Peace in Baghdad, a story of hope


PressInfo # 171

 February 22, 2003


Jan Oberg, TFF director


Put together five things:

1. Modern technology, in this case aeroplanes, e-mail, phones and Internet

2. The recognition that every human being can be a peace movement

3. The idea of dialogue between civilisations and religions

4. Art in general and music in particular

5. Add a dose of creativity, or vision

- and here is an example of what you get!


Connecting Tokyo and Baghdad & the UN and music & Buddhism and Islam

During TFF's mission to Iraq last month, Christian Harleman and I met the Resident Representative of the United Nations Development Program, UNDP, Mr. Francis Dubois. We knew from an earlier visit that UNDP - like so many UN organisations in Iraq - do a fantastic job for (and with) Iraqi citizens. We knew that this mission like so many other UN missions around the world is the real UN, not New York.

We quickly recognised that Francis is a man who takes a keen interest in Iraqi culture and arts. The moment you meet him, you know he is special - curious, humble, learned and very, very kind. (See UNDP in general and use the roll-down menu to see what UNDP does in Iraq. And here is an article from BBC about Baghdad's flourishing arts scene in which Francis is also mentioned).

A few days later I happened to be giving a guest lecture on Iraq at the Buddhist Soka University in Hachioji outside Tokyo.

There I met my old friend Olivier Urbain, a Belgian PhD in literature and a member of TRANSCEND, A Peace and Development Network headed by Johan Galtung, a TFF Associate. Olivier is deeply devoted to art and peace, to exploring how art in a broad sense can contribute to peace and how you can do online courses to promote it; he does this through the Transcend Art & Peace Network. (See also this).

Olivier Urbain asked whether I knew any Iraqi cultural workers. I said no, but gave him Francis' e-mail. The two of them began to communicate by e-mail and phone.

So, there were Swedish, Danish, French and Belgian people co-ordinating across the world, trying to link up Buddhism, Muslim, Catholic and Protestant people. But there is more to it.


A musician for peace, from the historically war-torn Okinawa, requests weapons from Iraq to create peace monuments!

The global anti-war protest day, February 15, was approaching. A friend of Olivier, Shoukichi Kina from Okinawa, wanted to contribute to peace in Iraq through his music.

Okinawa? Few know about it, but Okinawa was the centre of and "hosted" the largest land-sea-air battle in history. Over 200,000 were killed in the "Tennozan" during three spring months of 1945. The civilian tragedy on Okinawa exceeded that of Hiroshima. I had been there and felt that hardly anyone could bring a stronger message for peace than Mr. Kina from that island. So, we connected the history of war with contemporary war planning, the suffering of innocent victims on one continent with those on another. What a learning opportunity!

Here is Mr. Kina's website. And this is his basic message:


"The main mission of the NGO, "All Weapons into Musical Instrument" shall be to request weapons from the Iraqi Government as well as other countries and dismantle them to construct peace monuments.

The door of peace can be opened by the wisdom and courage of understanding and dialogue.

Judaism, Christianity and Islam is the main cause of the Mid-East problem. Ironically, they share the same ancestor - Abraham. Ur (Iraq) is the place where Abraham, the person after Canaan, was born. There should have been a hint of harmony there.

Celebration or war? What you vote shall be a test of our peace-making event.

All weapons into musical instruments!

All the military bases into flower gardens!

Blooming flowers in the hearts of all!"



At some point Francis Dubois wrote to me:

"Friday afternoon, while some musicians were rehearsing in my house, Mr Urbain called me from Tokyo! Our world has become a village: we should manage it as such, with respect for all!

Mr. Kina and his delegation visited the United Nations Office and took this opportunity to bring a letter to Mr. Kofi Annan, our Secretary General, on behalf of "All Weapons into the Musical Instruments. Peace-makers Network". The group was accompanied by the Director- General of the (Iraqi) Ministry of Culture and many journalists."

So, a message of peace was brought from Okinawa to Baghdad and further on to the UN in New York.


The concert in Baghdad

Then the program started in Baghdad, co-ordinated with all the marches around the world. Francis Dubois writes:

"In the evening, in the crowded Rasheed Theatre in the centre of Baghdad, Mr. Kina and his group delighted his audience with a spectacular concert for Peace in Iraq, in the region and in the world. The audience, from Ambassadors to teenagers, enjoyed it thoroughly.

May Peace prevail on earth and may all weapons be transformed into musical instruments!"

Do you understand what this meant for citizens of Baghdad? I myself had fond memories of the evening in early January when a couple from Sweden, he an Iraqi Swede and she a Swedish Swede, were dancing modern ballet and were met with roaring applause from an enthusiastic audience, all walks of life.

The Iraqis yearn for cultural experiences and international visitors who respect them, work with them and bring art and peace. In solidarity and humanity.


The Peace Ceremony in Baghdad, the City of Peace


A few days later, Francis wrote to me:

"On 16 February 2003, a peace ceremony was held in the garden of the United Nations Development Programme Office (UNDP) in Baghdad. There were participants and peace activists from the Iraq Peace Team and Christian Peacemaker Teams from USA, the Bridge to Baghdad group from Italy and other countries, joined by diplomats, UN agencies and NGOs' representatives, and children from the Baghdad International School, besides reporters from national and international media and press.

The ceremony started with excerpts, read by the UNDP Resident Representative, from the 8 February speech of Mr. Kofi Annan, the UN Secretary General, referring to the UN preamble and the determination to save the peoples of the world from the scourge of war.

American peace activist Ms Manna Jo Greene, from the Hudson Valley, New York, read an excerpt from a speech by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., preaching for non-violence and peace. Ms Greene was followed by a colleague who quoted Mahatma Gandhi's statement on anti violence and peace. Later Mrs. Kathy Kelly, founder of Voices in the Wilderness, sang together with Iraqi children a song for peace.

An eight -foot wooden Pillar of Peace was brought all the way from the Hudson River Valley, NY to be installed in Baghdad. The rectangular pillar had the banner 'May Peace Prevail on Earth' written on each side of it in English, Arabic, French and in Japanese. After a procession lead by two young Iraqi girls, it was settled in its base at the UNDP garden.

The Pillar of Peace was standing there in the nice green UNDP garden, while the small flags of all UN country members fluttered in the breeze under the bright sun of Baghdad, also called Dar Al-Salaam, meaning the city of peace."

So, here the action was connected further: Iraq, Japan/Okinawa and Sweden, with the US and Europe; the international community with Baghdad, the UN and representatives of governments with non-governmental organisations. Gandhi and Martin Luther King were connected with contemporary work in their spirit. Men and women, young and old came together - a nucleus of humanity.


Back in Lund

At about the same time we marched for peace in Lund, Sweden, where TFF is situated. Lund is a small university town of about 100,000 inhabitants. We were 3,500 marchers. It's exactly 30 years ago an equal number marched, against the war in Vietnam. But on Saturday the 15th of February, 2003, we marched before a war. The world has changed. The speed with which information travels and people can connect has made wars and war propaganda much more difficult.

After the march, 400 of the peace people of Lund gathered in the Town Hall where I had been asked to talk about the situation in Iraq and what we can all do to solve the conflict without war. I started out with the amazing story of how we at TFF had played a small role in connecting people around the world to meet that day in Baghdad and sending a message from there to the United Nations in New York. And that very same Peace Pillar stands in the garden of TFF. It felt like one spirit, peace nodes around the world lightening up, networking…

People are coming together for peace and democracy - against governments operating on outdated illusions about war and authoritarianism. It's a story of how each little peace movement, each of us, can link up with other peace movements: Francis, Olivier, Kina, Voices, Christians, ambassadors and teenagers and, of course, Iraqi citizens who proudly refuse to be deterred.

There is hope! Our energies must multiply now! Then we will win the battle for peace. We will appeal to and convert the hearts of the warlords; they are human beings too. And we will save Iraq's children and other innocent citizens from the holocaust a new war will create. So, yes...

May peace prevail on earth!

All weapons into musical instruments!

All the military bases into flower gardens!

Blooming flowers in the hearts of all!


© TFF 2003



Tell a friend about this article

Send to:


Message and your name


 You are welcome to reprint, copy, archive, quote or re-post this item, but please retain the source.


Would you - or a friend - like to receive TFF PressInfo by email?






Photo galleries

Nonviolence Forum

TFF News Navigator

Become a TFF Friend

TFF Online Bookstore

Reconciliation project

Make an online donation

Foundation update and more

TFF Peace Training Network

Make a donation via bank or postal giro

Menu below












The Transnational Foundation for Peace and Future Research
Vegagatan 25, S - 224 57 Lund, Sweden
Phone + 46 - 46 - 145909     Fax + 46 - 46 - 144512

© TFF 1997-2003