APPRECIATE PEACE

In the book “Voices in Wartime” Sinan Antoon, an Iraqi poet writes, “…seeing death and suffering, you get to appreciate life and you get to appreciate these brief moments that we have with beauty, with love, with peace.  Unfortunately all of these things work in a Manichaean way.  You never really appreciate peace unless you see, or you try to know what war is all about.  I guess it’s made me a more tender person.  War makes you more human somehow.”

War is a vicious teacher and it is strange how few people really learn the lessons that war teaches.  It should make us all more human somehow.  It should open our eyes to the fact that war does not solve problems.  It may sweep them under the carpet for a short while, but they are still there ready to come back in and mess the house up.  War should teach us that the biggest and most powerful weapons do not prove what is right and what is wrong in the world.  Only a heart open to others and ready to dialogue with the “other” can help us find out what is right and what is wrong.

War does not build friendships.  It creates fear, anger and resentment.  Those emotions are not the foundation for a true friendship that can lead to a lasting justpeace. 

If we open our eyes and hearts in times of war, the death and suffering can help us appreciate beauty, love and peace.  And, as Sinan Antoon says, perhaps that is the only way we can really see the power, hope and necessity of a true justpeace.  I know what it is like to live in the midst of war.  It has left deep dents in my emotional armor.  But it has also made me much more deeply committed to working for justpeace for all people.  I may be considered a “bleeding heart liberal” by some, or an “impractical romantic” by others, but I firmly believe that God has given humanity the wisdom and intellect to find solutions to the most difficult of problems through means other than war if we just have the courage to take the risks God has called us to.  I believe war only makes things worse for everyone.  Living in the midst of war has taught me how beautiful peace truly is and how the brutality of war destroys the beauty and love of this world.  That is what drives me today and I do believe the day will come when war is set aside and humanity depends on the gifts God has given us that we can use to build communities of justice and peace.  It may not happen in my lifetime, but I want to make my contribution, small as it may be, to that process.

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I WAS OPPRESSED

I was oppressed
and you gave me a training program

I was oppressed
and you said you were depressed

I was oppressed
and you called a meeting

I was oppressed
and you planned without consulting me

I was oppressed
and you said I should be better organized

I was oppressed
and you wanted to teach me English

I was oppressed
and you treated me as a child

I was oppressed
and you said an economic boycott was to difficult

I was oppressed
and  you were afraid of your military leaders

I was oppressed
and you needed to buy a new car

I was oppressed
and you just did not care

I was oppressed
and….I am still oppressed 

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Hope in the Ashes

Like the fabled Phoenix bird, hope rises out of the ashes of suffering and despair.  Hope is never destroyed.  But sometimes it lies dormant, awaiting the right time to be born into life once again.

Look for hope among the ashes.  Look for hope among the oppressed.  Look for hope among the seemingly hopeless.  Look for hope where others see only desolation.

You will see hope in the eyes of an old woman who refuses to allow the brutality of war to destroy her dignity.  You will find hope when you see refugees building a new life for their children even in the midst of a squalid camp.

You will meet hope when you dare to look deeply into the eyes of the victims of this world’s preoccupation with war and profit.  What you see there will give you the energy you need to join with them in building a new world.  From them you will find hope.

But above all, do not destroy the hope which lies in the souls of the valiant survivors of this world’s errors.  No, do not even let your good deeds or good intentions unwittingly obstruct their movement towards jusitce, for that obstruction is what truly destroys hope. 

(from “Dialogue with a Dream”

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Agent Orange and the Children

The following reflection was made by a young Vietnamese woman by the name of Joy Le Nguyen following a visit to some of the areas badly affected by the recent war in Viet Nam.  She also visited children suffering from the effects of Agent Orange.  In this reflection she calls on us to let compassion flow from our hearts to these victims of a horrible war legacy.

                             PLEASE TELL ME WHAT CAN I DO TO HELP?
 
Hi, my name is Joy. Growing up in peace, everyday I see the sun rises, hear the birds sing, smell the fragrance of beautiful flowers in my garden. Life is beautiful, I think to myself. Going to school, I learn History in the very early age, it’s all about war, fighting after fighting. I wonder why people keep hurting each other? What are they fighting for? It takes me awhile to understand that people are fighting for a “thing” called Peace! But how can Peace come when they keep fighting, hurting, bleeding, and dying? Those questions keep rolling in my head one after the other. Sometimes I think to myself as a young girl, “Why I keep thinking about war when now is peace-time?!” So I innocently forget about it without knowing that I am ignoring the price that our Vietnamese people have to pay generation after generation in order for me to have today. Even though the war has long passed, the pain and suffering are like thousands of needles still stabbing in “alive” Vietnamese people day-by-day.

As a Vietnamese immigrant, I came to the U.S with my family with our bare hands for a new life. Life was struggled, yes! 99% “furniture” in our apartment is picked up from the garbage-can; table, T.V, mattresses…almost everything we have now is from “Garbage Store”. We work so hard to keep the roof on top of our head and food on the table. Sometimes, we just laugh at our difficulties and struggles by calling ourselves Cow and Buffalo because they are one of the most hard-working creatures. Though, I never once in my life ask why my life is so difficult like this! Because I’m so fortunate to come to this life in peace-time, are born normally with my two arms, and two legs. Being able to go to school, making new friends, and studying new, valuable things in life. Being able to walk, talk, laugh, and cry whenever I want. I am free to express my feeling, that’s the most fortunate thing that a person can have. And the hardship I’ve been through is not even a pin-point comparing to the beautiful but unfortunate Vietnamese people that I visited in my trip back to Vietnam!

Five years living far away from Vietnam, I had a chance to visit my home-country in June 2010. Normally as a tourist, we want to go to beautiful places like beaches to take pictures and enjoy life. But no, it’s not where I want to go and what I want to do. I went to the poorest villages in Vietnam where “city people” have little attention or heard about them. I went to Khe Sanh, A So, A luoi, Cam Lo… where the battles were terribly fought. I want to know how the villagers live and what they do for their living. I want to know how the children go to school, and what medical centers they have…. There are so many things I want to know and there they are— “The Children”— the Agent Orange Victims lying on the floor painfully and screaming like wild “animals”. They are unconscious. They bite themselves. At first, I felt a little scare but then that feeling quickly disappeared and replaced by the pain, heartbreak, and tears….Oh, how can I tell you how I felt, my friends? My body was shaken and my heart was teared apart! They looked at me and screamed louder and louder like saying: “Sister, please help me! Please help me!” At that moment, I just wanted to run to them and hold them tight! Regardless their unconsciousness, looking deeply in their eyes, I told them boldly but quietly in my heart: “I’m here for you! I hear your calling!” Seeing the parents even made me feel worse. It seems like they ran out of tears, pain, and suffering for their entire life look after these children_they have nothing left but a dead heart! They live with a dead heart! The Agent Orange/Dioxin does not kill people like other weapons do; people die right away after they get killed and feel no more pain. Though Agent Orange kills Vietnamese with “higher level”, it “allows these people to live with dead hearts, to fall in love, get married like everybody else and give birth to abnormal children from generation to generation.” It seems to me that the routine keeps continuing endlessly. What a legacy! “Evil” is not a worthy word to describe how Agent Orange has affected on the health, mind, soul, and spirit of Vietnamese people! Agent what? Orange? No! It’s not Orange color! It’s Red—the color of “blood”! Everything has a price! I’ve learned that in order to understand how others feel, we have to put ourselves in their shoes! So, in order for the U.S. to understand how painful our Vietnamese—both dead and alive—have gone through, US has to put their shoes in ours! What will they do when their citizens are affected from Agent Orange/Dioxin? What price do they ask for? How much is the price? Well, the price is Priceless, it’s never enough!

I know I make a lot of grammar and spelling mistakes in this writing but I think Love requires no correct grammar. It can be well-understood by people who read it from the heart!

Let’s together make Agent Orange History. We cannot change the past but we can do something for a better, brighter and happier future. Let’s do everything in our power to make it reality!

Many people have sacrificed their lives for us; yes, for all of us who are so fortunate to know what life is, what happiness is; to fall in love, to succeed and fly high in life. Let’s live a meaningful life! Let’s do something meaningful to give back! It doesn’t matter what we give—just give! It doesn’t matter who we are, where we come from or what we do—just give! Even when we have nothing left, we still can give! Anything that we give from our heart counts! So let’s give!

Sometimes it’s not big thing that matter, it’s little thing that matter most!
I know I am not alone because I have YOU, my friend, who are reading this calling-for-help voice of mine! Together we can achieve more. So let’s do it together! Let’s give a helping hand!

                                 When there is a will, there is a way!
                       With a willing heart, I believe nothing is impossible!

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Orange Day

 

  The Vietnam Association for Victims
of Agent Orange/Dioxin (vava)

 

Email: vava@vava.org.vn  Website: www.vava.org.vn 

 A Call to Action on Orange Day

(August 10th, 2010)

 

Five decades ago, on August 10, 1961, U.S. forces conducted the first spraying mission of so-called “herbicides” or “defoliants,” beginning the chemical warfare which lasted for almost 10 years (1961-71).  The use of Agent Orange brought about untold human death and suffering, as well as environmental destruction to South Vietnam and surrounding areas. Consequently, this date has become an annual commemoration – the “Day for Victims of Agent Orange in Vietnam” (or “Orange Day”) to remind all of us about a major disaster for humanity.

With about 80 million liters of toxic herbicides, mostly Agent Orange, containing high concentrations of dioxin, the most powerful toxin ever known, this “chemical warfare” was sprayed on  at least 4.8 million Vietnamese and poisoned three million of them. Out of this population, many have died or are dying, many who survive, especially children born with severe deformities, suffer a fate even worse than death.

A year has gone by from August 10, 2009 to August 10, 2010, the world has changed, human civilization has made a new step, the understanding of the toxicity of Agent Orange has reached a new depth, interactive relationships among countries and peoples have become more widespread, the aspiration of people to live together peacefully is more and more urgent and of course the struggle for justice of victims of Agent Orange the world over has intensified.
Yet, justice and truly meaningful fairness for Vietnamese victims still remain mainly an aspiration. Despite all efforts by the government and people of Vietnam, supported by the contributions of progressive humanity, the life of Vietnam’s Agent Orange victims is still extremely wretched.  Many of them face ever worsening severe illnesses or discover new diseases, many others can no longer work to earn their own living and support their families, and many children with birth defects are suffering and getting nearer to death.

On the occasion of August 10, 2010, as the organization representing the victims of Agent Orange in Vietnam, we hereby call upon:

All Agent Orange victims in all countries, especially U.S. veterans, all victims of acts of war and genocide to build closer solidarity with us in the struggle for their justice and justified interests.

All individuals, non-governmental organizations and governments all over the world to do their best to support the victims of Agent Orange in Vietnam, both materially and spiritually.

We all so call upon the U.S. Congress and government to realize that it is a good time for them and for all people to clearly recognize their responsibility for the consequences of the past chemical warfare, in order  that the peoples of both our nations strengthen friendship imbued in peace and development.

On behalf of 3 million victims of Agent Orange in Vietnam, we would like to send you our greetings and many thanks for whatever help you have extended in the recent years.

This pain is not ours alone, it hurts everyone! 

The Central Board of the Vietnam Association for Victims of Agent Orange/dioxin

Nguyen Van Rinh,

President

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Agent Orange

Agent Orange contains dioxin, one of the most lethal chemical poisons yet produced.  For about ten years during the war in Viet Nam, American planes sprayed this poison over a very large area of the south.   The map shows areas of South Viet Nam affected by this spray.  It killed all of the plants including thick jungle growth and food crops.

American soldiers who handled the poison had been told that it was not dangerous for people.  Unfortunately this turned out to be completly false.  The dioxin entered the bodies of both Vietnamese and Americans alike and has continued to create serious health issues to this day.  In Viet Nam, third generation children are being born with horrendous physical and mental problems.  Dioxin has not only damaged the genetic structure of those sprayed, but it also remains in the food chain, especially in the fat of fish and other game animals.  There seems to be little chance that this problem will go away soon.  American soldiers who were touched by the dioxin sprays have faced a very difficult challenge to get government support for their health care.  They have been somewhat successful.  But Vietnamese victims, and there are hundreds of thousands, have been unable to get any financial support from the US for their treatment and care.  Many of them live in abject poverty.  Third-generation children are born with such debilitating physical and mental problems that they can not care for themselves.  It is a desperate situation. 

On August 10, Viet Nam will hold a special day in memory of these victims.  People all over the world are invited to join hands to call for the US government and the companies that produced the poison, to help take responsibility for the care and treatment of these innocent victims.  For information, read this.

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The War Ends

The silence!
Can you hear the silence?
The guns, the planes, the bombs,
all rest and give peace back to the land.
The long nightmare is over.
Blood now flows strongly through young veins,
not over rough and restless soil.
The shout!
Did you hear that shout?
It is the shout of joy
raised from the throats of people at last free.
A new era has begun.

From “A Vietnamese Pilgrimage”

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