Those Marvellous Women: Welsh Women’s Petition For Peace

By Gwenllian Jones

Following the death of thousands of men in the First World War, families and communities were in despair and in need of new hope. This came in the form of a social revolution for peace.

War destroyed the fundamental role women had adopted in Welsh society. The traditional roles as mothers, wives, sisters and daughters were invaluable to Welsh communities; however without sons, husbands, brothers and fathers, women lost the significance of the relationships they had with one another. Women in the interwar period adopted the role of peace pilgrims in Wales, as Welsh women sought to deflect the possibility of another great war to protect future generations from the destruction that war created.

Welsh women’s contribution to peace has been examined by pioneers of women’s writing in Wales by the likes of Katrina Gass and Sydna Williams. Examining the contribution women made to peace campaigns in Wales will not only offer new discussions on women in Wales but also challenge conventional ideas that women were not politically or socially active. The position and role of women in Wales has often been overlooked, neglected or downplayed.  A key contribution, often an overlooked campaign, that represented how women in Wales did indeed offer much of their support for the overall fight for peace was the American peace petition and memorial. This petition and memorial was an attempt to appeal to the women of America to plead the American government to join the League of Nations.
The petition was first discussed at the Welsh school of social service in Llandrindod Wells in August 1922. A national conference in Aberystwyth in May, 1923, proposed that the women of Wales had more to offer in their roles as peace pilgrims in Wales and were given the opportunity to take charge of collecting names, forming a committee, creating the memorial, to take the petition and memorial to America and present to Government officials and the American president Calvin Coolidge.

Mrs Peter Hughes Griffiths

Courtesy of Bangor Archives

The Welsh council of the League of Nations was founded in 1922, with financial support from the MP David Davis and led by the Reverend Gwilym Davis. Many men from Wales, derived from non-conformist areas, did not desire to fight in the Great War and because of this certain areas in Wales became known as pacifist regions. These men such as the poet Gwenallt desired to create a Welsh council that fought for peace rather than war, in which case the Welsh council of League of Nations gained mass support within Wales. Within three years of its formation, the League of Nations ‘boasted’ a membership of 31,299 with 571 branches in Wales and Monmouthshire. Following the proposal’s made to the women of Wales, the League of Nations fully supported the women’s claim to create a petition and memorial that would appeal to an international nation and collaborate the campaigns of men and women’s organisations and guilds.

 
To successfully complete the process, a women’s executive committee was created with twenty members including Mrs Hughes Griffiths as president, Mrs Huw Pritchard as organiser of North Wales and Miss E.Poole as organiser in South Wales. A form was created in both Welsh and English and given to each house and farm in Wales. In total the petition was signed by 390,296 women in Wales and Monmouthshire, representing 60% of the female population in Wales.

 
A script was created for the memorial and was written by Cicely West. The script highlighted the key reasons why women in Wales desired peace through emphasising the connection already made with America through Henry Richard and Elihu Burritt. Another key emphasis and also significant to highlight were how the women portrayed themselves as women who were not motivated politically. The key reasons why the women of Wales campaigned for peace were their concern for the future of civilisation to live in a warless world, to create humanitarian measures for trafficked women and children and to monitor the trade of opium and any other drugs. The repetition of the women emphasising the already connection between America and Wales and emphasis on a warless world highlights how determined these women were to portray themselves as peace pilgrims protecting the next generation from another Great War.

“Our constant hope and prayer is that our message may contribute something towards the realisation of the proud heritage of a warless world.”

On the 19th February 1924, a delegation consisting of Mrs Hughes Griffiths, Miss Elined Prys and Miss Mary Ellis left for America on the White Starliner Cedric from Liverpool with the memorial and petition. The women arrived in New York and were greeted by the welcoming committee of the United Association of American Women with Mrs James Lees Laidlaw as chairman. In total the welcoming committee were four hundred to five hundred women from America and represented the voices of twenty thousand American women in total. In New York, Mrs Peter Hughes Griffiths gave a speech on the origin, nature and purpose of the memorial and petition. The following day the women were taken to Washington for a second presentation of the memorial and petition in order to meet president Calvin Coolidge, other government officials, the Committee of the World Court, the National League of Women Voters and the National Council for the Prevention of War. The Annual Report of the League of Nations in Wales stated in 1924 that the women, addressed their audience in saying “our constant hope and prayer is that our message may contribute something towards the realisation of the proud heritage of a warless world.”

 
Many national and local newspapers reported on the campaign, ranging from areas such as Belfast and Aberdeen. The Belfast newspaper reported that the script was “regarded as the finest pieces of manuscript written in modern times”, additionally “the first time in history that the women of one country have presented a memorial to the women of another country”. The reports indicate how significant this form of campaigning from women in Wales meant to the league of Nations and to women’s organisations across Wales and Britain.

Having difficult conversations about/with migrants

by Mailys Andre

blog

At a Refugee Conference held last month, attention was drawn to having conversations with migrants or those who think differently to ourselves.  Below are the recommendations provided by HOPE not hate Cymru.

When having a difficult conversation with a migrant or asylum seeker, try to use the ‘listening wheel’:

  1. Open questions : How? What? Where? Who? Why?
  2. Summarising : A summary helps to show the individual that you have listened and understood their circumstances and their feelings.
  3. Reflecting : Repeating back a word or phrase encourage the individual to carry on and expand
  4. Clarifying : Sometimes an individual may gloss over an important point. By exploring these areas further we can help them clarify these points for themselves.
  5. Short Words of Encouragement: The person may need help to go on their story — use words like ‘yes’ or ‘go on’.
  6. Reacting : We need to show that we have understood the situation by reacting to it — “That sounds like it is very difficult”.

Don’t forget :

  1. Story/narrative is powerful (inspire people)
  2. Try to change the dynamic of your conversation (listen, question…)

What if you are facing the opposition?

Ask agitating questions such as :

  1. Has this happened to you before?
  2. What make you believe that?
  3. What makes you angry? (This involves a conscious question with conscious pause)

Try “Empathetic listening”:

  1. This should be your instinct.
  2. Be genuine.
  3. Engage with the person behind the opinion.

You can find out more about HOPE not hate and its current research here.

The Children of Syria: Dealing with the Impact of War

By Georgia Marks

On 21 March, Gareth Owen, the Humanitarian Director for Save the Children, came to the Temple of Peace to give a presentation on the impact of the war on the children of Syria. The Chief Executive of the WCIA, Martin Pollard, introduced the event by expressing that the war in Syria is a pressing issue. He then went on to establish Owen’s background in civil engineering and his pivotal role in Save the Children and has been awarded an OBE in 2013 for his work in emergency crisis.

Owen started his presentation by showing us a video about the children of Syria, with statistics of the injuries they have suffered and the effect that the war has had on their mental health. The information in the video was horrifying. Last week marked the sixth anniversary of the Syria conflict, however Owen reiterated that the theme for the presentation was hope. I think this is a really refreshing stance to have because with the all of the horrific news that we hear about the conflict, it is easy to fall into a state of negativity. Also, a sense of positivity will create a more open space for change within Syria.

Owen then described Save the Children’s newest report, ‘Invisible Wounds’, which depicted the impacts that the war in Syria has had on four hundred and fifty Syrian children interviewed and showed the devastating psychological effects of the six year conflict. The study found that the majority of the children interviewed were suffering from toxic stress which can result in the increase of heart disease, drug abuse and mental health issues. The speaker stressed that the most concerning element of this is that the issues in childhood manifest in adulthood, so the effects of the war will resonate forever.

The report found that 71% of the children interviewed suffered from bedwetting, which is a sign of toxic stress. Also, 80% have noticed that they are more aggressive than before the war, and 50% of the older children interviewed have turned to drugs. The children interviewed emphasized that they will never feel safe at school. The statistics given in the presentation have made it clear that the war in Syria is affecting the children in a detrimental way, and I share the opinion of many when I say that we cannot let it continue. This brings me back to the main theme of Owen’s presentation: although the situation in Syria is horrific, there is still time to act, many children can heal, there is still hope.

Sendai Tsunami

The next section of Owen’s presentation asked how Syria got to into this situation. He established a brief history of the situation in Syria; the 15 March 2011 marked the start of the Arab Spring which began in Syria, and the world was terrified that it would spread. Last year marked the record amount of deaths for children. Before the Arab Spring, the population of Syria was around two million, but now half of that number have fled to neighbouring countries and Europe. The speaker went on to establish that those who have stayed behind, including children, are forced to fight work and into young marriage. The situation in Syria was described as a medieval siege like position, using starvation as a way to control the population. There have been 4000 recorded attack on schools, there is a critical need for water and healthcare, and many are living in poverty. This once again reinforces the need to intervene. A member of the audience asked what action was being taken to help children who have been forced to be in the army. The speaker responded by saying that Save the Children will soon be 100 years old. He expressed that the organisation works with factions to stop using children, but Syria is a nation of impunity, with inability to protect the children. Owen emphasized the problem of people forgetting that the United Nations was created to eradicate war. Therefore, Save the Children have taken it upon themselves, as they reach 100, to try and mobilise and change the picture. Another member of the audience questioned how Save the Children prioritises their aid given their scarce resources. The speaker responded by stating that the organisation makes practical choices but they are difficult choices to make. Save the Children always seek to help those who are hardest to reach but that is not always possible; the organisation tries to be impartial and ethical but they cannot always succeed.

Owen then talked about one of his visits to Syria in March 2013. He expressed that he had to have an alias when he visited, which shows how dangerous the country is. The speaker stated that Syria is the most frightening war that he has ever experienced. He then went on to say that the world does not care enough because otherwise we would not allow this to happen. I think that in a sense this is true; there is a feeling of complacency in society right now, if the crisis has not majorly reached our country then we do not feel the urge to act. This is a major problem because we will only make an impact once it is too late. A member of the audience asked how Owen thinks Britain have handled the situation. The speaker replied that we have utterly failed and that the United Nations are not acting to its potential. However, Owen stressed that it is always going to be difficult, but it doesn’t mean that the United Nations isn’t trying.

Owen then went on to provide examples of the positive progress that has been made in Syria, schools have been built and aid had been given, along with psycho-social support. The speaker emphasized that the conflict has meant that the Syrian civil society has to fend for itself to create organisations and work with other countries. This is one of the only positive aspects of the war, and reiterates the theme of the talk of the hopeful attitudes that we should have towards the conflict.

The speaker then went on to discuss the countries that are taking in millions of refugees such as Lebanon and Jordan, and questioned whether Britain is pulling their weight. I think this is a valid question, in comparison with other countries Britain is not taking in that many refugees. This reinforces the point established above that we appear to not care too much unless we are directly affected. In this sense Britain most definitely could make more effort in contributing to help the people of Syria. A member of the audience expressed their concerns with the plight of refugees in Lebanon and Jordan and asked whether they are able to take in so many. Owen expressed that politicians respond to the electorate, so in that sense it is in the public’s hands. The speaker then appealed to the young generation, asking how we want our future to be. We need to do something; we need political activism that doesn’t necessarily exist today. We need passion. There are no humanitarian solutions, only political.

The situation in Syria is so horrific, that the way Save the Children tell the children’s stories is so important. A member of the audience asked about the misleading information surrounding Syria and what information can we trust? Owen replied by saying that we live in a culture where facts are disputable, and there is a problem with propaganda and verifying information as a lot of information is propaganda. There is also the issue that the narrative of war is always written by the victor. However, the testimonies of the children cannot be disputed as that is their reality, and it reminds the world that we need to find a solution. The key element to the children’s stories is that of hope. Owen established that the power of hope lives in the refugees, so it is their job at Save the Children to keep the hope alive and help Syrians on a practical level as well.

Owen then showed us the example of Ahmed and the Exodus film and how Britain helped to get his family over to the UK. I found this story refreshing as it shows Britain’s potential to help the people of Syria, and how our aid can have a positive impact. Another video was then shown, a ‘Don’t Bomb Children’ advert which has been televised quite frequently recently, and depicted a British school child being under attack from terrorist forces and having to flee her country. The main message of the video was that just because it isn’t happening here, it doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t care about what is going on in Syria. This video in particular was very powerful in conveying that message. It appears that the shock factor is one of the only ways to get us to respond to the crisis in Syria. This is really disappointing, but at the same time at least we are starting to respond more to the war. The war has spurred responses among well-known figures, Owen exemplified Stephen Hawking’s contribution to Save the Children. Hawking fronted an appeal, giving voices to the children of Syria. I think this is really positive, because if influential figures advocate a more active stance in regards to Syria then hopefully it will encourage others to protest to help Syrian people. The last example Owen depicted was the search and rescue in the Mediterranean, where thousands of refugees drowned attempting to cross the border. The speaker explained that 4700 died in the Mediterranean and 800 of those were children. From all of the examples given, it is clear that we need to take more action to help the people of Syria, as we cannot continue to sit back and let this happen to innocent people.

Owen concluded by talking about the future. There have been talks of safe zones and peace talks which can only be viewed as progress. He went on to express that the price of humanity is whatever it takes to keep the people of Syria alive. According to the speaker, we will be judged harshly in history in terms of how we have helped Syrian people. He ended by asking which side we wanted to be on.

Overall, I found the presentation really insightful and I think it was really effective in motivating the audience. I think we are in a really important period right now which will hopefully influence change in attitudes towards Syria. We need to think positively, but in order for there to be results, we need to take action. There is no doubt that more can be done to help the situation in Syria, and we need to get out of the mind-set that it is someone else’s problem.

 

India, Pakistan and the Kashmir Conflict: Making Progress through International Law

By Georgia Marks

On the 27th February Dr Aman Hingorani came to the Temple of Peace to give a talk about the Kashmir conflict and suggest solutions with reference to his book ‘Unravelling the Kashmir Knot.’ John Harrington for the Law and Global Justice Research Group in Cardiff Law School introduced the speaker. Harrington gave some context to the speaker and his work, describing Dr Hingorani as an advocate of the High Court in Delhi. It appears that work in human rights is a family affair, with Harrington referring to Hingorani’s parents as the mother and father of public interest litigation.

Hingorani began his talk by explaining that his research into the conflict in Kashmir began as part of his PhD research. Hingorani described Kashmir as a strategically placed area, as geographically it is to the side of both India and Pakistan. He went on to establish that the two latter countries both want more territory and have both dug their heels in Kashmir, at the expense of lives. The two countries are at a stalemate as they both want to keep the territory that they have.

After a brief introduction, the speaker stressed that unless we understand the narrative we cannot understand the way forward. A member of the audience questioned how the historical background has shaped the current situation. To this the speaker answered that neither domestic not international law can resolve it, the issue is based in politics, but it is important to use law to adapt political discussion. He went on to say that the current phase of radicalisation is buried in the subcontinent. The situation described by the speaker as the creation of a situational environment of mutually hostile nations with heightened sense of nationalism. I think this is a really good point as we cannot find a solution to the conflict if we do not understand the history that led up to it.

The speaker then went on to establish the history associated with the conflict which gives a good overview of the reasons behind the current situation highlighted above. 1857 marked what Britain referred to as the Mutiny in India, but what Indians call the War of Independence. As a result the government became centralised and the Queen declared that no more provinces were to be acquired and certain sovereign aspects were given to other countries. Hingorani made the point that before 1857 Muslims were seen as the enemy of Britain, but after 1858, middle class Hindus were established as the new enemy. The official British policy was communalisation, where Britain gave India the freedom, however the country was incapable of resolving the Muslim-Hindu conflict. Britain then used this to enforce its influence, as it created the perception that India needed Britain to resolve such conflicts. In 1939, the beginning of the Second World War meant India was declared as a country in war. Hingorani stated that according to the British archives the partition was decided then and not in 1947. At this point, Britain knew that they had to leave the subcontinent but wanted to keep part of it, so India used Islam as a geographical boundary, with Kashmir falling within this. However, the speaker made clear that Indians did not want the partition. When the partition was refused, violence was used as direct action to force congress to agree; they eventually did which resulted in the Independence Act 1947. Britain used Pakistan as a means of gaining power and assumed that Kashmir would go to Pakistan, so when it did not, it led to the Kashmir issue. Hingorani described the Kashmir issue as being based on British interest on the subcontinent. This is an interesting comment to make as it suggests the detrimental effects British colonialism had on other countries. In this sense, I think it is debatable whether intervention on an international level would do more harm than good in this context unless intensely supervised by the UN.

The speaker then went on to explain why Kashmir did not go to Pakistan. The ruler of Kashmir was Hindu and did not want to be part of Pakistan, a country with an Islam majority, and instead wanted to be independent. However, Pakistan wanted Kashmir, but the ruler of Kashmir was difficult and so Pakistan forced the ruler to exceed to Pakistan through the use of weapons given by Britain. Therefore, from what Hingorani has established up to this point is that Britain have been an integral political part of this conflict and have contributed greatly to the violence in this area.

Hingorani then went on to describe it in terms of international law, if Kashmir exceeded to India then it cannot be vetoed. Kashmir was deemed by the speaker as an international issue that needed Pakistan to comment on it. He then went on to say that the minute that India refers to the UN, a ceasefire will be demanded. In my opinion, this would be the best possible option from a human rights perspective as it would help to prevent the violence inflicted on civilians in Kashmir. The UN Security Council expressed the desire for the future of the state should be decided under UN supervision and presented the idea to take Kashmir issue out of the domestic context and give it an international platform. Another member of the audience asked if there were any serious efforts of countries to refer to the issue on an international level. Hingorani said that there had been no effort on the part of these countries. Kashmir has always been seen as a political issue and we need to distinguish it from law. However, India is going against legal policies and law is seen as abstract and we do not have military, political or diplomatic solution. The main problem is that India is not sure about what the Kashmir issue is, so a political will needs to be created. I think to take the issue to an international level will benefit Kashmir as it will provide an international check and balance on the actions of India, Pakistan and other countries involved such as Britain, and would hopefully influence positive change in this area, particularly for the people of Kashmir.

The speaker then established that New Delhi had disowned the part of Kashmir owned by Pakistan while retaining their part, however part of Kashmir was owned by China. So clearly Kashmir is split dramatically which is detrimental for their national identity. In addition to this, the Chinese were investing money and wanted the deeds from Pakistan but an issue arises here that if Pakistan agreed to give over the deeds then they agree to the partition which is not what they wanted. India had a control constitution but in 1973, in order to seek territory, India needed to amend their constitution because there was a constitutional limit to give up territory and while there is a constitution, India cannot disown territory or people.

So after a dispute spanning seventy years, India wants a partition but Pakistan wants a whole state. Hingorani then went on to stress the need to depoliticise the issue by making it subject to legal analysis. I think this is a valid point as if the countries are currently at a stalemate then it seems right to change tactics and focus the discourse on a different analysis to see if a solution can be found. We do not know how successful it will be, but the conflict has been going on for so long, it seems that any alternative is worth trying.

The narrative was established by the speaker as a constitutional framework. Both Pakistan and India were created by controlled constitutions, so the question is where India got the power to grant the wishes of the people. The same law that created Pakistan made Kashmir part of India. The main question presented by Hingorani was this, how did New Delhi have the power of accession when the law did not give them the power. The speaker went on to express that as a first step to depoliticise we should let the International Court of Justice test who has the title. John Harrington asked whether reference to the International Court of Justice would have any effect on the serious human rights violations in Kashmir. Hingorani responded by saying that in such conflict there are bound to be violations, and in India there has been reference to the domestic court- people want to see results.

 

At the point in the talk, Hingorani referred to his book that has been the basis of his discussion. He wanted to make clear that he wrote the book as an Indian. He then emphasized that law cannot resolve the issue but it can change political discourse. I think that this is powerful as if law is capable of changing the current discussion then the countries involved can attempt to get themselves out of the stalemate they have got themselves in. Hingorani was asked if he had visited Kashmir and he said that he deliberately had not visited as he did not want to be swayed by emotions as he written the book as a lawyer. The speaker expressed that he did not want to take sides as his book is from a jurisdictional perspective. I think this aspect is also important as it provides a rational view of how the conflict can try and be solved.

The speaker then established the current situation; Pakistan feels cheated and Kashmir feels backstabbed, and these are ingredients for terrorism. That is why, Hingorani said, that the political discourse needs to be changed. The problem is that there is unequal bargain power between India and Pakistan because if Pakistan disputes legal propositions then there is no Pakistan. Nonetheless, the UN has recognised Pakistan and India as sovereign countries, however Kashmir was recognised as part of India but not part of Pakistan.

The speaker concluded by relaying the realities of Kashmir. As a result of the partition it is a violent society, with part of the country being disowned by India. However, the country just wants to be independent and away from this 70 year old conflict. There has been terrible trauma as a result of the partition and all countries involved need closure. When a member of the audience asked Hingorani how he classed what is going on in Kashmir. The speaker reaffirmed that Kashmir want independence because they were promised it. The people of Kashmir are expressly being denied their human rights, these people are stateless.

Overall, I found Hingorani’s talk insightful as it offered a fresh perspective on how to resolve the ongoing conflict. Using law as a way to bring about change although uncertain in its effect, is an idea that is bound to help with relations between the countries by giving the discourse a different platform. In addition to this, it is really important to establish the history behind the conflict in order to understand the narrative that we need to address. It cannot be argued that this issue is not pressing as the current situation is having a detrimental effect of the human rights of the people of Kashmir.

 

A visit to the Holocaust Memorial/ Ymwelaid a chofeb Holocaust

By Nia Evans

Recently I visited Berlin for a weekend. Having spoken to a few friends I was advised that the Holocaust Memorial was a must visit. So on our first full day that’s where we headed, thinking we would spend an hour or so paying our respects  before leaving to explore the city further.

I can’t begin to express how much this memorial touched me, by the time we left it was dusk, having spent the whole day at the site. Time stood still as we were taken on a step by step journey following the stories of families across Germany and Poland.

The memorial is situated between Brandenburg Gate and Potsdamer Platz, I must admit, I wasn’t sure what to expect as we turned the corner and saw the ‘Field of Stelae’ in front of us. Designed by Peter Eisenman and situated above the subterranean Information Centre, we saw in front of us a vast collection of what is described as concrete slabs (stelae) which have been placed in a form of grid on uneven, sloping ground.

We were able to access the ‘field’ from four sides and walk in-between the around 2,700 concrete structures. The wave like form of the ground in which they stand means that each steale is of different height and from the outside it seemed that the structures were sloping upwards.  In walking between them however, it became obvious that the ground sinks down in the centre, as you walk further into the centre the increasing hue of the concrete blocks creates a feeling of being claustrophobic of suffocating and of isolation. This was incredibly effective.

Having spent time taking in the field of Stelae, we decided to enter the memorial itself, which is situated underground beneath the field.

Starting at the beginning of the exhibition with Hitler’s rise to power we were given an insightful context as to how  Nazism started, progressed and escalated. This included learning about the political and social climate of the time. As we moved forwards in the timeline, there seemed to be an obvious shift from setting the scene to focusing on the stories of the people targeted for persecution. We were guided through a section which included letters written by individuals, some were of hope that things would improve, others, even by children, were that of acceptance of their imminent death. One example that comes to mind is that of a postcard which was thrown out of a train carriage on the way to a death camp, expressing final goodbyes to loved ones, the author clearly knowing what was waiting for them. Someone had found the postcard and had posted it onwards.

We were introduced to families, learning about their lives before the war, and learning about their fate afterwards. This made the whole experience more personal, especially by the fact that the main element of each family section was that of a photo of the whole family together. Usually a large family, which records show were then decimated and the few remaining survivors separated and scattered away from their home to different areas of he world.

By the end, I felt like I couldn’t take any more in: the scale of personal stories, of testimonials, of suffering was almost too much to fully comprehend. One of the last rooms in the exhibition contained a large map of Europe highlighting each location and camp where exterminations took place. There seemed to be no country which wasn’t used to play a part in the persecution of the Jewish community. The organisation and structure in carrying out such horror absolutely astounded me.

As we were making our way to leave, I heard a female voice talking in one of the rooms. We stepped inside and realised that a video was playing of an interview with a woman who had featured in one of the family portraits as a young girl earlier in the memorial. I remembered from having read about the family that she had managed to survive the holocaust, the only member of the close family to do so. The name of this woman was Sabina van der Linden-Wolanski. In just popping into the room to see who was talking, we continued to wait and listen to the interview, five minutes passed, then ten and before we knew it, over an hour had past in hearing about the life of this woman and the writing of her biography Destined to live. It was such a powerful account of her life, it really was capitvating.  Her personal story of survival allowed the journey through the memorial to finish on a thought inspiring note.

In the future, I potentially won’t remember many facts or figures. It is the gut wrenching feeling of the scale and reading personal stories which will stay with me.

Of course, we only learnt about a handful of families and individuals. Some millions of stories will never be heard. This was murder on an industrial scale. I find, still, that the scale of such an attrocity incomprehensible. It all started with one person rising in power. In having attended, I have been left with a much better understanding of what exactly happened to lead to this horror during WW2. In increasing my understanding I have been left with a real determination to work for peace and to ensure that the world that I live in now is a world based on unity, happiness without any form of discrimination.

Es i am benwythnos i Berlin yn ddiweddar. Wrth drafod lle i fynd a pha atyniadau i’w gweld, soniodd sawl ffrind y dylai’r gofeb Holocost fod ar flaen y rhestr. Ar y diwrnod llawn cyntaf felly, dyna lle’r aethon ni, gyda’r bwriad o dreulio tua awr neu ddwy  yn talu teyrnged cyn gadael ac archwilio’r ddinas yn bellach.

Anodd iawn yw esbonio gymaint yr effeithiodd mynychu’r gofeb a’r arddangosfa arnaf i, erbyn gadael roedd hi wedi cychwyn nosi, ar ôl i ni dreulio diwrnod cyfan yno. Arhosodd amser yn ei unfan wrth i ni gael ein cymryd ar daith yn dilyn storiâu teuluoedd wedi eu lleoli ar hyd a lled yr Almaen a Gwlad Pwyl.

Mae’r gofeb ei hun wedi cael ei leoli rhwng gât Branderburg a Potsdamer Platz. Rhaid cyfaddef, doeddwn i ddim yn hollol siwr beth i’w ddisgwyl wrth gerdded at y safle, ond cyn pen dim dyna lle’r oedden ni, gyda’r ‘Field of stelae’ o’n blaenau ni. Maent yn cael eu disgrifio fel casgliad o ‘slabiau concrit’ sydd wedi cael eu gosod mewn grid anwastad. Peter Eisenmen sydd yn gyfrifol am ddylunio’r ardal, sydd wedi ei leoli uwchben y ganolfan wybodaeth danddaearol.

Mae pedwar mynediad i’r safle, un o bob ochr. Roedd modd i ni gerdded o gwmpas a rhwng yr o ddeutu 2,700 o strwythurau concrit. Roedd arddull anwastad y ddaear yn golygu bod pob strwythur yn ymddangos fel eu bod o faint gwahanol. Ar yr edrychiad cyntaf, roedd y ddaear yn ymddangos fel tonnau, fodd bynnag, wrth gerdded rhwng pob strwythur daeth i’r amlwg bod y llawr ar raddiant gyda’r pwynt dyfnaf yn y canol. Wrth gyrraedd at y pwynt hynny doeddwn i methu help a theimlo fel fy mod, bron iawn, yn mygu, o fod yn glawstroffobig ac yn unig.

Ar ôl treulio amser yn crwydro’r ardal yma, gwnaethom benderfynu mynd dan ddaear i’r arddangosfa ei hun.

Dyma gychwyn yr arddangosfa gyda hanes cynnydd pŵer Hitler, rhoddwyd cyd-destun craff ynglŷn â sut y dechreuodd, datblygodd a fwy na dim, sut y gwnaeth Natsïaeth ddwysau. Roedd hyn yn cynnwys dysgu am hinsawdd wleidyddol a chymdeithasol y cyfnod. Wrth symud ar hyd y llinell amser, gwelwyd newid amlwg wrth i’r ffocws symud o osod manylion cefndirol i rannu storiâu am y rheiny oedd yn cael eu herlyn. Mewn un ystafell roedd arddangosfa o lythyrau oedd wedi cael eu hysgrifennu yn ystod y cyfnod, roedd rhai yn negeseuon gobaith, eraill, hyd yn oed gan blant, yn amlwg dderbyn eu ffawd. Mae un enghraifft yn dod i’r meddwl lle’r oedd cerdyn post wedi cael ei daflu o drên oedd yn trafaelio at un o’r gwersylloedd marwolaeth, roedd y neges yn neges oedd yn ffarwelio gyda chyfoedion agos, roedd yr awdures yn amlwg wybod beth oedd o’i blaen. Roedd rhywun wedi dod o hyd i’r cerdyn post ac wedi ei bostio.

Cawsom ein cyflwyno i deuluoedd, gan ddysgu am eu bywydau cyn y rhyfel, a’u ffawd ar ei ôl. O ganlyniad, roedd y profiad cyfan yn un fwy personol, yn enwedig gan fod darlun o bob teulu yn hongian o’r tô. Mae cofnodion yn dangos bod teuluoedd cyfan, ac mi roedden nhw’n deuluoedd mawr, wedi eu chwalu, gyda’r ychydig rai oroesodd wedi cael eu gwahanu a’u gwasgaru ar draws y byd.

Erbyn y diwedd, doeddwn i ddim yn teimlo bod modd i fi weld na chlywed mwy o’r storiâu. Roedd lefel y dioddefaint, y storiâu personol ar tystebau yn ormod bron iawn i’w hamgyffred yn llawn. Yn un o’r ystafelloedd olaf roedd map o Ewrop, roedd y map yn dangos lleoliad pob gwersyll gan gynnwys lleoliad pob distryw. O edrych ar y map, roedd hi’n amlwg bod pob gwlad rhywsut wedi chwarae rhan yn erlyn y gymdeithas Iddewig. Heb os, ges i fy syfrdanu gyda lefel y trefnu a strwythur cyflawni’r  hunllef yma.

Wrth baratoi i adael, clywais lais dynes yn siarad yn un o’r ystafelloedd. Wrth gamu i mewn i’r ystafell, sylweddolais mai fideo oedd yn cael ei chwarae o gyfweliad dynes oedd yn aelod o deulu oedd wedi cael eu portreadu yn gynharach yn yr arddangosfa. Cofiais mai hi oedd yr unig aelod o’i theulu agosaf  oedd wedi goroesi’r holocost. Enw’r ddynes yma oedd Sabina van der Linden-Wolanski. O fod wedi picied i mewn i’r ystafell i fusnesu a gweld pwy oedd yn siarad, gwnaethom benderfynu aros a gwrando am gyfnod, pasiodd pum munud, pasiodd deg munud a chyn pen dim roedd dros awr wedi pasio wrth i ni sefyll yn dysgu am fywyd y ddynes anhygoel yma ac am ei phrofiad yn ysgrifennu ei bywgraffiad ‘Destined to Live’. Dyma gofnod pwerus o fywyd unigolyn  oedd wedi byw trwy gyfnod yr Holocost. O ganlyniad, daeth ein taith yn yr arddangosfa i ben ar nodyn ysbrydoledig.

Yn y dyfodol, mae’n bosibl iawn na fyddai’n cofio llawer o’r ffeithiau neu ffigyrau. Yn sicr, bydd y  teimlad trwm yn fy stumog ac emosiwn dysgu am hunllefau’r cyfnod yn aros gyda fi am gyfnod hir.

Yn naturiol, dim ond dysgu am fywyd llond llaw o deuluoedd ac unigolion y gwnaethom ni yn yr arddangosfa. Mae miliynau o storiâu na fydd byth modd i ni eu clywed. Dyma lofruddiaeth ar lefel anferthol. Hyd heddiw, dwi’n ei chael hi’n anodd dirnad maint yr erchyllterau. A’i gychwyn, gydag un person yn codi i bŵer ac yn defnyddio’r pŵer hynny i ddylanwadu ar y bobl o’i gwmpas. Mae gen i well dealltwriaeth erbyn hyn o’r hyn ddigwyddodd i arwain at yr erchyllterau yn ystod yr ail ryfel byd. O gynyddu ar fy nealltwriaeth dwi’n benderfynol o weithio at heddwch er mwyn sicrhau bod fy myd yn un sydd wedi cael ei seilio ar undod ac o hapusrwydd heb unrhyw fath o wahaniaethu.

 

Show solidarity with Women’s March on Washington- 21st January 2017

By Rosa Brown

On Friday, Donald Trump will be sworn in as the 45th President of the United States of America. Even if Mr Trump’s political inexperience, his inability to commit to clear policy outlines and those appallingly constructed tweets are overlooked, his ascension into one of the most prestigious positions in the world remains problematic.

Though it may be kinder to ourselves and our sanity to block out the US Election campaign trail, let us revisit that point in which 2016 reached new lows of shadiness. As of November 2016, there were seventy-five active lawsuits against the President Elect, ranging from fraud, unpaid bills and sexual discrimination. However, the presence of these lawsuits failed to damage the candidate’s campaign for good. As did the stories from women who claimed to have receive unwanted sexual advances from Trump, some of whom waivered their right to anonymity. Even Trump’s imitation of a disabled news reporter did not stand in his way to the White House. In summary, Trump ran a campaign focused on hate, mockery and lies and no one cared.

But they did. On Saturday 21st January 2017, there will be a Women’s March on Washington to stand against the demonising rhetoric of Trump’s campaign. The march is an opportunity to celebrate diversity as a strength of the community rather than a weakness. It is an opportunity to reject the fear of those who may look or sound differently, a fear that Trump’s success and certain figures in the UK is dependent on. Ultimately, it is an opportunity to recognise women’s rights as human rights, regardless of race, age, sexual identity or religion.

In solidarity with the event and its objectives, there are Sister Marches organised across the globe, two of which are scheduled in Wales: Cardiff and Bangor. Both marches encourage the participation of anyone and everyone to safeguard the freedoms that have been threatened by recent political events.

If you would like further details about these events please follow the links. More information about the global movement can be found at #breakthesilence.

Cardiff Sister March

Facebook page.

Bangor Sister March

march

 

A reflection on the positive developments the world has seen in 2016

By David Hooson

 Every year, December encourages us all to look back on the year as it comes to a close. In 2016 perhaps more than ever, upsetting events have dominated and can naturally dominate our memories of the year. However, there were also plenty of positive events this year, as well as things that can give us hope that the world is still progressing towards peace and understanding between all people. Let’s recall just a few of these positive developments.

The Paris Agreement on tackling climate change, which was drafted at the end of 2015, was signed in April and came into effect in November. As the most comprehensive international agreement on climate change, with the most international signatories, it has been hailed as a historic step towards tackling the environmental challenges of the future.

The terrorist group Boko Haram, one of the greatest threats to peace and security in West Africa in recent years, was further weakened this year and now appears to be on the brink of total extinction. The January release of 1,000 women held hostage was a big moment, and a further 600 people have been freed in December. The group are still holding many of the Chibok schoolgirls they kidnapped in 2014, but some have been returned to their families throughout this year.

The 52-year conflict in Colombia, in which hundreds of thousands of people were killed and millions displaced, was resolved with a peace deal between the Colombian government and the FARC rebel group. Negotiations had been ongoing for four years, and the first draft of the deal was rejected by a referendum in October. However, a revised peace agreement was signed by President Juan Manuel Santos and FARC leaders in November and the Colombian Congress voted to approve the deal. President Santos was also presented with this year’s Nobel Peace Prize in recognition of his efforts to bring peace to his country.

In June, the United Nations’ 47-member Human Rights Council voted to appoint an independent expert on LGBT rights to monitor violence and discrimination against LGBT people globally. Past attempts to make progress on LGBT issues at the UN have been frustrated or defeated by opposition from countries where the law actively discriminates against LGBT people, so this decision represents a significant breakthrough. An attempt to overturn the decision through the UN General Assembly was defeated in November, giving this new role an even more solid basis to campaign for an end to violence and discrimination against LGBT individuals.

The Council of Europe’s ‘Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence’ – known as the Istanbul Convention – was finally ratified by 22 countries, having been signed five years ago. In some of these countries, the Convention is now the strongest protection women have against gender-based violence, sexual violence and domestic abuse. The UK is now in the process of becoming the 23rd country to ratify the Convention.

In stark contrast to divisive media rhetoric and concerning hate crime statistics, refugees from Syria arriving in Wales were warmly welcomed by local communities. The number of refugees allowed into the country is determined by the UK Government, but Local Authorities across Wales have been more than willing to help families and individuals fleeing violence, with refugees being settled all across Wales.

Examples of refugees being welcomed:

Aberystwyth

Wrexham

There will be many challenges for the international community to address in 2017, some new and some continuing, but stories like these should give us hope that we can and will continue to make progress. Hopefully next year the stories of hope and progress will dominate, and 2017 will keep the world on track towards a peaceful future of justice and equality for all.