Our Girls Return to their Families


Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari applauds as he welcomes a group of Chibok girls, who were held captive for three years by the millitant group Boko Haram, in Abuja, Nigeria, May 7, 2017. Bayo Omoboriowo/Presidential Office/Handout via Reuters TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY ATTENTION EDITORS – FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NO RESALES. NO ARCHIVES. THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. – RTS15KIL

Freed Nigerian Schoolgirls Reunite With Their Families After 3 Years

4:53 PM ET

(ABUJA, Nigeria) — The 82 Nigerian schoolgirls recently released after more than three years in Boko Haram captivity reunited with their families Saturday as anxious parents looked for signs of how deeply the extremists had changed their daughters’ lives.

Brightly dressed families rushed through the crowd in the capital, Abuja, and embraced. One small group sank to their knees, with a woman raising her hands as if praising in church. Some danced. Others were in tears.

“I am really happy today, I am Christmas and new year, I am very happy and I thank God,” said mother Godiya Joshua, whose daughter Esther was among those freed.

This month’s release was the largest liberation of hostages since 276 Chibok schoolgirls were abducted from their boarding school in 2014. Five commanders from the extremist group were exchanged for the girls’ freedom, and Nigeria’s government has said it would make further exchanges to bring the 113 remaining schoolgirls home.

“Our joy is never complete until we see the complete 113, because one Chibok girl matters to all Chibok people,” said a parent of one of the freed schoolgirls, Yahi Bwata.

Many of the girls, most of them Christians, were forced to marry extremists and have had children. Some have been radicalized and have refused to return. It is feared that some have been used in suicide bombings.

The mass abduction in April 2014 brought international attention to Boko Haram’s deadly insurgency in northern Nigeria, and it launched a global Bring Back Our Girls campaign that drew the backing of some celebrities, including former U.S. first lady Michelle Obama. Thousands have been kidnapped during the extremists’ eight-year insurgency, and more than 20,000 have been killed.

The release of the 82 schoolgirls this month came after an initial group of 21 girls was released in October. Nigeria’s government has acknowledged negotiating with Boko Haram for their release, with mediation help from the Swiss government and the International Committee of the Red Cross.

The two groups of freed schoolgirls reunited earlier Saturday, Nigeria’s Channels TV reported, showing the young women laughing and embracing.

Since the latest release, many families in the remote Chibok community had been waiting for word on whether their daughters were among them. A government list of names circulated, and parents were asked to confirm the freed girls’ identities through photos.

Both groups of freed girls have been in government care in the capital as part of a nine-month reintegration program that President Muhammadu Buhari has said he will oversee personally. But human rights groups have criticized the government for keeping the young women so long in the capital, far from their homes.

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Associated Press writer Bashir Adigun in Abuja, Nigeria contributed.

I thought we could all use some good news.

There are still girls missing, and this isn’t over yet.  For some of these girls, in many ways, it may never be totally over — any one who has survived abuse, or knows someone who did, will understand that — but they are home, and back where they belong.

My prayers got to them, their families and, especially, to the girls who are still missing, even the ones who have been brainwashed and have chosen to stay.  I pray for them perhaps most of all.

Please help me in keeping a spotlight shined on Boko Haram’s crimes, until all Our Girls are home.

Namaste,

Barbara

Obama’s Simple Decency


Obama’s act of simple decency

Scott Lemieux in The Week
Pete Souza, courtesy The White House Flickr
It was an act of simple decency. On Tuesday, President Barack Obama commuted the sentence of Chelsea Manning, who was serving a 35-year sentence for leaking a large trove of classified information. This was unquestionably the right thing to do, and helps redress a civil liberties record that is a relative weak spot in Obama’s legacy.

This is not to say that the decision to charge Manning was, in itself, indefensible. There is no question that Manning giving classified materials to WikiLeaks was illegal. Should she have been exempted from prosecution as a whistleblower? It’s not an absurd argument. Certainly, much of the information she released — such as video of an appalling helicopter attack on a crowd in Baghdad that killed two Reuters reporters whose cameras were misidentified as guns — was unquestionably in the public interest.

But one problem with that argument is how indiscriminate Manning was about the information she chose to release. As the political scientist Robert Farley of the University of Kentucky observes, it would be impossible for her to make crucial distinctions about what materials should be leaked because “she lacked sufficient expertise in the subject matter to tell the difference between material that was properly and improperly classified.” Information the state had a legitimate interest in keeping confidential was leaked alongside information that should have been made public.

Given these factors, it was unrealistic to expect Obama to pardon Manning, which would have absolved her of guilt. But there are two reasons — each of which would be sufficient in itself — why the case for commuting Manning’s sentence was not merely plausible, but compelling.

First, Manning’s sentence was grossly disproportionate. Prosecuting leakers is very rare, although Obama went after whistleblowers to an unprecedented extent. The seven people prosecuted for leaking information to the media by Obama constitute 70 percent of the people prosecuted for this crime in the history of the United States. And there is certainly no precedent for anything remotely resembling a 35-year sentence for leaking information to the media. Sentencing Manning to time served would have been towards the harsh end of what was potentially justified. Arbitrarily singling out Manning for an extraordinarily harsh punishment is exactly the kind of injustice the commutation power should be used to redress.

And, second, not only has Manning been in prison much longer than her offense merited, the conditions she was subjected to in prison were a vile abuse of human rights. She was held in solitary confinement for extended periods, treatment that amounts to torture in practice, even if it’s not defined as such in law. She remained in a man’s prison despite announcing her gender identity as a woman in 2013. She detailed the effects of this treatment in her letter to Obama: “I am living through a cycle of anxiety, anger, hopelessness, loss, and depression. I cannot focus. I cannot sleep. I attempted to take my own life.” She was actually punished for her suicide attempt with more time in solitary confinement, an act of astonishing cruelty.

The disproportionate length of the sentence given to Manning and the cruelty she was subjected to in prison make commuting her sentence a no-brainer.

This doesn’t mean that Obama’s opponents didn’t attack it. Republican Speaker of the House Paul Ryan called Obama’s commutation “outrageous,” asserting that “President Obama now leaves in place a dangerous precedent that those who compromise our national security won’t be held accountable for their crimes.” The idea that seven years of hard prison time in often deplorable conditions doesn’t constitute “accountability” reflects an appalling lack of human decency.

The harsh treatment given to Manning is particularly hard to justify given that most of the people responsible for the financial collapse of 2008 and all of the people responsible for the torture of prisoners under the Bush administration got away scot-free. While it’s too late for many of the worst villains of the first decade of the millennium to be held accountable, it’s important that other injustices be addressed.

Obama made the right call in commuting Manning’s sentence, and it’s a sobering reminder of a general commitment to decent values that Obama’s successor utterly rejects. Obama didn’t always do what the liberal wing of the Democratic Party would have liked, but he often still did what was right.

 

To Obama, from a conservative: Thank you for being a great role model

Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza
 Barack Obama is leaving the White House. As a conservative, I don’t think he’s been a good president. But I’ll readily admit he’s been a terrific role model.

As the orange id approaches the threshold of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue — God help us all — I find myself reflecting on this more and more. And even if Obama is a master image manipulator, as any successful politician must be, who cares? He projected the right image.

As the author J.D. Vance pointed out, Obama gives hope to those of us, like him, who come from broken homes and strive to build stable, loving ones for their children.

Michelle and Barack Obama clearly and obviously love each other and are tender towards each other. They find ways to humorously poke fun at each other. They visibly work as partners leading the difficult endeavor that was Obama’s political career, presidential campaigns, and mandate as president.

Meanwhile, the Obamas have also been assiduous at protecting their daughters from the public eye and have refrained from using them as props. Famously, President Obama has drawn a red line around family dinner time and respects it. This is a red line he’s actually kept, and it rightly puts all of us dads to shame. If the freakin’ president of the United States is not too busy to spend dinner with his family, neither are you.

In an era where scripts for fulfilling gender roles get ever more twisted in knots, there are much worse scripts for a heterosexual male to follow than that of Obama, who is faithful, loves books as much as sports, and isn’t afraid to shed a tear in public.

Even Obama’s much-derided aloof, professorial demeanor is not a bad pointer. While it probably didn’t serve him well in politics and (especially) foreign affairs, an anecdotal survey of those around me suggests a lot of families could do with less drama.

In recent years, people have warned about the imperial presidency, by which they mean the ever-expanding powers of the executive branch. But there is another aspect of this phenomenon worth mentioning, which is the increasing expectation that the president not only act as king, but symbol-in-chief and national therapist. This is a trend we should all resist. Still, given that that so many eyes fall on the president, it’s worth acknowledging that it’s a part of the job that Obama did brilliantly, and one which we may find ourselves very much missing in the coming years.

Thanks, Obama.

bline

Interfaith Leaders Pledge to Support American Muslims


Interfaith Leaders Pledge To Stand By American Muslims, No Matter What

Christian, Jewish and Buddhist leaders attended prayers at a Washington, D.C., mosque to emphasize solidarity.

11/19/2016 04:41 pm ET

RON SACHS CNP
Catherine Orsborn, campaign director of Shoulder to Shoulder, speaks at The Nation’s Mosque in Washington, D.C.

Christian, Jewish and Buddhist leaders joined their Muslim neighbors for Friday prayers at a Washington, D.C., mosque, sending President-elect Donald Trump a strong statement of interfaith solidarity.

The religious leaders spoke out against Islamophobia and in support of American Muslims, who have been feeling fearful and uncertain about their future in Trump’s America. They also called on Trump to forcefully denounce anti-Muslim hate crimes, which the FBI reports shot up by 67 percent in 2015.

“We must promise that no one will ever make another American afraid ― not the bigots, not the alt-right, not the chief strategist of the next administration, not the president of the United States,” Rabbi Jack Moline, president of the advocacy group Interfaith Alliance, said at a press conference at the Masjid Muhammad. “No one will make the precious children of this community, of any community, afraid.”

After speaking with media, the interfaith leaders attended a prayer service at the mosque. Also known as the Nation’s Mosque, it’s about two miles away from Trump’s future address at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.

RON SACHS CNP
Imam Talib Shareef is president of Masjid Muhammad, also known as the Nation’s Mosque.

The interfaith rally was organized by Shoulder to Shoulder, a coalition of over 20 national religious groups that have pledged to do what they can to stomp out anti-Muslim sentiment. In a letter signed by representatives from Reconstructionist and Reform Jewish traditions, as well as the evangelical, Catholic, Baptist, Lutheran, Presbyterian and other Christian traditions, the leaders said they wanted to see Trump live up to his promise to be a president for all Americans.

“We, the religious institutions of this great nation, stand shoulder to shoulder with each other in support of our Muslim brothers and sisters,” the leaders said in the letter. “No one should fear for their own safety in this country because of how they dress, how they pray or how recently they arrived.”

In the days since Trump’s election, many American Muslims have watched with trepidation as the president-elect tapped members for his new administration who have professed negative and dangerous attitudes about Islam ― from potential attorney general Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), who has endorsed banning Muslims from the country, to Trump’s pick for national security adviser, Army Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, who has called Islam a “cancer.” Other Trump supporters have pointed to the country’s World War II-era imprisonment of Japanese Americans as a precedent for creating a Muslim registry.

Kristin Garrity Sekerci, program coordinator at the Bridge Initiative, Georgetown University’s Islamophobia research project, said that she’s been shocked to see “notorious propagators and exploiters of fear and misinformation” offered high-level appointments in Trump’s administration.

“We must be vigilant in the face of such vitriol and fear not only in our nation and its elected leaders, but within our own faith traditions as well,” Sekerci said at Friday’s rally. “This fear and misinformation cannot be normalized.”

 

 

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Despite the fact that we are concerned and worried about our country being led by a racist, bigoted, sexist man, we have to remain positive and hopeful that our message will reach the White House and that our actions show that our words are filled with the kindness, compassion and empathy that we demand of our leaders.

Actions often speak louder than words, but words like Love, Faith, Hope, Justice and Equality are powerful in and of themselves, and spur us all to act for others.

 

Namaste,

Barbara

 

Higher Ground


The light center we took a day trip to, a couple of weeks ago, is dedicated to prayer for personal and planetary transformation. It is in Black Mountain, NC. It is open 24/7 for prayer and meditation. It is owned and operated by the United Research, Inc.

 

The building is circular and there is a room which is set up with lights and comfortable chairs. A panel of light surrounding the room below ceiling height is programmed to shine one color at a time for four minutes, with one minute of darkness in between each color. The seven colors begin with red, continue with consecutive hues of the rainbow, and end with white light. There are so many people who have prayed and meditated here that there is a very strong energy of peace and of togetherness.

 

We can all pray for transcending peace where we are and along the lines of our spiritual path. Or you can simply talk to God as you know him/her/it. There are some things which can make our prayers more powerful.

 

They include: releasing all of your past, all negativity, fears, relationships and judgements to the light.

Understanding you are a light being, a child of the Universe.

Knowing that you can radiate light from your light center to everyone.

Knowing that you can radiate light from your light center to everything.

You are in a bubble of light and only Light can come to you and only Light can be there.

You can thank God for everyone in your life, for everything in your life and most importantly for yourself.

 

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Peace is not the product of terror or fear.

Peace is not the silence of cemeteries.

Peace is not the silence result of violent repression.

Peace is the generous, tranquil contribution of all to the good of all.

Peace is dynamism. Peace is generosity.

It is right and it is a duty.

—Oscar Romero

 

 

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 Ask for the hope we all need. Pray leaders will stop playing politics and lead this world to peace.


Ask for the hope we all need. Pray leaders will stop playing politics and lead this world to peace.

Teaching Peace


Le Petit Journal posted this video in the aftermath of the Paris attacks, and I wanted to share it with you.  It is important that we teach Peace to our children, and that we make sure they do not grow up afraid of others, because fear breeds hatred and violence.  There will always be bad men, but good men can overcome them with Peace, Love, Compassion, Kindness and Gentleness; and, yes, Flowers and Candles.

Namaste,
Barbara The Idealistic RebelParisPeaceSign

 

 

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What is Good


Hold on to What is Good

 

Hold on to what is good,

Even if it is a handful of earth.

Hold on to what you believe,

Even if it is a long way from here.

Hold on to life,

Even if it is easier letting go,

Hold on to the hand of your neighbor,

Even when we are apart.

—Native American Prayer

 

 

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 My garden in Avon. Photograph and copyright by Barbara Mattio                                                                                            2014

 

 

It is important to hang on to what is good in our lives. The good gets us through the bad, the stressful and the painful. Each day we are given a new portion of good for that day. Hold on to it because it is the love of God manifested for us to sustain us. Life isn’t always easy, but we are ever in the care and love of the Divine.

 

The Promise of This Day

 

Look to this day,

For it is life,

The very life of life.

In its brief course lie all

The realities and verities of existence,

The bliss of growth,

The splendor of action,

The glory of power—

For yesterday is but a dream,

And tomorrow is only a vision.

But today, well lived,

Makes every yesterday a dream of happiness

And every tomorrow a vision of hope.

Look well, therefore, to this day.

—Sanskrit Proverb

 

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Ladies and Gentlemen, May I Introduce


Each Sunday, I look and listen to these children and I have come to realize that we are being gifted by many who will lift our souls. I think it is a solid assumption that the children are being born with souls filled with math, physics, research, and space. There may even be a politician, a writer, a painter.  Don’t let what is happening in our world today, to make you fearful for the future. The voices and minds coming up behind us are strong and pure. Our job is to protect them from the dirtiness of this world. We must not let them be traumatized. Our hope is the future.

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