Author Archives: Daniel J Orth Orth

Finding Art & Peace

This post originally appeared on the author’s personal blog, “The Recovery Poet”.

I believe art has the power to save people. I believe this because it saved me.

I am an artist.

I am a poet.

I am a peacebuilder.

I am recovering.

Funny enough, art was not always something I believed in. At least not this strongly. I was a musician in high school. I did some journaling. And I even tried my hand at poetry when the season for poetry submissions came along in English class. I never saw art as something that changed anybody, even though I loved music. Band was my favorite time of day. I connected with music in a way I connected with nothing else. And on my worst days, it was how I managed to understand the world.

I’ve played my hand at drawing, music, writing, and poetry. Finally, I found my home in writing and poetry with a hint of music when I have the right instrumentation. Let’s be honest, trombones just don’t play parties alone.

I’ve always found solace in words, but I remember a time when I couldn’t even find words. Every time I started writing I spent more time scratching words out and doodling over them than I did creating anything. In retrospect, I wasn’t ready to start talking about what I knew. That is what the best writing is about – what you know – and what I knew was way too complicated to start talking about out loud. Just a few years ago, though, when I ran out of excuses to not deal with it and all other means of ignoring everything, I came face to face with a type of broken I can honestly say I hadn’t yet seen. It’s one thing for the people you love to break you accidentally. Because they don’t know any better. Because they are broken too. It’s an entirely different thing to be broken by someone you love intentionally, knowingly, and oh so blatantly. That’s what should have broken me. If I’m really honest, I’m not sure I should have made it this far today. Right when I should have been permanently, irreparably broken, I found my words.

It was finding my words that started to change the way I look at the world, healing, and eventually peace.

I started to see that art has a unique role in understanding pain, struggle, and conflict. That I could really uncover the causes of my own pain and conflict by exploring my art, and ultimately that exploring my experience through art could also help other people explore theirs at their own pace, in their own way.

My journey to seriously consider the role of art in peace began here. How can we do peace if we don’t take the time to understand the underlying, innermost causes of conflict – inner and interpersonal? And how can we possibly understand the underlying causes of conflict in a community if the people in the community haven’t had the chance to understand them themselves?

I didn’t understand what I was struggling with for a long time. Art helped me figure it out in a way that was comfortable for me. Sometimes sitting down with a traditional counselor isn’t enough, and often it’s not even an option. We have to find a way to better understand and identify the causes of conflict in individuals and communities, so that we all know better how to address them.

Photo #2 for Jessica's Blog

Art let’s you explore your life and experiences both directly and indirectly, and, for those who don’t do art, seeing and discussing art can help you uncover your own struggles.

What better way to promote agency in your own understanding and healing than art? Art helped me realize I was an agent in my own life, that I had the power to deal with my problems, and that I could do it through art, when so much else had failed. This was a pivotal moment in becoming the person I am today.

The Theory Behind the Journey

Peace is both the ending of violent conflict and the removal of structures that promote violence. It is creating structures that contribute to sustainable, lasting peace. There are many opinions about how that happens, but most agree it has political, social, economic, security, and legal dimensions. My degree program broke it down into conflict analysis and resolution, human rights, and development and human security.

If you look at peace theory, it’s so clear that art has a place amongst those dimensions. The basis of conflict analysis and resolution is that to end violent conflict and create peace we have to figure out the causes of conflict. As you’ve probably seen, art has the ability to uncover and explain the causes of conflict in new and more holistic ways. It can help people realize what their own struggles are, and also help people better understand the struggles of others.

Art can revitalize local economies and promote not only short-term relief, but long term, sustainable development. It can build up local artists and artisans while bringing in art lovers, collectors, philanthropists, and business people – thus boosting local, small business to meet the increased demand for housing, food, and transportation.

It has also helped record and remember lives lost to terrible human rights abuses. It’s often helped promote reconciliation. Things like storytelling are often used as traditional forms of forgiveness, restoration, and reconciliation. Art is so often used for social recovery that art therapy is now a widely used tool for helping children, youth, and adults overcome horrible traumas and abuses.

The Missing Link – Why Nairobi?

Art has a role to play in each and very aspect of peacebuilding. Peace is often seen as a systemic goal, and art has a role to play in that too, but what art really does is make an intentional connection between the creation of inner, personal peace and systemic peace.

The youth I met in Kariobangi and Mathare believed so intrinsically that their everyday actions could contribute to personal and community peace. That they could build peace by saving money from their car washing business to teach children about social issues through football. That they could build peace by doing free concerts for community events and schools, so they could use their art to contribute to individual and community development, while also pushing for deeper conversations through the subject matter their art explores. That a couple of djs could contribute to peace and social awareness by creating a mix-tape that also talks about social issues during traffic jams.

The coolest things about youth in Nairobi is they’re already on a journey to connect inner peace to systemic, and they want to do it in new, innovative ways. So in some ways, they taught me, at the end of the day, that art just makes sense. If we ever want to take youth seriously, and we should if we really take peace seriously, then we have to start speaking through mechanisms that youth speak through. Youth are not only the backbone of society, but also the backbone of peace. And I know from the youth I’ve met here that I would be completely lost to try to create peace with youth without including the very voice they speak through.

For me, the lesson at the end of the day is this:

For all those without the privilege, resources, and opportunity to be heard, art is the voice. For all those too broken, marginalized, and disenfranchised to speak, art is the platform.

I hope you’ll keep following as I begin interviewing Nairobi artists who use art for social awareness, change, and peace. Stay tuned next week as I tell you about my first meeting with artists in some of Nairobi’s informal communities who are using art for peace education. It’s already been an incredible journey, and I’m so excited to see where it goes next.

I hope you’re having a fun, fulfilled, purposeful week. Until next time!


Jessica Ciccarelli, the Recovery Poet

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of the IPJ or of the University of San Diego.

When “Othering” Turns Violent

By Jessica Ciccarelli

One moment taught me more about relations between youth and police in Kenya than three months of interviews ever could. I was attending a panel discussion on the ways Kenya can rehabilitate its police force. Situated in a large conference room off Kimathi Street several floors above the Thorn Tree Café in Nairobi’s Central Business District, we sipped coffee and tea as we watched presentations by police leaders, internal affairs officials, and security-based NGOs on the best and worst of policing in Kenya.

By the time the presentations had ended and the floor opened for questions the room was bursting. People stood in doorways and listened from the hall. Young people sat on the floor and shared chairs. NGO and government leaders squeezed closer to fit even more people in the suddenly tiny, sagging room. Even as questions began, people pushed in hoping to participate in the increasingly tense conversation, hoping to have their stories heard and to be seen.

I remember the moment I finally got it – the moment I realized how exceptionally broken people really are. The first moment was a story that suddenly and almost imperceptibly changed a session intended for question and answer into tear-stained monologues of abuse, torture, and neglect. The second moment, three words uttered by a deputy police chief – “That didn’t happen.”

Youth and police in Kenya are both “others”. This is a very complicated identity. They are each other’s out-group, but it’s more than that – each is seen by the other as the group without which they would be undeniably safe. Both groups viewed as the single most important obstacle to the other group’s security. According to this “other” category, without the other group, they would be ensured safety and life, not only for themselves, but also for their family and friends.

I learned, though, that their identity is so much more than being someone’s other. Actually, they have a lot in common.

Youth and police alike feel they are seen as bad, an enemy, and people who can do no good. They feel no amount of good they do can change who they are seen to be. In a society defined by tribe (and politics separated by tribe), they are both often placed in a category all their own to be “othered” and excluded from community hierarchies and decision-making.

Each youth and community member stood up and told their story, the atrocities they had undergone at the hands of the police – the police deputy offering denial to each one. By the end of the conference there were more tears than progress, and I had been given the rare opportunity to be broken in observing unhindered the increasingly violent relationship between youth and police.

It was heartbreaking to hear the pain and abuses youth and community members had experienced at the hands of the men and women intended to serve and protect them. Othering is normal, but we should all be concerned when othering turns violent. For youth and police in Kenya, it definitely has.

That said, it is as important to consider the struggles of the police who often go unpaid for months at a time, live in deplorable conditions squeezed together in small rooms with other police families, and, according to interviews, are often expected to fulfill terrible quotas (including bribery and killing quotas) in order to ensure their and their families’ survival.

I can’t fact check these stories for you. What I can tell you, what I know, is that each story has at least a semblance of truth. Thus, it has at some moment, likely with one or more police, been true that some junior police have been expected to fulfill these terrible quotas. It is has been true for some, if not many, youth that they have undergone abuse and torture at the hands of the police. It may not be true for all, but if even a few of these stories are true then Kenya, as a country, as a government, has permitted terrible human rights abuses. With that truth in mind, it is also very likely that the only path to healing the wounds from all of these abuses is honesty – open, truthful, honest conversation. It doesn’t have to be a truth commission, but Kenyans are bursting with the need to tell their truths, and until society gives them that opportunity no healing can be found.

I spent my summer as broken by the tragedies police have experienced as I was by those of the youth. A terrible thing has been permitted to persist. Government, society, and individuals have allowed this festering wound to get infected. I hope to my core that it is still healable. What I will say is that despite all of the pain and abuse, there are beautiful, resilient relationships amongst youth and police. There are good people on both sides fighting to make a difference. Youth feel hated. Police feel hated. Maybe, if we can begin to show them both how very much they have common, things can change. There is hope. Because even a few people dared to believe it was possible. A few youth and police dared to believe they could create a positive, vibrant relationship, and then they did.

Sarah is an exceptional woman. She is a community leader, a mediator, and a women’s and child’s rights activist. Truly, she has dedicated her life to creating change, even if the endeavor is self-funded. One choice to share her mediation skills to help the youth and police bridged an increasingly violent, otherwise irreparable gap, and allowed a truly trusting relationship to flourish.

Joseph is a very special youth.  More man than youth, he leads a local youth group and runs the youth social hall. An incident of arbitrary arrest inspired him to foster a better relationship with police – sparking one of the best youth-police relationships in all of Nairobi’s slums.

At the same time they taught me there was so much brokenness, they also taught me there was so much life. We have so much left to learn, but I move forward believing it is absolutely possible because the Kenyan people showed me it was.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of the IPJ or of the University of San Diego.

IPJ Travels to Nepal in Wake of New Constitution, Unrest in the Terai

Staff members Dee Aker and Daniel Orth were in Nepal in January to work with local partners of the IPJ’s Nepal Peacebuilding Initiative. Since the promulgation of a new constitution in August 2015, Nepal has been gripped by unrest in the southern plains region known as the Terai and home to the Madhesi people. Citing problems with the new constitution and historical grievances about political and economic marginalization, large segments of the Madhesi population, mobilized by political parties, have taken to the streets in protest and created a blockade on the southern border with India through which a majority of the country’s imports arrive. The state has responded harshly to the protestors and security forces have been implicated in the deaths of protestors and civilians, while police officers also have been attacked and killed.

Through conversations with a wide range of actors including police, political leaders, protestors, civil society, media, youth, women and violence-affected families, the IPJ team offered a platform for individuals to share their experiences and to feel heard, and in the process gained a deeper understanding of the current context for the IPJ’s future work.

Women members of Parliament speak about the challenges confronting Nepal and how women can help to solve them

Women members of Parliament speak about the challenges confronting Nepal and how women can help to solve them

With the help of local partners, Aker and Orth brought together more than 110 individuals at six roundtable discussions and one full-day workshop. From Armed Police Force officers sitting with protest leaders, to women from opposite sides — one who lost a child and one who lost her livelihood — these events offered the opportunity for individuals to hear from “the other,” reducing misunderstanding and beginning to rebuild trust.

The IPJ team also had the chance to speak with more than 40 individuals during several one-on-one interviews and small group meetings. They sat down with influential elites that included Nepal’s current Prime Minister, K.P. Oli, and two former prime ministers; U.S. Ambassador to Nepal Alaina Teplitz; more than a dozen members of Parliament; high-ranking police officials; and Madhesi protest leaders.

The risk of continued conflict remains high and ultimately the solutions will need to come from within the country; however the IPJ remains committed to creating opportunities for the people of Nepal to engage in more productive conversations to achieve a just and peaceful country for all citizens.

IPJ Director Dee Aker speaks with Prime Minister K.P. Oli

IPJ Director Dee Aker speaks with Prime Minister K.P. Oli

Black Lives Matter

By Jessica Ciccarelli

Black Lives Matter. I can barely begin to express how excited I was to see the KIPJ including the Black Lives Matter movement in The Art of Peace symposium. On a campus where “majority white” and “white privilege” seem like massive understatements, it was breathtaking to see the Institute for Peace and Justice take on such an important peace and justice issue.

Kimani Fowlin and Renée Watson, in their “Poetry and Performance for Peaceful Protest” workshop, gave us inspiring performances, vital history and understanding of the Black Lives Matter movement, and invaluable emotional context for the incredible loss taking place across our nation – not only today, yesterday, last month or last year, but for decades. Renée and Kimani pushed deeper understanding and compassion, while still taming some of our “white fragility” with realizations that privileged white students are not the only ones who think police brutality is a recent phenomenon. Still, we have so much to learn.

They began their workshop with a personal performance. “If we expect you to make yourselves vulnerable with your own pieces,” Renée said, “then we need to share some of ours.” As Renée shared a piece of poetry with us, Kimani danced to the rhythm of her words. Next, they put us in a circle and asked us each to say one word about what we were feeling at that moment. Hopeful. Afraid. Nervous. Excited. Broken. Joyous. Each of the twenty to thirty attendees spoke their feelings to life in a circle of strangers. Then, having made ourselves vulnerable, Renée and Kimani played music and asked us to place sticky notes with a few personal words on walls of pictures of African American Men and Women lost to police brutality. An emotional process for all involved, I’m sure, but perhaps more emotional with the realization that we have long since passed the point where we could ever give voice to every name of every individual lost to ignorance, lost to denial, lost to an enemy often seen only to those victimized by it. We are responsible for the structures of violence upheld by the construct of superiority carried in the color of our skin.

We separated into groups and were each given a story. Some older, others newer. Each one the tale of an African American life lost to police brutality. This story became the impetus, first for the conversation, then for the poems, and last for the protests. After a few read their poems aloud, we each took a favored piece of our poems and put them together in theatrical presentations for peaceful protest. What a powerful way to get people emotionally invested in what is too often a very divisive issue!

Each of the groups gave their presentation to the workshop. Some sang, others chanted, most including the power of repetition. So we continued chanting, singing, and repeating similar essences.

A young black man.

Killed in the process of being arrested for crimes that often don’t exist.

Killed in terrible ways.


Head trauma.


So much blood.

By the end of the workshop, we could no longer find reason in the murder of so many thousands of black lives, so we did like so many before us have. We took our anger and pain to the public spaces of USD and showed others what we had just spent two and a half hours struggling over. My only sadness comes with knowing there were so few students to witness this incredible journey Kimani and Renée took us on.

USD is a campus that prides itself on change and impact, but still is so dishearteningly disconnected from the reality of racial privilege and racism in America today. I was overjoyed, I am overjoyed, to see the Kroc Institute for Peace and Justice join hands with USD’s Black Student Union in an exploration of how art can be the impetus for changing the incredible violence and police brutality taking place against our black brothers and sisters. If our peace and justice institutions don’t stand up against injustice, then who will?  Thanks to the IPJ for taking on such an important issue, and thank you to the BSU and Renée and Kimani for taking us through such a difficult conversation in such an exceptionally inspired way. I know I learned something and I believe most everyone else would say the same. It is through workshops like this one that we can finally start being the change we want to see in the world. Because it really is through acknowledging our own privilege and changing ourselves that we can really start changing the structures and institutions of violence that the quest for peace demands we change.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of the IPJ or of the University of San Diego.

Reflections on The Art of Peace

By Rachel La Due

For the past couple of months we have been throwing paint on a canvas.

There was some method to the madness, a few procedures to follow, several requirements that had to be met. These were more guiding points than stringent rules. We had a vision for the piece, as all artists do, but only a vague idea for how it would turn out.

For the past couple of months myself and my two intern supervisors, Kara Wong and Daniel Orth, have been planning a four-day long symposium on Peacebuilding and the Arts.

The Art of Peace took place November 11-14th and was hosted by the Joan B. Kroc Institute for Peace and Justice. The symposium provided a space for local, national, and international artists to come together and share the ways in which they have used art as a tool in conflict transformation.

For the four days of The Art of Peace we put our brushes down and enjoyed the piece we had worked so hard to produce. We gathered alongside students, faculty, and members of the greater San Diego community to view the artwork by artists from Myanmar who have documented the struggles and triumphs of their country as it transitions from military dictatorship to emerging democracy through their art. We listened to musicians from Brazil, Morocco, Israel and Japan sing together in one beautiful melody. We sang protest songs from America’s history and the South African anti-apartheid movement along with choral scholars and Women PeaceMakers. We watched youth dance across the stage in an expression of themselves and their experiences. We listened to formerly incarcerated individuals speak from their hearts and from their pain in a powerful spoken word performance. We explored ways in which poetry, performance and movement can be used as a form of peaceful protest to respond to racial injustices and police brutality. We shared with each other, learned from one another, and collaborated together to create weapons that can be used for peaceful purposes.

During these past couple of months I have learned that the power of art does not come from the end product, but is found within the process. The splattering of paint. The planning and the preparing. The wandering of communities to tell strangers we encounter about the incredible upcoming event. The meeting of new people and revisiting of old friends. The revisions of written information and then re-revisions because we were still not satisfied with the first. The result turned out to be beautiful, but the process was transformative.

For the days following The Art of Peace we took a step back to reflect on the experience. We were surprised to find our work blank. We smiled as we realized we had not actually done any of the creating, we had only just provided the canvas.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of the IPJ or of the University of San Diego.

Dirty Hands, Beautiful Lessons

By Jessica Ciccarelli

Walking into a community for the first time is an incredible experience. You carry with you a newness that can be beautiful and can help you see things others may not. Still, walking in with new eyes isn’t enough. If you wish to do any good at all, you must walk in with eyes open enough to see the beauty in the difference and a mind open enough to be interested in the vitality of the people and to ask the right questions. Ask questions you believe you already know the answer to. Ask questions about asking questions – How to ask. When to ask. What to ask. You have to see through the eyes of the people who live there. They are the ones who can show you why things work the way they do. I met so many good people doing work in different parts of Kenya. I also met many people from the communities those organizations work in – people who helped me see how a predisposition – believing you know the answers and that you can save people – can infect entire institutions guided by good intentions.

Perhaps the most important lesson my friends in Mathare, Kariobangi, Kangemi, and Kibera taught me is that “slum tourism” can be more than just a thing people do when they visit poor communities. “Slum tourism” can bleed into the mindsets and predispositions people have about a community. It can bleed into the frameworks and principals of an organization through the people that create it.

It is through that understanding, through the eyes, ears, and hearts of the people who showed me so much truth and openness that, though I can see there are some benefits to “slum tourism”, I must make the argument that it does far more harm than good. It makes it normal and far too common to walk into a community with the predisposition that they are something so “otherly”, so abnormal that they deserve to be toured and stared at by all the people who come from so much “better.” As though they contribute so much bad or uncleanliness to the community that they forfeit their basic human rights to privacy and dignity.  That is why they call it “slum tourism.” We are touring the slum of it all. We’re going in to stare at their poverty. Does it make us more empathetic to stare at the poverty and struggle of another? Does it make us more connected to take pictures of someone else’s deprivation and walk away without ever contributing anything good beyond a few bucks for a bracelet? I don’t know, as a whole, that it does.

Normalizing this “slum tourism” mentality, a derivative of the “white savior” complex, gives organizations working in these communities the predisposition that the people or community need to be “fixed”. If something is broken, we must fix it, and if it is broken because there is something wrong with the culture itself, then it needs someone outside to be the one to fix it. Suddenly they are the slum and you are the fixer, and you will provide them with the things they need to get “better”. You have organizations that forget – they romanticize the poverty and objectify the people, capitalizing on and obsessing over their poverty so long that the people disappear and their poverty becomes a symbol for everything that is wrong with the community. They forget to see the people, the good – the vibrant, busy, beautiful networks of people and traditions that create so much positive in their own communities.

I know we do this because I’ve been in the position where I too forgot to see the good amidst the poverty. Many years ago, when I saw my first slum, I cared about the people, but it was so easy to get lost in the poverty and not see the good in that community. I come from a part of the Southern United States that people also forget to see the good in, but still when I was confronted with a type of poverty I hadn’t seen before, I forgot to see the fullness of the community. It wasn’t until several years later, when I had my second encounter with a slum community, that I got it. And I got it that time because I was working with organizations that had already figured it out. The Joan B. Kroc Institute for Peace and Justice (IPJ) works with local organizations in Nairobi’s slum communities through local partners and the IPJ has so much love and value for the people. I cannot tell you how exceptionally refreshing it was to see a community organization relationship with so much mutual value and respect. Seeing the beauty of the relationships they foster helped me put a face to something I really didn’t know I was looking for. It was like realizing I was missing something only because I finally found it.

“Slum tourism” mentalities are rooted in the same paternalism and superiority as “white-savior” mentalities. We are taught that we’re the answer to the world’s problems, but we’re not. I am not the answer to the Mathare slum community’s problems. However, if I can go in with a bit more humility and I’m willing to listen to and work with people from there that really understand how to change things, I can play a part in making things better. I learned what that looks like through the incredible actions of the IPJ and their local partner, Chemchemi Ya Ukweli (CYU). They showed me how you walk into a community that is not your own and create change through value and love for the people within it. They took the theory I had been learning for months and showed me, practically, that how you do it matters and even the best of intentions can cause harm if we practice peace with the wrong ideals and predispositions.

Everyone says that theory and practice are very different. I think the truth is that if you go in with a value for all people and root your theories in that value, then practicing value for people really isn’t that hard after all. It’s when you go in without that value that you leave yourself open to perpetuating harm, like that created by “slum tourism” and the “white-savior” complex. I had no idea how much I had left to learn or how many beautiful people would remind me that poverty does not mean you are useless, incapable, or invaluable. Dirty floors and outdoor bathrooms do not define your worth. People are intrinsically of value, and if it wasn’t for my time with the IPJ, I may never have known what an institution that intrinsically values human life and agency looks like, or that I hope to spend the rest of my life learning life changing lessons from beautiful people in “less-civilized” communities.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of the IPJ or of the University of San Diego.

Universal Love: Genesis at the Crossroads & Saffron Caravan

By Jessica Ciccarelli

There is something about music that when you get it just right, you can see the smiles capture a piece of the soul. It is not often the artists are having so much fun that not only the music, but the smiles become universal – touching giver and receiver alike. It was beautiful to see this true of the entire Saffron Caravan concert on November 11. I honestly cannot say who I had more fun watching, the artists or the audience, but, due to a mishap which left the lights on for the entire performance, I had the pleasure of watching the unique flavor of an audience having as much fun as the musicians.

They took us on a journey through ten compositions. We began alongside Haytham Safia on his travel home from Jerusalem in his song, “The Road,” inspired by his own homeward journey. Our musical voyage was also an emotional one as they brought us through joyous, mournful, spiritual, and prayerful pieces. Aaron Bensoussan’s made a reverent offering to God followed by Badi Assad’s own reverent offering to Mother Nature. They were exuberant performances, as each individual surrendered their ego and did the work of letting the story flow through them.

As they wound down their musical performance with the last two songs of the evening, “Pleasure” and “Longa,” I remember feeling so inspired. Their own passion and love for music and peace reminded me, and I think the audience, of how powerful this thing is that we are trying to do: Peace. It is no easy thing and they made the difficult journey so stunning to behold. Just before the last song I remember thinking, I feel like I am journeying down an old dirt road with them from Jerusalem, getting to know each of their distinct personalities, through the palate of their music. If that was not enough, they gave us one more incredible piece, so uplifting and inspiring that sitting to listen was not an option. One by one, audience members got up to dance until there were far more people dancing than sitting.

The next morning, the panel “Music as a Vehicle for Global Peacebuilding” gave the audience members the opportunity to learn, through words and stories, all the things we had glimpsed in their music. How they got into music and what brought them to Genesis at the Crossroads. From where their passion comes. Why Genesis at the Crossroads is so exceptionally different and important. So many incredible things came from this panel, but the most inspiring for me was seeing how transcendent music can be. Aaron referenced another musical event put together by Genesis at the Crossroads and said, “They spoke Hebrew and Arabic, and the only common language they had was music.” At another point Badi said, “We are all one… There is not another way. We are one.” Then adding, “I’m starting finally to see… The point in making music is not to make money… We are here in this world to fix it, to bring a little bit of light.”

We also learned how important it is for the group to feel close, connected, like family, with Haytham adding, “We fit musically, like a sister,” in reference to Badi. Each one reiterated that they felt like a family, they just fit musically. That, I think, is what made it so uniquely beautiful. When you love what you do and the people you do it with, there is no way it could be anything but inspiring.

Genesis at the Crossroads and Saffron Caravan was an overwhelming success. They touched each individual through their stirring compositions, then connected all through the emotional journey each one told. What a remarkable way to begin The Art of Peace and demonstrate that art truly has the ability to unite and the transcendent character necessary to foster peace.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of the IPJ or of the University of San Diego.

News in Review: Nepal – December 11, 2015

Nepal News in Review

This past week senior Nepali leaders spent time in India and London trying to resolve the border blockade and diplomatic tensions. While in London, Nepali Congress leader and lawmaker Udaya Sumsher Rana alleges that British officials told him it was inappropriate for senior Nepali leadership to show aggression towards India. Furthermore, Indian Minister of External Affairs told Nepali Deputy Prime Minister Kamal Thapa the only barrier to trade with Nepal is Nepal’s own political situation. The political situation in Nepal is creating a humanitarian crisis as residents, and particularly children, are going without basic needs due to India’s border blockade and Nepal’s internal strife. Bangladesh and China are both working towards agreements with Nepal to meet some of the growing needs, but estimates suggest that millions of children are at risk.

Border Blockade

Nepal’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs Kamal Thapa met Indian Minister for External Affairs Sushma Swaraj in New Delhi early last week to discuss India’s border blockade with Nepal. Swaraj assured the prime minister that there were no hindrances to supplies from the Indian side and Nepal only need normalize their political situation to get the supplies they need. Meanwhile, Nepali Congress leader and lawmaker Udaya Sumsher Rana met with British officials in London during the International Leaders Programme, where they discussed Nepal and India’s diplomatic tensions and the growing humanitarian crisis.

Pkharel, Nabin. “Uk officials blame nepal’s diplomatic failure for border blockade.” The Kathmandu Post. Novembe 30, 2015.

Thapa meets Swaraj, India retells Nepal to normalise political situation to ease supplies.The Himalayan Times. December 2, 2015.

Humanitarian Crisis

The humanitarian crisis in Nepal is worsening as winter nears. UNICEF has claimed the crisis is putting millions of children at risk due to shortages of food and vaccines. The Accountability Watch Committee, a human rights committee based in Nepal, made submissions last Monday to the UN Special Rapporteurs on “the negative impact of unilateral measures on the enjoyment of Human rights,” asking them to intervene and stop the blockade so Nepali citizens can continue enjoying their human rights.

AWC seeks UN Special Rapporteurs’ intervention in ‘India blockade against Nepal’.” The Himalayan Times. November 30, 2015.

Nepal shortages put millions of children at risk, says Unicef.” The Gulf Times. November 30, 2015.

China & Bangladesh to Aid Nepal

China and Nepal have reached a tentative agreement on the long-term importation of oil from China into Nepal. Also, Bangladesh Ambassador to Nepal Mashfee Binte Shams said his country would provide a transit facility for any petroleum products from third-party countries.

Bangladesh ready to provide ports to Nepal for fuel import: Ambassador Shams.” The Himalayan Times. November 30, 2015.

Khanal, Rajesh. “Nepal, China Reach ‘Tentative Pact.’The Kathmandu Post. December 1, 2015.

An Evening of Transformative Arts

By Robert Valiente-Neighbours

An Evening of Transformative Arts at the IPJ’s The Art of Peace: Creative Approaches in Conflict Transformation proved to be a night of revelations. Members of transcenDANCE and Street Poets Inc. shared their stories of transformation and modeled the courageous vulnerability necessary for that transformation, necessary for being peacebuilders.

transcenDANCE, which uses dance performance to empower youth towards social change, hit the stage first. Empathy became the shape and voice of their dance as they moved in response to candid questions. They modeled the literal struggle of taking on the position of the other. We, the audience, were placed as the recipients of their gift. Our desires to participate in the conversation had to be checked. It was their space and their movements to share and teach us.

In turn, Street Poets Inc. reflected the same unsettling vulnerability. Their words, songs, and stories of wounds wounded our own facades. As they proclaimed, our greatest wounds are seamless with our greatest strengths. Through their art, they held their vulnerability and transformed it. And it unsettles in just the right ways, the ways that draw us closer to them and each other.

As Taylor Code of Street Poets Inc. said, “Art made me human again.” And we are left searching for our own art or ways of turning our work into art to find our humanity. They all pulled back the curtain on this process and showed us how it could be done. This is not a gift to repay but to replicate over and over.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of the IPJ or of the University of San Diego.

News in Review: Kenya – December 4, 2015

Kenya News in Review

During the past week in Kenya, Pope Francis challenged Kenya’s religious and political leaders to fight corruption, create religious cooperation, and reduce the high levels of economic inequality. Kenya also lost its bid to have recanted witness testimony dropped in the case against William Ruto. Finally, in the face of Kenyan youth recruitment into organizations like ISIS and al Qaeda, Kenya urged the commonwealth countries to fight the splurge of radicalization in religion and youth.

Pope Francis Visits Nairobi

As has often been the case with Pope Francis, he spent his time in Nairobi challenging religious and political leaders to take greater strides towards fighting poverty and corruption, ending radicalization of youth for the purposes of terror, promoting religious cooperation and dialogue, and reducing economic inequality.

Sieff, Kevin. “Pope Francis Speaks to the Roots of Terror in Africa Visit.”  The Washington Post. November 26, 2015.

Bhatia, Aunindita. “Pope’s Visit Centers on Poor, Youth and Religious Differences.Blasting News. November 27, 2015.

 Bid for ICC Rule Alteration Fails

 Kenya continued its bid to have “recanted evidence” dropped in the case against Vice President William Ruto. The Kenya delegation sought to have the rule that allowed the use of such evidence amended during the recent Assembly of State Parties. The ASP passed a resolution late Thursday after removing two paragraphs regarding Kenya’s effort to have the rule changed. This was likely due to lack of support and the overwhelming concern by many delegations that the body would be seen as interfering with the independence of the ICC.

Oluoch, Fred. “Kenya’s Bid to Alter ICC Rule Flops at the Hague.All Africa. November 28, 2015.

 Ending Radicalization

 President Uhuru Kenyatta’s delegate to the 24th Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting reiterated the Pope’s sentiments calling for fellow Commonwealth States to help end the radicalization of religion and youth in.

Wanyama, Reuben. “Kenya Challenges Commonwealth States to Help End Radicalization.” Citizen TV. November 28, 2015.