21 March 2023

Memorable days in Nepal, a country in between mountains

A few months ago I had an email from Katherine Hughes-Fraitekh, Co-Founder and Director of Solidarity 2020 and Beyond about an event that was going to take place in Kathmandu, Nepal. As a long-standing member of the Solidarity network, the intended event was something that I would take highly. By then, I didn’t know if I could get the time to join such a great initiative in person. After some negotiations with relevant people in the UK, I not only confirmed my attendance, but also asked how I could be of use during my days in a country surrounded by the Himalayan mountains, including Mount Everest, which is the highest of Himalayas and also the highest on earth.

After lots of virtual meetings, debates and meticulous planning, the time to fly to Kathmandu, capital of Nepal was nearing. 80 participants from about 45 countries had confirmed their attendance. A welcome group formed by one for the veteran civic leaders in Nepal, our brother Ram Bhandari, was finalising its preparations to welcome its esteemed guests. Session leaders, facilitators and convenors had started to finalise their preparations. The Solidarity 2020 and Beyond team bringing the many dots together. ‘Story of us’ in action!

For me, in addition to preparing for the sessions I was going to facilitate and lead, doing research about Nepal was important. The people, culture, food, places to visit and folks to build relationships with. In doing so, I Knew the time difference between the UK and Nepal is 5:45 hours. Nepal is ahead. Unique time difference! I also knew Nepal was never colonised and that it is a landlocked country fully surrounded by India and China. Yet it has it unique nature.

As folks from around the world started to update us about their journeys and at times challenges departing from airports, we got even more excited to hear the stories in person and meet fellow comrades. Many had paid sacrifices to be at the event. Some had travelled on camels; others on buses, trains and all sorts of treacherous journeys to get to the nearest airports. Courage is what it takes to reach the intended destination. Kudos to all who did it🙌🏿

As soon as we all gathered in Kathmandu, the city of wooden temple, we were accorded kind welcome, and the business kicked off. Sharing and learning! Many great sessions through out the 5 days together. Great organising; great leadership development and commitment to share. At times debates and constructive alternatives. We also took time to celebrate the work we have done together. Recognise colleagues, visit places and enjoy cultural food and music. Among the most exceptional moments was the dinner at local traditional restaurant called Bhojan Griha, where we were served with mouth watering food, traditional drinks and uplifting and enjoyable music. Below is a short video about this great event.

We also had some amazing moments in between. One of the most heart warming moments was led by people with sight loss and visual impairment.

Also another wonderful opportunity to visit Monkey Temple, which is utterly gorgeous and worth visiting when one is Nepal.

Following 5 days of many workshops, talks, discussions, public actions and deliberations, we had the Kathmandu 2023 Declaration, which was endorsed by all the participants. And yes, it was then the turn of Arnab Chakraborty and his team to take us to the last event of the conference. An opportunity to celebrate togetherness. An opportunity to reaffirm our solidarity and commit to work together as children of the world.

Special thanks to Katherine and the amazing team for working round the clock to see this through. Thanks also to individuals and organisations who sponsored this great initiative. Thanks to all who made it to Kathmandu from around the world. Together we will make our world a better place to live in. God willing we will meet again. As our friend Sungu Oyoo often says, “it is Africa’s time.” I endorse it and hope to see our next solidarity convening in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Till then we will keep our watchful eyes open and deliver our best as organised global citizens.

After all, we are the world!

11 March 2023

Nonviolence is the way - another opportunity to learn and share

 “We adopt the means of nonviolence because our end is a community at peace with itself. We will try to persuade with our words, but if our words fail, we will try to persuade with our acts.”- Martin Luther King

In June 2016 about 50 of us from around the world gathered in Boston, USA, for an  Advanced Study of Nonviolent Conflict, which took place at Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy. The fellowship sponsored by ICNC was successful by many standards. It not only brought together activists, campaigners, community organisers and civic leaders from across the world, but also availed the tools necessary to organise civic activism in a nonviolent way and paved ways for the participants to work together and support one another in any way possible. Some of us met in between in different countries and continents including in the US, Asia, Europe and Africa which helped us to reconnect and strategize together as we all aspire to see a better world for all of us and work to achieve that.

I still remember the powerful message from Rev Dr. James Lawson, one of the most prominent civil rights movement leaders in the US who worked along with Martin Luther King. As he delivered his lecture in an engaging and thought-provoking way, Rev Lawson said,  “You may not see change in your generation, but you must make sure you sow the seeds of change so that the next generation or the generation after may benefit from.” That message has stayed with me and many others ever since.

Here is a short video of his lecture

As we prepare to gather for the Solidarity 2020 and Beyond International Peace and Leadership Conference that will take place in Kathmandu, Nepal, there is excitement in most of us at this will be an opportunity to reconnect,  hear stories of success and challenges whilst sharing and learning from one another. Kudos to the organizers of the forthcoming conference, in particular the tireless Katherine Hughes-Fraitekh, who is always on the move to share her years of learning and experiences. Keep it going!

What would make the forthcoming conference different is that it will mostly be led by moderators, convenors and facilitators that are part of the movement and come as participants. Great opportunity to bring stories to inspire and challenge to act whilst teaching tools that help to wage struggles for issues that matter most in a nonviolent way.

A better, tolerant, inclusive and peaceful world is possible. It takes us all to achieve that.

As we mourn the departure of Neil Jameson, we cherish his legacy graciously

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