Category Archives: Action

Young Zimbabweans ditch drugs for performing arts

Young Zimbabweans ditch drugs for performing arts
by Jeffrey Moyo
Thomas Reuters Foundation
March 12, 2018

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Young people with the Ngoma Yorira Theatre Association get ready for a performance at “Theatre in the Park” in Harare, Zimbabwe, as they campaign against drug abuse, on Feb, 2, 2018. Photo: Thomson Reuters Foundation/Jeffrey Moyo

HARARE, March 12 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Jimmy Gata, 19, recites an anti-drugs poem at “Theatre in the Park” in Zimbabwe’s capital Harare, jumping and gesturing on the stage, as spectators clap and cheer on the former addict.

Before finding his passion for the spoken word, Gata regularly took BronCleer, a cough syrup often smuggled in from South Africa that contains codeine, a painkiller similar to morphine. If enough is drunk, it also intoxicates like alcohol.

“Since Ngoma Yorira Theatre Association took me in to learn about film-making and acting and poetry, I have had no time for (BronCleer),” said Gata, a trained motor mechanic.

There are no accurate figures on the number of drug users in Zimbabwe. The Ministry of Health and Child Care says about 3,000 people nationwide are suffering mental illness directly related to drug abuse.

For 19-year-old Innocent Ndaramashe, an emerging R&B and hip-hop music star who was addicted to substances like BronCleer, the performing arts came to his rescue just in time.

“My music encourages my peers not to consume drugs because they damage our health,” Ndaramashe told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. “As a young man who has been taking drugs, I decided to preach against the abuse of drugs through my music career.”

In a country where many people struggle to earn a living in the informal economy, the theatre association has also helped out the poor and hungry.

“(It) gives food parcels, groceries to the needy in my community of which I am also a beneficiary because I am very old,” said 73-year-old Tambudzai Mlambo, a resident of Mbare township in Harare.

STATE SUPPORT

As Zimbabwe battles drug abuse made worse by a shortage of jobs for young people, the government acknowledges the contribution of the community arts scene.

“Groups that have of late emerged have helped to keep former drug addicts focused on theatre or art. This diverts their attention from drugs to concentrate on something new and positive for their wellbeing,” said Dorcas Sithole, deputy director of the Ministry of Health’s mental health department.

The state is doing what it can to fight drug abuse in tough circumstances, she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

“We are trying to prevent drug users from turning into addicts,” she said, explaining how the government puts them on withdrawal programmes in hospital and is also planning to open rehabilitation centres.

In addition, anti-drugs activists say there is a need for occupational therapy such as theatre, which also helps young people build their self-esteem.

“Nurturing talent provides an avenue for accomplishment as opposed to helplessness which is associated with the onset of drug use,” said Hilton Nyamukapa, programme coordinator for the Zimbabwe Civil Liberties and Drug Network.

Established seven years ago, the national network advocates for strategies to address problems linked to drug use in Zimbabwe and across Southern Africa.
Former drug addict Innocent Ndaramashe, now an up-and-coming musician, works in a studio in Harare, Zimbabwe, on Feb. 14, 2018.

Former drug addict Innocent Ndaramashe, now an up-and-coming musician, works in a studio in Harare, Zimbabwe, on Feb. 14, 2018.

COMMUNITY CARE

A pioneer of the idea of using theatre to tackle drug problems, Ernest Nyatanga, founder and president of the Ngoma Yorira Theatre Association, said his organisation pays former addicts for their acting.

“Rewarding former drug users for their performances in theatre helps to motivate them and cultivate in them a desire to work for themselves,” he told Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Recently the association shot films highlighting social and economic issues facing the country, such as “The Delinquent” which depicts a misled young man who takes drugs while in school. The films are shown at Harare’s “Theatre in The Park”.

Nyatanga said the association donates some of the proceeds from its performances – which it stages in townships in remote areas too – to local orphanages and poor widows.

And it has helped feed people going hungry when drought hit food supplies in rural and urban areas.

It also recruits community members to sell recordings of theatre productions on a commission basis by the roadside.

“We are an association that lives amongst ordinary people, and we care for their needs,” Nyatanga said.

So far, the theatre association has helped more than 340 individuals change their lives for the better, 30 percent of whom were hooked on drugs, he said.

Parents like Linda Masarira, 36, whose 18-year-old son was an addict but has now resumed his secondary-school studies, are grateful for its work.

“It is a miracle – my son is reforming; he is now an upcoming hip-hop star while he is also into theatre and as a result he has… stopped using drugs,” Masarira said.

FAITH AND FOOTBALL

Community religious groups like the Christian Youths Fellowship Association (CYFA) based in Chegutu, a farming town 100 km (62 miles) west of Harare in Mashonaland West Province, have also joined the fight against drugs.

Patrick Imbayago, founder and director of the CYFA, said his group has shown anti-drugs films in urban and rural townships.

“After seeing these kinds of films, few would return to drug abuse because… drug abusers are shown as eventually losing their marbles, going mad,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

The CYFA also funds football training for young people. “The more we occupy them with social activities like soccer, the less our youths turn to drug abuse,” said Imbayago.


Reporting by Jeffrey Moyo; editing by Megan Rowling.

Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, climate change, resilience, women’s rights, trafficking and property rights. Visit http://news.trust.org/

 

 

Women at the front can help defeat global warming, say leaders

Women at the front can help defeat global warming, say leaders
by Sophie Hares | @SophieHares | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Tuesday, 27 February 2018 01:23 GMT

Christiana Figueres, former Executive Secretary of United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, speaks next to Mexico City Mayor Miguel Angel Mancera during a news conference within the framework 2018 Women4Climate Summit in Mexico City
Mayors of cities and participants pose for a photo at the end of the Women4Climate conference in Mexico City, Feb. 26, 2018. REUTERS/Henry Romero

“It’s clear if we want to face climate change, women and girls from all the world should be central actors”

MEXICO CITY, Feb 26 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Cities will be the battleground and women can be effective warriors on the frontlines in the fight against climate change, activists and leaders said on Monday.

Investing in the education and leadership of women and girls will provide a much-needed boost in efforts to slow global warming, said attendees at the Women4Climate conference organised by C40, a global alliance of cities, in Mexico City.

“For thousands of years we’ve been investing in the education of men, in the professional capacities of men, in their rise to positions of leadership and decisions,” Christiana Figueres, former head of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), told the group.

“We haven’t done this investment with women,” said Figueres, who now leads “Mission 2020,” a global initiative to lower greenhouse gas emissions.

The Women4Climate conference brought together mayors, business leaders and leaders working to curb climate change. It was the second such conference held since world leaders agreed in Paris in 2015 on a goal of slowing the rise in average global temperatures.

“It is clear the battle will be fought especially in urban areas,” said Patricia Espinosa, the current UNFCCC head.

“It’s clear if we want to face climate change, women and girls from all the world should be central actors,” she said. “We have little time left.”

Extreme weather related to climate change is hitting urban areas, said Salt Lake City, Utah Mayor Jackie Biskupski.

She said the western U.S. city is warming at double the global rate, affecting the snowfall it depends upon for water.

Rome’s Mayor Virginia Raggi said her city planned to ban diesel-fueled cars from its centre, plant thousands of trees and invest in zero-emissions buses.

“Cities can do a lot to make a difference on climate, but just like women, cities can’t be expected to change the world all by themselves,” said Andrea Reimer, a Vancouver, Canada city official.


(Reporting by Sophie Hares, Editing by Ellen Wulfhorst. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, climate change, resilience, women’s rights, trafficking and property rights. Visit http://news.trust.org/)

The Thomson Reuters Foundation is reporting on resilience as part of its work on zilient.org, an online platform building a global network of people interested in resilience, in partnership with the Rockefeller Foundation.

Jesus maps the path to peace, reconciliation, pope says

Jesus maps the path to peace, reconciliation, pope says
by Cindy Wooden
Catholic News Service
November 28, 2017

PAPAL VISIT MYANMAR BANGLADESH
Pope Francis greets clergy before celebrating Mass at Kyaikkasan sports ground in Yangon, Myanmar, Nov. 29. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

YANGON, Myanmar (CNS) November 28, 2017 — Jesus’ love “is like a spiritual GPS” that guides people past the everyday obstacles of fear and pride and allows them to find their way to a relationship with God and with their neighbors, Pope Francis said.

Christ’s message of “forgiveness and mercy uses a logic that not all will want to understand, and which will encounter obstacles. Yet his love, revealed on the cross is ultimately unstoppable,” the pope said Nov. 29, celebrating his first public Mass in Myanmar.

According to the Vatican, 150,000 people attended the Mass at the Kyaikkasan sports ground. Thousands of them had traveled hundreds of miles to be at the Mass, and many of them camped out on the sports field the night before the liturgy.

Pope Francis acknowledged the sacrifices made by the people as well as the struggles Catholics face as a tiny minority in Myanmar and as citizens of a country struggling to leave violence behind and transition from military to democratic rule.

“I know that many in Myanmar bear the wounds of violence, wounds both visible and invisible,” the pope said in his homily. “The temptation is to respond to these injuries with a worldly wisdom” or to think that “healing can come from anger and revenge. Yet the way of revenge is not the way of Jesus.”

Pope Francis prayed that Catholics in Myanmar would “know the healing balm of the Father’s mercy and find the strength to bring it to others, to anoint every hurt and every painful memory. In this way, you will be faithful witnesses of the reconciliation and peace that God wants to reign in every human heart and in every community.”

Father Francis Saw from St. John Cantonment Church in Yangon said he had 400 guests at his parish. “Many people came from the hill towns. I welcomed them and fed them and then they came here at 10 p.m.” the night before the Mass.

“We are very happy and encouraged by the pope’s visit,” he said. “It is good for our country and for our church.”

Some people had reserved seats close to the altar. “Every parish got some VIP tickets for those who are very involved in the parish, very poor or sick,” said Noeli Anthony, a ticket-holder from the Myanmar Catholic community in Perth, Australia.

Salesian Father Albert “Sam” Saminedi, pastor of the Perth community, said the immigrants he ministers to “love their country” and “are very strong, very loud and full of faith.” More than 100 of them traveled home to be with the pope.

The “VVIP” section at the sports field was reserved for government officials, diplomats and representatives of other Christian communities and other religions.

The Rev. U Chit Toe Win, chair of the Myin Thar Baptist Church and deputy chairman of an interfaith dialogue group in Yangon, sat with the Anglican, Catholic, Hindu, Buddhist and Muslim members of his group in the very front row.

Like any Baptist minister, Toe Win said, “I believe in Jesus first,” but “these are my brothers. We are for unity.”

Why UN’s Global Compact on Refugees Must Address Needs of Young People

By Chelsea Purvis
Chelsea Purvis is Policy & Advocacy Advisor, Mercy Corps
IPS News

LONDON, Nov 23 2017 (IPS) – An estimated seven million refugees – about one-third of the global refugee population – are between 10 and 24 years old, yet this demographic is often overlooked in humanitarian and development responses. At a critical time in their lives, these young refugees experience the stress of displacement, which can impact their future development and success.

In 2016, the UN General Assembly adopted a set of commitments to enhance the protection of refugees and migrants, which became known as the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants. This declaration paved the way for the development of a Global Compact on Refugees by the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR).

Expected in 2018, the Compact will seek to improve the international community’s response to large movements of refugees and to protracted refugee situations around the world. We believe this is a vital opportunity for the international community to safeguard young refugees and partner more effectively with them to improve their lives.

mercy-corps_
Mercy Corps uses wilderness therapy for young Syrian and Jordanian youth to interact and build skills. Credit: Isidro Serrano Selva for Mercy Corps

Since 2010, Mercy Corps has worked with more than 3.5 million young people in crisis across 33 countries. Drawing on our extensive experience, we have published a report outlining key recommendations to protect young refugees and help them prove their potential.

Firstly, we urge the Compact to call on states and their humanitarian and development partners to promote young refugees’ wellbeing. Young refugees face the challenges of displacement at a time of intense cognitive, physical and social development.

On top of these challenges, young refugees are often dealing with significant psychological stress. Research shows that prolonged stress can change adolescent brain chemistry, inhibiting adolescents’ ability to assess risk and severely curtailing young refugees’ prospects for future development. A staggering 41 percent of Syrian refugee youth in Lebanon, for example, report having suicidal urges.

Any comprehensive refugee response with young people should thus view wellbeing as foundational to its approach. The Compact should encourage refugee-hosting states and their partners to provide young refugees with access to safe spaces and with opportunities to establish peer and mentor relationships that help them make better choices and cope with profound stress.

Secondly, the Compact should call on host states and their partners to provide young refugees with flexible education opportunities. Half of all primary-school aged refugee children and 75 percent of secondary-school aged refugees are estimated to be out of school.

Only one in one hundred refugees enrols in university or other tertiary education. Disruption to education has long-lasting consequences for these young people, who lose their chance to learn, grow and lay the groundwork for a strong future.

Throughout a refugee response, host states, international organisations, and other partners should provide formal and non-formal education for young refugees. It is essential that education programming for young refugees be user-centered, meeting young people “where they are at” in terms of physical location, work schedules and educational attainment. Otherwise, many refugees will be unable to take advantage of educational opportunities.

As a third measure to protect and empower young refugees, the Compact should urge states to ensure that young refugees have employment opportunities. States should also take steps to protect young refugees from child labour, exploitative conditions, and work that may cause harm.

Employment, entrepreneurship and other income-generating opportunities provide more than economic benefits—they give young people a purpose and a sense of status and belonging. A comprehensive refugee response should create avenues for older adolescents to gain skills and transition safely to decent and equitable work opportunities.

Donors, regional governments and NGOs should conduct value-chain and market analyses to assess potential areas for business growth and develop matched workforce programmes. Young refugees should then be linked to these job opportunities.

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Young refugees receive psychosocial support in a safe space in Greece. Credit: Sara Hylton for Mercy Corps

Our fourth key recommendation is that the Compact should encourage states to help give young refugees a voice in their communities. Young refugees often lack opportunities to participate in the decision-making and governance processes that affect their lives. There is tremendous benefit and opportunity, however, when young refugees do engage within their own refugee communities and with host communities.

When young people are able to participate in decisions that affect their lives, they gain confidence and status, and they strengthen their relationships with peers and adults. Moreover, communities ultimately benefit from young people’s bold ideas and openness to change.

Mercy Corps’ key final recommendation, which underlines all the above points, is that young refugees should be engaged as partners in designing and implementing any response. Conversations with young people about their priorities, fears, daily commitments and safe and unsafe places in the community should shape the design of any service or activity.

Humanitarian and development actors should account for sex- and age-specific vulnerabilities, needs and capacities, co-designing programme activities with young refugees accordingly. Once these activities have been designed, young people should be provided with opportunities to actively lead and take ownership of programme activities, not just show up and participate in activities led by adults.

As the UNHCR prepares its draft of the Global Compact on Refugees and accompanying Programme of Action, we have the opportunity to not just strengthen our response for young refugees but to invest in their future and the future stability of crisis-affected countries.


[ http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/uns-global-compact-refugees-must-address-needs-young-people/ ]

Hopeful not Hopeless

Hopeful not Hopeless
Posted by Br Bill Firman on 11 October 2017
La Salle District of Austrailia, New Zealand, Pakistan & Papua New Guinea

Children of South Sudan - Br. Bill Firman

I have sometimes been asked what hope is there for South Sudan? Tribal divisions have become very deep, and almost everybody has lost relatives and friends in this senseless violence.

Amnesty International quotes a staggering, horrible statistic: A survey conducted in 2015 by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) found that 72% of women living in four UNMISS Protection of Civilians (PoC) sites in Juba reported having been raped since the conflict broke out, mostly by police and soldiers.’

Has all respect and order disappeared? Certainly as one local writer, Jacob Lagu, states: ‘War is a dirty business. It inevitably degrades us all. It diminishes our humanity as steadily as we dehumanize our adversaries. We are all locked in conflicting victimhood narratives. Each side believes wholeheartedly that they are the victims of injustice. Each side believes that their adversary is the unrepentant aggressor.’

It seems to me that civil war must surely be the worst kind of war. In a civil war, your enemy is not ‘out there’ but can even be your near neighbour. South Sudanese now ask, ‘Whom can I trust in my own country?’ ‘Where can I go and be safe?’ Hundreds of thousands ask, ‘Will I ever be able to leave this Protection of Civilians camp where I feel like a prisoner?’

Yet, in spite of all this, there are people getting on with life. I have attached photos that show the reality of the poverty of many in South Sudan poor, but not maudlin. Children dressed in rags laugh and play and there are some fine young people growing up with a little help along the way.

In early 2010, a good friend in Australia raised some money to help a young, thin boy, called Augusto. Augusto’s father had died when he was only 18 months old.

He was being raised by his grandmother and the helpful families of his school friends. Augusto’s school fees were paid by overseas donations. Augusto has now just graduated from secondary school with a 73% average, a wonderful achievement giving the personal adversity he had to overcome let alone the turmoil in the country. Now he is trying to find the means to go to University.

Another of our neighbours, Naomi, is soon to graduate as a registered nurse from our Catholic Health Training Institute (CHTI). Her twin brother, Wonderful, (yes, that is his name), is well on the way to becoming a doctor.

There are 80 applicant seeking places in the CHTI for next year. There are currently 110 in the CHTI and so far 145 have graduated after successfully completing the three-year programme. So amid the tales of gloom, there are many good news stories, many lives that are progressing well.

In another photo taken in 2009, there is a small boy called Danny sitting next to Fr. Joseph. Last Saturday, I woke to find our vehicle had a flat tyre. I called Danny who quickly changed the wheel for me. He has one year to go to finish secondary school: he has grown from a happy, inquisitive young boy, into an obliging, sensible young man.

There are plenty of signs of hope as we help produce better educated people. Sadly, many South Sudanese have to learn to live with hunger and the trauma of rape, looting and deaths of loved ones, but they still get on with life. We help them when we can, as do almost 500 missionaries from many countries as well as the UN and many resourceful NGOs delivering essential services.

There is hope because children and young people are especially resilient.

Yes, the scars are deep and, in the trauma healing workshops we conduct, many older people reveal their nightmares and flashbacks. But somehow the children in South Sudan are among the happiest and least complaining I have known.

One does not feel hopeless here. Many people continue to hope and dream of a better future. A new, better-educated generation might just deliver the new South Sudan for which we all hope and pray.


Author: Br Bill Firman
About: Br Bill is the Executive Director of Solidarity with South Sudan.

As Cancer Tears Through Africa, Drug Makers Draw Up a Battle Plan

By DONALD G. McNEIL Jr.
New York Times

In a deal similar to the one that turned the tide against
AIDS, manufacturers and charities will make chemotherapy
drugs available in six poor countries at steep discounts.

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Paul Mugumya, 7, lying in the Kawempe Home Care facility for children in Kampala, Uganda, had three hernia operations before surgeons realized he had a blistering football-shaped tumor. Cancers — many of them treatable — kill about 450,000 Africans a year. Credit Charlie Shoemaker for The New York Times

OCT. 7, 2017 | NAIROBI, Kenya — In a remarkable initiative modeled on the campaign against AIDS in Africa, two major pharmaceutical companies, working with the American Cancer Society, will steeply discount the prices of cancer medicines in Africa.

Under the new agreement, the companies — Pfizer, based in New York, and Cipla, based in Mumbai — have promised to charge rock-bottom prices for 16 common chemotherapy drugs. The deal, initially offered to a half-dozen countries, is expected to bring lifesaving treatment to tens of thousands who would otherwise die.

Pfizer said its prices would be just above its own manufacturing costs. Cipla said it would sell some pills for 50 cents and some infusions for $10, a fraction of what they cost in wealthy countries.

The price-cut agreement comes with a bonus: Top American oncologists will simplify complex cancer-treatment guidelines for underequipped African hospitals, and a corps of IBM programmers will build those guidelines into an online tool available to any oncologist with an internet connection.

“Reading this gave me goose bumps,” Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said after seeing an outline of the deal. “I think this is a phenomenal idea, and I think it has a good chance of working.”

It reminded him, he said, of his work in 2002 helping design the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief. Pepfar, as it is known, has been a success: over 14 million Africans are now on H.I.V. drugs, many of them thanks to American aid.

“It’s exactly what we went through then,” Dr. Fauci said. “Finding the countries with the highest burden, figuring out how to approach treatment differently in each one, and getting the prices down.”

Cancer now kills about 450,000 Africans a year. By 2030, it will kill almost 1 million annually, the World Health Organization predicts. The most common African cancers are the most treatable, including breast, cervical and prostate tumors.

But here they are often lethal. In the United States, 90 percent of women with breast cancer survive five years. In Uganda, only 46 percent do; in Gambia, a mere 12 percent do.

The complicated deal was struck by the cancer society, along with the Clinton Health Access Initiative, founded in 2002 by former President Bill Clinton; IBM; the National Comprehensive Cancer Network, an alliance of top American cancer hospitals; and the African Cancer Coalition, a network of 32 oncologists in 11 African countries.

“I have a friend back home whose daughter has cancer, and I can’t believe the outpouring of support she got, like special lacrosse games and T-shirts,” said Megan O’Brien, the cancer society’s director of global cancer treatment and the chief organizer of the deal.

“There’s nothing like that in Africa — but I can save a child with leukemia for $300. That’s a disease that has a 90 percent cure rate in America, and a 90 percent death rate in Africa.”

An Ill-Prepared Continent
As more Africans survive into middle or old age, cancer rates are climbing rapidly. But most countries here are ill-equipped for the fight.

There are few oncologists, radiotherapy machines or advanced surgical suites. Tumors are often misdiagnosed or even blamed on witchcraft, and 80 percent go undetected until they have spread to lymph nodes or distant organs.

Doctors often see cases far worse than Western doctors ever do: babies with growths half as big as their heads, women with breast tumors the size of softballs that have broken the skin, putrid and weeping blood.

On a recent day in July, Brenda Nakisuyi, 17, sat silent and despondent in a darkened room at Kawempe Home Care, a cancer hostel for children in Kampala, Uganda.

Burkitt lymphoma had torn open her left cheek, leaving a crater that looked as if a cherry bomb had exploded in her mouth.

“In our village, they know malaria, they know HIV, they know typhoid — but they don’t know cancer,” said her mother, Florence Namwase, 48. “People said Brenda was bewitched, and they began to shun her.”

Many Africans who get cancer assume they are doomed.

“I came here to see if I was condemned to death,” said a wry George Odongo Ogola, 73, a retired high school principal being treated for prostate cancer at the M.P. Shah Hospital in Nairobi.

“But the doctor says they got it in a nascent stage and gave me a 99.9 percent chance that it will be contained,” he added. “I brought all my children and their wives so they could hear this. Here, once you are diagnosed with cancer, they treat you like a dead person.”

Even doctors — especially rural ones — may be slow to recognize the disease.

Paul Mugumya, a lively 7-year-old in the Kawempe hostel, had three hernia operations before surgeons realized that something else was swelling his abdomen, which now has a football-shaped tumor with tangerine-sized blisters on it.

And Flavia Anyesi, 4, who stood in her crib at the Uganda Cancer Institute in pink and white hair beads matching her pink nightgown, was first sent to a dentist to have a tooth pulled, said her mother, Teopista Nafuna.

Only when Flavia’s jaw kept swelling did doctors realize something else was amiss. She, too, has Burkitt lymphoma.

Even when in agony, victims may be too poor to travel for treatment. Patients who find the money to reach urban hospitals often sleep on mats on the verandas or in parks between their daily infusions, or while waiting for biopsy results, which can take weeks.

Read the full NYTimes Article and view more photos.
[ https://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/07/health/africa-cancer-drugs.html?emc=eta1&_r=0 ]

Women march through desert for Israeli-Palestinian peace

Reuters
Reporting by Rami Amichai and Mustafa Abu Ghaneyeh, Writing by Ori Lewis; Editing by Jeffrey Heller and Peter Graff
October 8, 2017

Women celebrate inside a "peace tent" erected as part of an event organised by "Women Wage Peace" group calling for an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, near the Jordan River, in the occupied West Bank
Women celebrate inside a “peace tent” erected as part of an event organised by “Women Wage Peace” group calling for an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, near the Jordan River, in the occupied West Bank October 8, 2017. REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun

October 8, 2017: JORDAN RIVER, West Bank (Reuters) – Thousands of Israeli and Palestinian women trekked through a biblical desert landscape on Sunday, converging on the shores of the Jordan River in a march for peace.

The women, many of them dressed in white, descended through the arid hills leading to the river, where they erected a “peace tent” named for Hagar and Sarah, scriptural mothers of Ishmael and Isaac, the half-brother patriarchs of Muslims and Jews.

“We are women from the right, the left, Jews and Arabs, from the cities and the periphery and we have decided that we will stop the next war,” said Marilyn Smadja, one of the founders of the organizing group, Women Wage Peace.

The organization was established after the 50-day Gaza war of 2014 when more than 2,100 Palestinians, mostly civilians, were killed. Israel put the number of its dead at 67 soldiers and six civilians.

Some 5,000 women participated in Sunday’s march, organizers said. It began last month at several locations across Israel and will culminate in a rally later in the day outside the Jerusalem residence of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.