Just A Second! Exploring Disarmament for Development

Students participating in Afri's 'Just a Second' schools project, holding up a banner to raise awareness about the Global Day of Action on Military Spending (GDAMS)
Students participating in Afri’s ‘Just a Second’ schools project, holding up a banner to raise awareness about the Global Day of Action on Military Spending (GDAMS)

Report by Rose Kelly, Afri Development Education Co-ordinator, 6th May 2014

‘Out beyond notions of wrong-doing and right- doing there is a field, I’ll meet you there.’ ~ Rumi

These were the favourite lines from poetry of young peace activist Aseel Asleh.

Aseel, who described himself as a ‘Palestininan citizen of Israel’, was a member of the international organisation Seeds of Peace .With his fellow members of that organisation, Aseel worked towards the manifestation of such a ‘field’ as Rumi describes. At 17 years of age, while attending a Seeds of Peace event, Aseel was shot and killed by Israeli security forces.

On the 29th April 2014, Afri facilitated a World Cafe event in St. Enda’s College Galway for over 70 young people all of whom are around the age Aseel would have been when he was shot and killed. The young people came from St. Enda’s, Salerno and Gort Community College. The session was the culmination of months of work involving a wide range of activities including art, story, drama, discussion, creative writing and imagining, as part of the Afri ‘Just a Second’ project.

The intention of the ‘Just a Second’ project was , starting with a focus on the amount of money spent on militarisation every second, to consider the real cost of war and militarisation; to imagine the alternatives; and to come up with ways in which we can work together to help bring about this alternative.

Symbols and story played a significant part in the unfolding of the project. At the event on the 29th April, we had several of these symbols in evidence eg peace cranes, dreamcatchers and St. Brigid’s Peace Crosses. Likewise, into the mix , we brought the stories of child/teenage victims of militarisation. Through their stories, we brought their presence into the room both as witnesses and inspiration. Six years old Celia Griffin who starved to death during An Gorta Mór, Ten years old Sadako Sasaki who died of Leukaemia, ( the A-bomb disease ) a decade after the bombing of Hiroshima and Aseel Asleh. We did our best to manifest Rumi’s field in the bright and spacious gym hall.

The three ‘questions’ up for discussion at the World Cafe were…

What are the real costs of militarsation?

How can we create an alternative Dream?

What am I/we going to do to make this happen?

What the young people came up with together was heart-warming and hopeful.

The event finished with the participants writing a message for peace on large sheets of paper which were then photographed as a contribution to the International Peace Bureau’s Global Day Against Military Spending.(GDAMS)

I began this piece with a reference to Rumi and to Aseel Asleh, not just because we included his story on the day but because, with a spine-tingling serendipity, as I opened my laptop to begin writing, waiting for me was a message from one of Aseel’s good friends, Jen Marlow. Today would have been Aseel’s Asleh’s 31st birthday.

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