Israel and Palestine Policy Report
In 2005 OWHR Institute’s Executive Director, Isaac Romano is interviewed in this fun-filled, illuminating broadcast on Kootenay Coop Radio’s popular morning program, “By the People”, hosted by Sjeng Derkx. All the while, worldwide media coverage followed Isaac and the major War Resister’s Our Way Home Peace Event and Reunion gathering that took place in the mountains of British Columbia, Canada, July 6th to 9th 2006. Billed as “Canada’s Woodstock,” Isaac Romano initiated and directed this remarkable, historic peace event, with an exceptional team of volunteers. Far more world media attention followed and covered Isaac Romano and his Our Way Home Peace Event and Reunion war resisters peace conference than covered the Vancouver World Peace Forum that took place three weeks prior to the Our Way Home Peace Event, including front section full-page stories in The Sunday New York Times, front page in The Los Angeles Times, The Globe and Mail, The National Post, CNN, BBC, CBC, ABC World News Tonight and of course Fox News.
Many voices rang out at the Our Way Home Reunion and Peace Event at the Brilliant Cultural Centre and Selkirk College in Castlegar July 6-9. The intention was to honour the thousands of men and women whose lives were forever changed during the Vietnam war era and to provide the means for personal healing journeys. This intention was well met throughout four days of speeches, workshop breakout sessions, panel discussions, evening entertainment and opportunities for informal exchanges.
The event was envisioned and coordinated by Isaac Romano of Nelson and a dedicated team of volunteers. It brought together luminaries such as Arun Gandhi, George McGovern, Rabbi Michael Lerner, Kim Phuc, Buffy St.-Marie, Country Joe McDonald, Holly Near, Nancy Argenta, Pied Pumkin, the Doukhobor Men’s Tri Choir, the Doukhobor Women’s Choir and a multitude of presenters and performers whose lives are committed to finding non-violent solutions to conflict.
Special thanks was expressed by international, national and local peace advocates, veterans and war resisters to the government of Canada and to the many Canadians who welcomed and assisted them in coming to Canada as legitimate political refugees, sharing Pierre Elliot Trudeau’s conviction that “Canada should be a refuge from militarism.”
Bill Blaikie, Alex Atamenenko and many others expressed concerns about the current lack of independence of Canada’s foreign policy involvements, the changing role of Canada’s military in Afghanistan and the changes in Canada’s immigration policies in regards to ‘war resisters.’ It was noted that Canada is the only country now respecting international law on asylum. John J. Verigin, Honourary Chairman of the Union of Spiritual Communities of Christ, opened Saturday evening’s concert by challenging the audience to “create a world where the power of love will replace the love of power.”
The 37-member Doukhobor Men’s Tri-Choir selections included Forward, forward under the Peaceful Banner of Love and Justice, sung in Russian, and Life is More Joyful When We’re Singing. Saturday’s keynote speaker, former 1972 US Democratic presidential candidate, 83-year-old George McGovern, spoke with humility and honesty. “I’m sick and tired of old men dreaming up wars in which young men do the dying,” he said.
Ruby Truly, Judith Ceroli and Richard Rowberry presented an energetic revival of Theatre Energy’s popular Three Fingered Frank – dedicating their performance to Ronnie Gilbert whose much-anticipated appearance was cancelled due to untimely illness. Speaking of the importance of ‘cultural memory,’ Romano unveiled the controversial bronze Welcoming Peace sculpture. An enthusiastic audience joined in singing the strains and refrains of Buffy St.-Marie’s Universal Soldier, Country Joe’s One, Two, Three - What Are We Fighting For? Holly Near’s rousing version of Down By the Riverside, Pied Pumpkin’s We Can Change the World and many other musical meanderings down memory lane. Fox’s news journalist was overheard to comment, “This reunion seems to have morphed into some kind of anti-war thing.”
New Denver resident Eloise Charet’s Sunday presentation “Isle of Hope amidst a sea of despair – Canada House Orphanage, Phnom Penh 1974- 75” highlighted her wartime experiences, bringing home in images, music and narration the profound social impact of war on the most innocent and vulnerable victims – children. Eloise’s 10-minute video interview from Cambodia with CBS’s Walter Cronkite was included in her presentation.
Canadian filmmaker Michelle Mason and her award-winning documentary The Friendship Village, about the Vietnamese rehabilitation village for children with major defects due to US use of Agent Orange, preceded Charet. Plans are to show this film locally to raise funds for Friendship Village. In Sunday’s final program and closing ceremonies, Arun Gandhi quoted his grandfather Mahatma: “We must be the change we seek.” He challenged everyone in the audience to examine their own lives for examples of passive acts of violence which generate anger in the victim and “fuel the fire of physical violence.” The pathos and courage of innocent victims of war was touchingly expressed in Vietnam’s famous napalm bombing victim Kim Phuc’s tearful words: “When you see that little girl running up the road you can see her crying out. Don’t see her crying out of pain and fear. See her as crying out for peace.”
Rabbi Michael Lerner, founder of the interfaith Network of Spiritual Progressives spoke eloquently throughout the weekend, calling for a spiritual revitalization based on three tenets: changing the bottom line in America to a values-based economy; challenging the misuse of religion, God and spirit by the religious right; challenging the many anti-religious and anti-spiritual assumptions and behaviours that have increasingly become part of liberal culture. Lerner called for a visionary new covenant “to meet the urgent need to lend wisdom and compassion to our economic and political life.”