but we are hanging humanity by an iron cross.

You should be happy. We all should. We should relish in the greater freedom we have than any previous period on earth to choose our paths, dreams and preferences in life. That happiness should itself be part of a life truly lived, and a life AWARE that we cannot take, celebrate or pursue our own personal pleasure, joy, nirvana, bliss and serenity if we are in a world where billions live without, and where war and violence are all too rampant…and in some cases escalating.

No president, no parent, no priest, guru or leader is more important than you, or than any of us. Experts don’t always have the answer. Decisions are not always taken or made in our best interests or the best interests of those around us. That’s why it matters that we take part, get involved, and make certain that the decisions made are those we believe in and want to see – for ourselves, our communities, for the world.

Your life matters. This moment in the world matters. You matter. For much, much more. You…we…can do something to make a difference. Not a small difference. Not helping one or two people – which is absolutely important – but the difference of helping and changing the lives of billions, and protecting this magnificent earth and world we live on.

So yes…this ‘new year’ I want to do something more than to wish you a happy new year. I want to ask you to rise – to become active (or if we already are, to become much, much more active), to discuss, to train, to learn, to get involved and stand up – to take a stand – to say ‘pasta’, no, to what you know is wrong and unacceptable, and to open your lives, our lives, to the incredible number of yeses there are in this amazing world.

In the coming years, there will be a growing movement of millions…of hundreds of millions…working in many diverse ways, but uniting to assist us to realise our potential, and to throw away, discard and overcome outdated, dysfunctional, destructive systems. There will be a movement that will build on the history of past movements – of civil rights, women’s rights, human rights, anti-colonialism, environmental, and so many more movements. It will be a movement of diversity and pluriversity. Of celebrating difference, and connection. That movement is already here, but it…we…will grow.

Arundhati Roy once said “Another world is coming, and, if you listen closely, you can hear her breathing.” If you listen even more closely, you can discover…she is already here, living inside of you…and the choices you make.

Your life, this moment, the year and the moments ahead…matter. So what I wish, what I ask of you, what I ask of myself, is that you rise, we rise, and we continue to rise, until another world…is here.