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Thursday, January 31, 2013

A Season for Nonviolence: Honoring Gandhi, King and Payá through action

“There is an indefinable mysterious Power that pervades everything. I feel it though I do not see it. It is this unseen Power which makes itself felt and yet defies all proof, because it is unlike all that I perceive through my senses.” - Mohandas K. Gandhi

Mohandas Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr. and Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas
I've seen too much hate to want to hate, myself, and every time I see it, I say to myself, hate is too great a burden to bear. Somehow we must be able to stand up against our most bitter opponents and say: We shall match your capacity to inflict suffering by our capacity to endure suffering. We will meet your physical force with soul force. Do to us what you will and we will still love you...  Martin Luther King Jr., A Christmas Sermon for Peace on Dec 24, 1967 

The first victory we can claim is that our hearts are free of hatred. Hence we say to those who persecute us and who try to dominate us: ‘You are my brother. I do not hate you, but you are not going to dominate me by fear. I do not wish to impose my truth, nor do I wish you to impose yours on me. We are going to seek the truth together’. - Oswaldo Paya, December 17, 2002 

Arun Gandhi, Mohandas Gandhi's grandson, began the Season for Non-violence in 1998 at the United Nations observing the 64 days on the calendar between the January 30, 1948 assassination of Gandhi and the April 4, 1968 assassination of Martin Luther King Jr.

Fifteen years later it is still observed and open for all to take part. Participants are asked to take a pledge of nonviolence which involves respecting yourself and others, communicating honestly, listening, to engage in forgiveness, respecting nature, playing creatively, and to be courageous.

The Free Cuba Foundation, a student movement founded at Florida International University, observed the first and tenth Season for Non-Violence with essay contests, panel discussions and films on Gandhi, King and Jose Marti. Unfortunately, the untimely death of Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas, on July 22, 2012 lifted him into the pantheon of martyred advocates of nonviolence.

Three things you can do right now in solidarity with Oswaldo, Harold and the Christian Liberation Movement:

1. Sign the petition and let others know about it. (Its in English and Spanish)

2. Follow the Christian Liberation Movement and Rosa Maria Payá on twitter.

3. Generate your own blog entry about Oswaldo and Harold and send us your ideas for future nonviolent actions.

Over these 64 days take a moment each day to reflect on both  your power and the power of nonviolence and what you can do to make the world a better place. First, sign the pledge, print it out and keep it where you can see it each day as a reminder.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Prayers, tributes and justice for Harold

"Those who remove and crush freedom are the real slaves." - Harold Cepero Escalante

"We offered all the sacrifice of the Mass for you. Harold, your friends miss you, we honor you, hopefully we will follow your example" ... Rosa María Payá Acevedo

"Tribute from the MCL and friends for Harold Cepero Escalante. God be with you and your family." - Rosa María Payá Acevedo

"Dream until your dreams come true! Harold Cepero Anniversary 33. Young leader of MCL, martyr for the freedom of Cuba ."-Rosa María Payá Acevedo

"The fraudulent change that Oswaldo Paya and the Christian Liberation Movement (MCL) denounced has three key factors: the military-economic oligarchy, the Catholic hierarchy and some Cuban exile entrepreneurs. This denouncement made by Oswaldo was what triggered the final order to end his and Harold's lives." - Christian Liberation Movement, January 29, 2013

Monday, January 28, 2013

Still Relevant: José Martí on the 160th anniversary of his birth

"There is no forgiveness for acts of hatred. Daggers thrust in the name of liberty are thrust into liberty's heart." - José Martí 

 "One revolution is still necessary: the one that will not end with the rule of its leader. It will be the revolution against revolutions, the uprising of all peaceable individuals, who will become soldiers for once so that neither they nor anyone else will ever have to be a soldier again." - José Martí

José Martí

José Martí Cuban statesman, poet, and journalist was born one hundred and sixty years ago today in Cuba. His ideas remain as relevant today in the struggle for a free Cuba as ever. The following are two reflections from past presidents of the Free Cuba Foundation on the words of José Martí.


 "It is terrible to speak of you, Liberty, for one who lives without you. A wild best does not bend its knee before its tamer with greater fury. One discovers the depths of hell, and from there looks up at freemen with their sun-like arrogance. One bites the air, like a hyena biting the bars of its cage. One's spirit writhes inside the body, like a man who has been poisoned. The wretch who lives without freedom feels like dressing in the mud from the streets Those who have you, o Liberty, do not know. you. Those who do not have you should not speak of you, but win you." - José Martí

 "There are men who live contented through they live without decorum. Others suffer as if in agony when they see around them people living without decorum. There must be a certain amount of decorum in the world, just as there must be a certain amount of light. When there are many men without decorum, there are always others who themselves possess the decorum of many men. These are the ones who rebel with terrible strength against those who rob nations of their liberty, which is to rob men of their decorum. Embodied in those men are thousands of men, a whole people, human dignity." - José Martí

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Season for Nonviolence: Honoring figures of nonviolence in Cuba

"If what we do for Cuba, we do not do for love, better not do it." - Bishop Agustin Roman

"Forty Ladies in White marched through the Fifth avenue promenade in Miramar, Havana and dedicated the march to Jose Marti and Mohandas Gandhi." - Angel Moya, January 27, 2013

Both in 1998 and 2008 the Free Cuba Foundation organized gatherings and activities to reflect on the shared values and ideals of Mohandas Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., and Jose Marti. At first blush it appears that Marti would be the odd man out who died in battle on horseback in the 19th century fighting for Cuban independence, but then we read his words and the life that he lived and realize that he rejected hatred and saw violence as a last resort not to be entered into lightly.

An essay published in Spanish in the El Nuevo Herald by a La Salle student outlined the lives of the three men. It is in José Martí's writings that the reader finds a man who loved freedom, rejected hatred -even of one's enemy- and only embraced violent conflict as a last resort. One wonders if instead of riding into battle on horseback if he would've been the trailblazer of nonviolent resistance. What would have Cuba's political culture been like if as in the case of Havel the Cuban poet and writer would've lived to have been president and guide the new republic in the first years of its existence?

Its been said that when a friend betrayed him to the police José Martí sent him the following poem:

Cultivo una rosa blanca
En julio como en enero,
Para el amigo sincero
Que me da su mano franca.

Y para el cruel que me arranca

El corazon con que vivo,

Cardo ni ortiga cultivo,

Cultivo una rosa blanca.  

It translates to English as follows:

I cultivate a white rose 
In July as in January 
For the sincere friend 
Who gives me his hand frankly. 

And for the cruel person who tears out 
The heart with which I live, 
I cultivate neither nettles nor thorns: 

I cultivate a white rose.

The Season for Non-Violence spans the 64 days on the calendar between the martyrdom of Mohandas Gandhi on January 30, 1948 and Martin Luther King Jr.'s on April 4, 1968. For Cubans this period of time is also particularly impacting because one day earlier, January 29 marks the birth of Harold Cepero and in late February the anniversary of the birth of Oswaldo Paya,  the deaths of Orlando Zapata Tamayo and four members of Brothers to the Rescue. All of these men are nonviolent martyrs who struggled for freedom with love and without hatred. Let us join in honoring them over these next 64 days.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Oswaldo and Harold: Six months later...

 "I have been told that I am going to be killed before the regime is over but I am not going to run away."- Oswaldo Payá, August 4, 2006
Rosa Maria Payá Acevedo tweeted this photo of her dad, Oswaldo Payá with Harold Cepero today with the text below
"Today, six months since the deaths of my father and Harold Cepero, remains the certainty of two full lives, free, dedicated to love." - Rosa Maria Payá Acevedo, over twitter, on January 22, 2013

The Christian Liberation Movement posted the above embedded video playlist on twitter along with the text: "Remembering Oswaldo and Harold six months after they snatched them from us."

Six months following their untimely deaths the evidence mounts that their deaths were not the result of a tragic car accident but based on the regime's behavior to a government conspiracy.

Today is also a good moment to reflect on the importance of these two men and what their loss means to Cuba.

At the same time, people of good will need to agitate for justice and the Christian Liberation Movement has provided a mechanism to do just that. Sign an online petition demanding an independent investigation into the circumstances surrounding Oswaldo's and Harold's deaths. Their friends and families are asking for help.

Let others know about their legacy as nonviolent human right defenders and the need to have the circumstances of their deaths cleared up.

Dear members and prospective members of the Free Cuba Foundation over the next month a number of important anniversaries will present themselves: February 23, 2013 is the third anniversary of the death of Orlando Zapata Tamayo and February 24 will be the 17th anniversary of the Brothers to the Rescue shootdown. Now, tragically February 22 will mark the seven month anniversary of the deaths of Oswaldo and Harold.

In one week, it would have been Harold Cepero's 33rd birthday. He was born on January 29, 1980. We should rally around that date to celebrate his life and demand truth in the circumstances surrounding his death.

Please send us via e-mail or post in the comments section below ideas for activities to coincide with these three back to back dates. 

Three things you can do right now in solidarity with Oswaldo, Harold and the Christian Liberation Movement:

1. Sign the petition and let others know about it. (Its in English and Spanish)

2. Follow the Christian Liberation Movement and Rosa Maria Payá on twitter.

3. Generate your own blog entry about Oswaldo and Harold and send us your ideas for future actions.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Remembering Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas in Film

Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas 1952-2012
Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas spoke out for human rights and freedom inside of Cuba for decades challenging the Stalinist regime that has ruled over the country for 54 years. Over the course of that struggle Oswaldo's courageous stand was documented and recognized the world over.

Below are a few, of the many, highlights found in two documentaries: Dissident: Oswaldo Paya and The Varela Project and The Cuban Spring. The first was done by a U.S. based non-governmental organization (NGO) and the second by a Czech based NGO.

Although not directly titled, Oswaldo appeared extensively in the documentary: The Cuban Spring

Finally, Oswaldo had the opportunity to travel the world in 2002 when he recieved the European Union's Sakharov Prize and spoke at the London School of Economics. Its in Spanish without subtitles but its Oswaldo unfiltered expounding his views.

Oswaldo died under suspicious circumstances on July 22, 2012 with Harold Cepero and family members are demanding an international investigation and have an online petition underway.