Meditation Focus #48

Urgent Need of Humanitarian Aid and Spiritual Succour for the People of Afghanistan



Hello

What follows is the 48th Meditation Focus suggested for the two consecutive weeks beginning Sunday, September 30, 2001.

URGENT NEED OF HUMANITARIAN AID AND SPIRITUAL SUCCOUR FOR THE PEOPLE OF AFGHANISTAN

1. Summary
2. Meditation times
3. More information on this Meditation Focus
4. Peace Watch for the Middle East




1. SUMMARY

Following the attack on the World Trade Center and its resulting massive number of casualties, the United States has been mobilizing all its resources and mounting an international coalition to counter further threats of such devastating terrorist acts. Initial fears of potentially devastating military strikes against Afghanistan, which harbors the main organization presumed to be responsible for this attack on innocent civilians, have triggered a massive exodus of Afghans towards neighboring countries in the hope of escaping the fury of indiscriminate bombings as well as the numerous other problems afflicting the population of this devastated country. Although the possibility of a massive bombing campaign is now receding because of the unacceptable risk in the eye of the international community of causing so-called "collateral" civilian casualties and yet more suffering to the people of Afghanistan, there are now mounting concerns that this country is on the verge of a massive humanitarian catastrophe, with five million people, most of them women and children, displaced both internally and externally, and the civilian population at risk of starvation. Deplorable conditions brought on by twenty years of civil war, continuing human rights violations under the Taliban regime, and severe drought have only been exacerbated in recent weeks by the closure of all borders with Afghanistan's neighbors, the withdrawal of international relief agency staff, the seizure of food supplies by Taliban authorities and the shutting down of U.N. communication networks within Afghanistan, as well as large new movements of people in anticipation of possible U.S.-led military strikes.

To help alleviate this crisis, U.N. General Secretary Kofi Annan has launched an emergency appeal for more than half a billion dollars to help millions of Afghans who are fleeing starvation and the threat of war while, according to some news reports, the U.S. planes would also be dropping leaflets and food supplies for the Afghan people in addition to bombing military installations in Afghanistan. But to efficiently counter this extraordinary humanitarian catastrophe in the making, much more must be done immediately before winter sets in, thus making virtually impossible for emergency food supplies to reach the mountainous, remote regions of this rugged country where the lives of millions are also at great risk. A series of measures have been proposed by the Human Rights Watch organization (see below) which could go a long way towards providing humanitarian assistance to the Afghan population. A global effort to help them all is urgently needed and must be pursued with the same urgency as the attempt to bring the terrorists to justice.

Please dedicate your prayers and meditations, as guided by Spirit, in the coming two weeks to contribute in fostering a global awareness of the plight of our brothers and sisters in Afghanistan and the urgent need to provide them all with food and spiritual succour to help them through these most difficult times. As much as we all need to better understand the underlying causes of utterly unacceptable acts of terror, whether their instigators are individuals, groups or governments, and no matter what may justify such actions in the eyes of their perpetrators, humanity now has a clear choice between yet more violence leading to a future no one wants, and a profound change of hearts that could herald a new era of human solidarity, brotherhood and peace for all. Therefore our common resolve to provide humanitarian assistance for the people of Afghanistan, just as we have done for other previous human tragedies of such magnitude, is the litmus test of our innate goodness and spiritual unity in the face of adversity and the gateway to a new era of loving kindness, harmlessness and Peace on Earth, for the Highest Good of All.


This entire Meditation Focus is also available at http://www.aei.ca/~cep/MeditationFocus48.htm




2. MEDITATION TIMES

i) Global Meditation Day: Sunday at 16:00 Universal Time (GMT) or at noon local time. Suggested duration: 30 minutes. Please dedicate the last few minutes of your Sunday meditation to the healing of the Earth as a whole. See the Earth as healthy and vibrant with life, and experience the healing of all relations as we awaken globally to the sacredness of all Life and to our underlying unity with All That Is.

ii) Golden Moment of At-Onement: Daily, at the top of any hour, or whenever it better suits you.

These times below are currently corresponding to 16:00 Universal Time/GMT:

Honolulu 6:00 AM -- Anchorage * 8:00 AM -- Los Angeles * 9:00 AM -- Mexico City, San Salvador & Denver * 10:00 AM -- Houston * & Chicago * 11:00 AM -- Santo Domingo, La Paz, Caracas, New York *, Toronto *. Montreal *, Asuncion & Santiago 12:00 AM -- Halifax *, Rio de Janeiro & Montevideo 1:00 PM -- Reykjavik & Casablanca 4 PM -- Lagos, Algiers, London *, Dublin * & Lisbon * 5:00 PM -- Jerusalem, Johannesburg, Geneva *, Rome *, Berlin *, Paris * & Madrid * 6:00 PM -- Ankara *, Athens *, Helsinki * & Istanbul * & Nairobi 7:00 PM -- Baghdad *, Moscow * 8:00 PM -- Tehran * 8:30 PM -- Islamabad 9:00 PM -- Calcutta & New Delhi 9:30 PM -- Dhaka 10:00 PM -- Rangoon 10:30 PM -- Hanoi, Bangkok & Jakarta 11:00 PM -- Hong Kong, Perth, Beijing & Kuala Lumpur +12:00 PM -- Seoul & Tokyo +1:00 AM -- Brisbane, Canberra & Melbourne +2:00 AM -- Wellington +4:00 AM

+ means the place is one day ahead of Universal Time/Greenwich Mean Time. * means the place is observing daylight saving time (DST) at the moment.

You may also check at http://www.timeanddate.com/worldclock/full.html to find your current corresponding local time if a closeby city is not listed above.




3. MORE INFORMATION ON THIS MEDITATION FOCUS

This section is for those who wish to understand in more details the situation outlined in this Meditation Focus. For those who wish to read on, we would encourage you to view the following information from a positive perspective, and not allow the details to tinge the positive vision you wish to hold in meditation. Since what we focus on grows, the more positive our mindset, the more successful we will be in manifesting a vision of healing. We provide the details below because we recognize that the knowledge of what needs healing can assist us to structure our awareness to maximise our healing effect.

From: http://dailynews.yahoo.com/h/nm/20010928/ts/attack_military_report_dc_1.html

Reports: U.S. Preparing for Afghanistan Bombing (Friday September 28)

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States is preparing the groundwork to bomb military installations in Afghanistan, according to a television news report on Friday, which said U.S. planes would also drop leaflets and food for the Afghan people.

ABC News said on its ``World News Tonight'' broadcast that special forces already said to be on the ground in the landlocked central Asian nation were laying the groundwork for a campaign that would begin with the bombing of a number of strategic military installations of the ruling Taliban government, especially those related to air defense.

But because of the famine which has imperiled the lives of several million Afghans, U.S. planes will also drop food supplies, the report said. In addition there will be drops of leaflets designed to explain to the civilian population what is happening. Radio broadcasts from nearby outposts will also be used to try to inform the population, it added.

NBC News reported in its evening broadcast that any military action against Afghanistan would likely start with selective bombing of military targets to keep the Taliban government off-balance, followed by a campaign by ground forces to hunt down Saudi-born militant Osama bin Laden .

Washington has named bin Laden, who has been sheltered by Afghanistan for years, as the top suspect in the Sept. 11 attacks on New York and Washington that left nearly 6,500 dead or wounded.

U.S. officials have disclosed little about what tactics they would use in launching any attacks in Afghanistan. CNN and USA Today on Friday said small groups of elite U.S. special forces troops had been operating in the country in recent days, but Pentagon and other U.S. officials declined to comment on the reports.

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has made it clear special forces would play a role if and when military action comes about and U.S. military experts said they would be surprised if ''special operators'' had not already slipped in, perhaps to help guide precision strikes toward bin Laden and his lieutenants.

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http://news.independent.co.uk/world/middle_east/story.jsp?story=96470

Annan says world must unite to avert crisis among fleeing refugees

(28 September 2001)

Kofi Annan, the secretary general of the United Nations, launched an emergency appeal for more than half a billion dollars (£340m) yesterday to help millions of Afghans who are fleeing starvation and the threat of war.

"The already dire humanitarian situation in Afghanistan is reaching a crisis point after the events of the past two weeks," Mr Annan said. "The world is united against terrorists. Let it be equally united in protecting and assisting the innocent victims of emergencies and disasters."

Decades of war, three years of severe drought and several years of "oppressive rule by the Taliban regime" had left more than five million Afghans dependent on humainitarian relief, the secretary general said in New York.

On Wednesday, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) appealed in Geneva for $252m to help it to look after up to 1.5 million new refugees expected to flee to Pakistan and Iran.

The scale of the humanitarian disaster taking shape in Afghanistan has diminished expectations of an early American strike on the country in retaliation for its sheltering of Osama bin Laden, America's prime suspect for the World Trade Centre and Pentagon attacks of 11 September.

The plight of ordinary Afghans has worsened under the threat of the attack, driving hundreds of thousands of them out of the cities and putting millions more on the roads in search of safety. This makes any attack more difficult.

Pentagon planners are reported to be frustrated by the sparsity of targets, and could be deterred further by considering how it would look if the richest country in the world was seen to be indiscriminately bombarding one of the poorest at a moment of wrenching crisis.

Within the past fortnight, estimates of the number of Afghans who will need help have risen drastically. The number of people displaced within the country is now believed to have doubled to 2.2 million, while the UN, whose World Food Programme is unable to bring food stocks into most of Afghanistan, expects 7.5 million people out of a total population of 26 million to be unable to get through the harsh winter without assistance.

"Their grip on survival is slipping," said Stephanie Bunker of the UN Office of Humanitarian Assistance to Afghanistan.

Pakistan and Iran, which already have more than 3.5 million Afghan refugees in camps on their territory, have closed their borders to new arrivals, despite UN pleas that those fleeing are entitled to be treated as refugees. More than 20,000 people have been stranded for several days on the Pakistani border at Chaman, of whom about half are living in the open. The Pakistani authorities have said they might open the border if the situation becomes "untenable", and are co-operating with the UNHCR in preparatory work for 100 camps. None of them is expected to be ready for several more days yet. America has pledged enough food to supply a million refugees for a year, if they are allowed through.

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From: http://www.hrw.org/campaigns/afghanistan/refugees-facts.htm

Taken from the Human Rights Watch website

Safe Refuge for Afghan Refugees

The right of a refugee not to be returned to a country where his or her life or freedom is threatened is a fundamental principle of international customary law and is enshrined in the 1951 Refugee Convention, to which Iran, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and China are all parties.

CLIP

Human Rights Watch Recommendations

In order to safeguard the lives of Afghan civilians and refugees, Human Rights Watch makes the following urgent recommendations:

- All neighboring countries and countries in the region should reopen their borders to refugees from Afghanistan;

- As a matter of urgency, host and donor governments, and United Nations agencies should develop a coordinated strategy to effectively identify and separate militants and armed elements from civilian refugees. Separation should take place inside host countries at the border and involve an international monitoring presence;

- Camps, safe havens, or humanitarian zones within Afghanistan should not be established. Instead, all refugees should be permitted into neighboring states;

- Governments outside the region, particularly industrialized states, should explore emergency resettlement possibilities for Afghan refugees;

- Tougher immigration controls in countries outside the region, particularly industrialized states, should not infringe on the rights of all asylum seekers to access fair and efficient asylum determination procedures, nor should they result in arbitrary or indefinite detention, or the return of asylum seekers and refugees to countries where they face persecution;

- Donor governments should urgently provide international assistance to neighboring countries and countries in the region to cope with the potential outflow of refugees from Afghanistan; and

- Donor governments and international relief agencies should take all steps possible to ensure that adequate humanitarian assistance reaches all affected civilians inside Afghanistan, especially the internally displaced.

See also September 11 Attacks: Crimes Against Humanity: The Aftermath http://www.hrw.org/campaigns/september11/

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From: http://dailynews.yahoo.com/h/nm/20010928/wl/attack_afghan_aid_dc_4.html

WFP Sends Afghan Food Airlift, UNICEF Plans Convoy (Friday September 28)
PESHAWAR, Pakistan (Reuters) - The U.N. World Food Program (WFP) began an emergency food airlift on Friday in preparation for a massive effort to feed more than one million refugees fleeing an expected U.S. attack on Afghanistan. The operation started as some aid agencies warned they might have to use air drops if overland routes are blocked. CLIP

More details at http://www.wfp.org/newsroom/press_releases/2001/0925.htm

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From: http://dailynews.yahoo.com/h/ap/20010927/wl/attacks_refugee_aid_2.html

UN Needs More Money to Save Refugees (Thursday September 27)
UNITED NATIONS (AP) - The United Nation's chief appealed to all countries Thursday to start raising money, saying it will cost the world body more than a half-billion dollars to save the flood of refugees set in motion by fears of U.S. retaliatory attacks on Afghanistan.

CLIP

Other U.N. officials met Thursday in Berlin with government representatives from 14 Western donor countries and Russia as well as aid organizations in an emergency session called by Germany to rally the humanitarian response. U.N. Undersecretary-General Kenzo Oshima, who attended the meeting, warned of ``a humanitarian crisis of tremendous proportions is in the making.''

His call for donations was echoed on Thursday by British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who said military cooperation in the drive to punish terrorists must be matched by international humanitarian efforts. Greece said it would give $1 million toward the cause, and Foreign Minister George Papandreou said his country was willing to set up camps to receive some refugees.

CLIP

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From: http://argument.independent.co.uk/leading_articles/story.jsp?story=96659

Aid for Afghan refugees must be part of the West's campaign against terror
(29 September 2001)

The world has been slow to respond to the seriousness of the refugee crisis in and around Afghanistan for two reasons. One is the absence of television pictures. It was the footage of the Kosovo refugees gathered helplessly by the roadside on the Macedonian and Albanian borders that galvanised Nato countries into a successful campaign of humanitarian aid. Camps were built and hundreds of thousands of people were fed, watered and given medical treatment. The 1.5 million Afghans estimated to be newly on the move are, by contrast, invisible to the West. The borders are closed and most of the displaced people are still deep inside the country.

CLIP

As with the struggle against fundamentalist Islamic terrorism, the humanitarian effort to help the refugees is likely to be a long one. But, as Clare Short, the Secretary of State for International Development, said yesterday, it needs to be pursued with the same urgency as the attempt to bring the terrorists to justice.

CLIP

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From: http://dailynews.yahoo.com/h/ap/20010928/ts/attacks_un_8.html
U.N. Council OKs Terror Resolution

(AP Sep 28) UNITED NATIONS - The U.N. Security Council unanimously approved a U.S.-sponsored resolution Friday night demanding that all countries take sweeping measures to crack down on terrorism.

Responding to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the United States, the council set out a new set of requirements that every nation must meet to cut off funding and support for terrorist activities and improve the exchange of information about terrorist networks.

To ensure that all countries adopt the measures, the council created a Security Council committee to monitor their efforts.

While the resolution stops short of threatening sanctions against those countries that fail to abide by the anti-terrorism measures, it does express the council's determination ``to take all necessary steps to ensure the full implementation.''

CLIP
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From: http://www.hrw.org/press/2001/09/powell0925.htm

U.S. Should Oppose Allies' Misuse of "Anti-Terror"

The Bush Administration should signal its allies not to use the fight against terrorism as cover for their own domestic campaigns against political opponents, Human Rights Watch urged today in a letter (http://www.hrw.org/press/2001/09/uspowell0924.htm) to U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell.

CLIP

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See also:

Public Is Unyielding in War Against Terror - 9 in 10 Back Robust Military Response (Sep 28, 2001)
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A42864-2001Sep28.html

Afghanistan's History - Time Magazine (Sep 26, 2001)
http://www.time.com/time/2001/underthreat/afghan/

Central Asia: Overview of geography, forces - The Times (UK) (Sep 25, 2001)
http://www.thetimes.co.uk/picture/0,,2001330091,00.jpg
Circled by high terrain and nations struggling with their own Islamic unrest, Afghanistan is among the hardest places on earth to fight. Other worries: millions of land mines, a harsh climate and a population famous for resisting invasion.

U.S. Warns Americans They Are Still in Danger (Friday September 28)
http://dailynews.yahoo.com/h/nm/20010928/ts/attack_warning_dc_2.html

In-depth coverage about NYC, D.C. Attacks
http://dailynews.yahoo.com/fc/US/Terrorism/

In-depth coverage about U.S. Military
http://dailynews.yahoo.com/fc/US/US_Armed_Forces/

Full coverage on Afghanistan at
http://dailynews.yahoo.com/fc/World/Afghanistan/




4. Peace Watch for the Middle East

Here are some of the latest developments in the Middle East. Please also keep this situation in mind during your meditations in the coming two weeks to help ensure that peace prevail there as well.


From: http://news.bbc.co.uk/hi/english/world/middle_east/newsid_1568000/1568506.stm

Mid-East truce rocked by violence (Friday, 28 September, 2001)

Men aged below 40 were stopped from entering al-Aqsa mosque The first anniversary of the current Palestinian uprising, or intifada, against Israel occupation in the West Bank and Gaza Strip has been marked by rallies and bloodshed.

At least three Palestinians were killed by Israeli tank fire in the Rafah sector of southern Gaza Strip, Palestinian hospital sources said. Earlier, Israeli soldiers killed three Palestinians and wounded dozens of others as protesters took to the streets across the Palestinian terrorities.

The violence is further undermining an official ceasefire signed between the two sides, which Washington sees as an important part of its global campaign against terrorism. But in a separate development on Friday, Israeli and Palestinian security officials agreed measures to ease the conflict in the Palestinian territories.

The Israeli Defence Ministry said Israel had promised to open the Rafah border crossing between the Gaza Strip and Egypt on Sunday. Israeli officials, who met a Palestinian delegation at US-sponsored talks in Tel Aviv, also promised to restore free traffic movement in major Palestinian towns if the situation on the ground calmed down.

The Palestinians for their part agreed to "solidify the ceasefire" and to meet again next week.

Despite the truce, a Palestinian man and a 10-year-old Palestinian boy were shot dead in clashes with Israeli soldiers in the West Bank town of Hebron. A Palestinian youth was shot dead during rioting in Bethlehem.

CLIP

More than 600 Palestinians and 160 Israelis have died in the last 12 months of violence. A UN report estimated that the conflict had cost the Palestinian economy around $2bn. And the intifada has caused a shift in Palestinian politics, with surveys showing an increase in popularity of Islamist militant groups like Hamas and Islamic Jihad

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From: http://www.jpost.com/Editions/2001/09/28/News/News.35447.html

Terms of the agreement

By Herb Keinon

JERUSALEM (September 28) - When Foreign Minister Shimon Peres and Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat agreed on a step-by-step outline into the Tenet and Mitchell plans on Wednesday, they were agreeing to a plan that has been worked on in discussions between the sides over a number of weeks.

The plan is divided into six different stages. In the immediate stage, both sides express a commitment to a cease-fire and to implementation of the plan. This means a renewal of top-level security cooperation, the public denunciation of every act of terror, as well as the investigation of those involved in terror and those responsible for them.

The second stage is to take place over the next 96 hours, or by Sunday morning.

During this period, Israel is to take the following steps:

* Removal of a number of roadblocks in quiet areas

* Granting additional permits to Palestinian businessmen and merchants to enter Israel.

* Improving the ability to transfer merchandise at the Allenby Bridge.

* Further development of the construction of a power plant in Gaza

* Permits to import into the Palestinian territories non-security related governmental supplies.

During this period, the Palestinians are expected to take the following steps:

* The arrest of high-profile terrorists.

* Take over security responsibility in areas where Israel eases up on security restrictions.

The next period runs for a week, during which Israel will:

* Continue lifting closures in quiet areas

* Allow for Palestinian security personnel to move between different areas

* Move forward on water and sewage projects

* Advance tourism in areas where security easements apply

* Establish a central framework to advance joint projects

* Ease up on the transfer of agricultural merchandise

* Opening of the Rafiah crossing point

* Allow for family reunification

The Palestinians are to:

* Continue arresting terrorists

* Take action to close mortar and bomb-making factories and storehouses.

During the next period, of yet undetermined length, Israel will:

* Carry out a gradual redeployment in all areas, conditional on a calming of the security situation

* Allow Palestinian security outposts to return to where they were before the violence began

* Widening the fishing area off the Gaza coast

* Granting of visitors permits (a few hundred a month)

* Start transferring held up funds to the PA

The Palestinians are expected to:

* Complete the arrest of terrorists on a list provided by Israel

* Continue to dismantle the terror infrastructure

During the last stage, when both sides are to expected to create a calm security atmosphere that will assist dialogue, Israel will:

* Transfer the rest of the funds owed the PA

* Allow VIP permits

* Open the safe passage road

* Advance the development of long-term infrastructure projects, such as the Gaza-West Bank train and a desalination plant.

The Palestinians are to:

* Take systematic and consistent action against the terror infrastructure, including the total disarmament of the Hamas and Islamic Jihad

* Collect and transfer illegal weapons.

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Full Coverage on the Middle East Peace process at http://dailynews.yahoo.com/fc/World/Middle_East_Peace_Process/




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