On the occasion of the 57th Session of the UN Commission on Human Rights, Buddhist monk Junsei Terasawa is holding a fast for peace in Chechnya.

Fast for Peace in Chechnya

Appeal of the Fast for Peace in Chechnya
Oral statement
Support from the Chechnya Committee
Second Week

Dear friends in peace,

Fast for Peace in Chechnya will begin in Geneva from 2nd of April, Monday, and continue throughout the 57th Session of the UN Commission on Human Rights. With prayer in fast, an interfaith group, initiated by buddhist monks of Order Nipponzan Myohoji, calls for
- a peace process by the immediate start of dialogue between warring parties,
- a visit to Chechnya by an international interreligious peace mission,
- the urgent need for reducing of suffering of inner displaced population by immediate humanitarian aid.

Your support will be most appreciated in order to make this action effective. If you or your organisation can endorse this action or to send a letter of support and solidarity, we will publish them during our action, keeping you informed on farther development.

You can also support the initiative by disseminating this appeal through your network. We also welcome your any creative ideas or cooperation to bring peace in Chechnya.

With respect and appreciation,

Rev. Terasawa Junsei, initiator of the Fast for Peace in Chechnya.
E-mail : myohoji@hotmail.com
c/o Mandat International :
tel (+41 22) 959 88 55
fax (+41 22) 959 88 51

Geneva 2001

On the occasion of the 57th session of the UN Human Rights Commission, an interfaith group will fast from 2nd of April onward, and pray every day, from 9 am to 5pm at the broken chair in front of the Palais des Nations or at the Japanese Peace Bell, just up the hill from the Place des Nations.
The fast aims to achieve:
1. The immediate start of a sustained dialogue for a political solution to the Chechen conflict ;
2. The sending of international inter-religious peace missions into Chechnya ;
3. Immediate humanitarian aid for the displaced people inside Chechnya.

Twice in the last 10 years of post-Soviet Russia, Chechnya has been turned into a killing field, and has become a lawless 'black hole' of rampage and revenge. Today's tragedy is not only for Chechen people, who are on the brink of annihilation as a nation, but also for the new-born democracy in Russia, and the prospects for a peaceful transition to a new post-Cold War world.

As the new millennium begins, Chechnya continues to burn and bleed with disturbing signs of a possible clash of civilisations. Left in chaos, after the sudden demise of the Soviet Union, the newly-independent states have been struggling with the extremely difficult task of self-transformation and nation-building. However, western nations have responded to this extraordinarily complicated process without any clear policy, vision or insight. The Chechen war is the most catastrophic feature of the negative cycles of the last 10 years of post-Cold War transition. The international community, despite all its available mechanisms, has done nothing to stop the repeated massacres, continued genocide and gruesome war crimes committed throughout the Chechen wars. So far no political assistance has been given from any part of the world to overcome this deadly stalemate, and to help open a meaningful peace process. !
If the names Auschwitz and Hiroshima are reminders of the war crimes of the 20th century, today's Grozny and Chechnya will be the new century's shameful monuments to our collective guilt and indifference.

Through this fast we hope to provide a stimulus for some small but concrete steps forward, bringing changes in attitudes both between the warring parties, and in the world at large, which may contribute to finding a way out of the stalemate. This fast is an act of prayer, recognising our limited capacity but believing in the spiritual strength inherited by everyone. We pray that this strength will bring change. We appeal to everyone to act to open the path for peace in Chechnya.

Initiator: Rev. Junsei Terasawa, Buddhist monk.
Contact: myohoji@hotmail.com

Possible concrete actions:
1. Endorse or send a letter of support and solidarity.
2. Join the fast.
3. Write to your government to work for the 3 goals outlined above.
4. Write to President Putin, directly or via your nearest Russian Embassy, to accept the goals of the fast.
5. Urge the United Nations and other international bodies to support these goals.
6. Ask MPs to debate this issue in their parliament, and ask any organisation you belong to work for the realisation of these goals.
7. Raise your voice in the media on this issue.
8. Find out more about the situation in Chechnya. Go to:
Human Rights Watch www.hrw.org
Amnesty International www.amnesty.org
International Peace Bureau (see conflicts section) www.ipb.org
For timelines of key events in Chechnya, with links: http://www.infoplease.com/spot/chechnyatime1.html

Oral statement at the 57th Session of the UN Commission on Human Rights

Agenda Item 9, on the situation in Chechnya
Ven. Junsei Terasawa
March 2001

My name is Junsei Terasawa, a Buddhist monk from Japan. I represent the International Peace Bureau.

As we enter the 3rd Millennium, we witness, with great shock and pain, the destruction of the historical standing Buddha statues of Bamian and many other wonderful masterpieces of Gandhara art. One cannot but lament the eternal loss of those priceless spiritual treasures, the powerful testimony to the golden epoch of the convergence of the different world civilizations in Central Asia in the early first millennium.

It is not enough simply to deplore this destruction as an action endorsed by a certain theology and carried out with utter disregard for the feelings of the world's Buddhist population. This tragedy also adds another strong warning of the grotesque consequences of the vicious spiral of war and violence and prolonged human suffering and despair. Who should be blamed? who is responsible in the light of history for today's misery and the suffering of the whole population of Afganistan ?

As a Buddhist monk, I joined the Peace Camp set up at the Iraq-Saudi border before the operation "Desert Storm". I walked on the International Peace March on the West Bank. I initiated the Mothers' March for Life and Compassion from Moscow to Grozny in the early stages of the first Chechen war. Though I am a Buddhist, I acted in those Muslim countries out of human solidarity with the victims of war and violence, particularly state violence. I acted to express my opposition to the war and violence and my faith and respect for the life and dignity of all persons.
Mr Chairman and delegates.
The right to peace and the right to life of every individual are the most fundamental human rights, to which no State is superior. However, all wars deny and continue to deny these most fundamental human rights.

Since the last session of the Commission, the situation in Chechnya has deteriorated. Grim evidence of successive war crimes continues to be uncovered from recently discovered mass graves. From my own experience and testimonies I heard in Chechnya, lawlesness and brutal negligence of international principles were present from the outset of the first Chechen war.

In the last 10 years of post-Soviet transition in Russia, Chechnya has twice become a killing-field of racial hatred and revenge. This war was politically designed as an act of national punishment, national persecution and ultimately, national extermination, with unrestricted violence against civilians. In the future history of this time, the ruins of Grozny and Chechnya may be remembered as a shameful monument to a 21st century Holocaust.

There have been many occasions and opportunities in which world leaders and the international community could have expressed themselves and acted differently to avert such a grave human tragedy in Chechnya. What is at risk today is not only the democratic future of Russia, but a peaceful post-Cold War world, as the tragic example of Afganistan so vividly demonstrates.

Criticism and condemnation of the conduct of States should be freely expresed by civil society. Such expressions can enhance democracy without reviving the Cold War. However, I have learned through my own experience that the Putin administration, in actions which recall the cold War period, is already reviving state repression and control against free expression of civil society. After I took the floor at the last Session of the Commission on Human Rights, within a month my visa application was denied. A recent letter from the Federal Security Service of Russia explains the reason of the denial as my "anti-Russian stance on Chechen issue".

Mr Chairman and delegates.
We all must be sincere in learning the painful lesson of the post- Cold War conflicts, that there can be no military solution, and that for the State to inflame human misery and suffering by military means only leads to further escalation and to a possible global clash among civilisations.

No-One was born a racist. Similarly, no one was born a terrorist or an extremist. Since there can be no military solution, a radical change in attitude is imperative if each side of the conflict is to come to terms with the root of the conflict. You must work with courage and compassion to overcome your fear and hatred, and embrace your shared destiny in peace and reconciliation.

A few of us, an inter-faith group, will begin a fast next week in front of the Palais de Nations, calling for immediate dialogue, a cease-fire, an international inter-faith peace mission to Chechenya, and urgent humanitarian support for the vulnerable population in Chechenya.

I urge every member of the Commission to set in motion, within this session, a meaningful peace process in Chechenya. Thank you Mr Chairman.

Message of Support from the Chechnya Committee

The Chechnya Committees of France support the fast of the interfaith group in front of the Palais des Nations. This initiative shows that different religions can join in a message of peace, a lesson that appears to be necessary in Chechnya today.

The Chechnya Committee of Paris also supports, as it has always done, the call for an immediate and effective dialogue aimed at a political solution to the Chechen conflict as well as the call for humanitarian aid for the displaced people of Chechnya. The democratically elected Chechen government has repeatedly made the same demands, and it is therefore up to the Russian State to accept them. Their fulfillment is absolutely necessary to end the war and massive human rights violations still going on in Chechnya today.

The Chechnya Committee of Strasbourg
The Chechnya Committee of Clermont-Ferrand
The Chechnya Committee of Paris

2 April 2001

Follow-up report on the Geneva Fast for Peace in Chechnya (9th April)

Dear friends in Peace.

The Fast for Peace in Chechnya has now entered its 2nd week. As you may have read in the previous message one week ago, it started in front of the Palais des Nations, Geneva, on Monday the 2nd of April, and will continue throughout the 57th Session of the UN Commission on Human Rights.

Ven. Junsei Terasawa continues his fast assisted by two monks from Russia and Ukraine. Members of the vigil were encouraged by visitors through the past week, including:
Ms. Madina Magomadova, President of the "Mothers of Chechnya";
Ms. Tatyana Znachkova, member of the Committee of Soldiers' Mothers of Russia;
Mr. Umar Khanbiev, Minister of Health of the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria;
Mr. Colin Archer, Secretary General of the International Peace Bureau;
Mr. Davis Arnott, Burma Peace Foundation
and many other individuals, who supported the action by their visits.

The Geneva Police authority only gave their permission to perform the fast and vigil in front of the Palais des Nations (next to the Broken Chair) every Monday. Therefore the prayer-vigil was continued during the rest of the week in the garden of the Palais des Nations next to the building of the UN Commission on Human Rights.

On 29t March, before entering the Fast, Ven. Terasawa delivered his oral statement to the Commission on Human Rights under Agenda Item 9: "Questions of the violation of Human Rights and fundamental freedoms in any part of the world: situation in the Republic of Chechnya".

Participants of the Fast for Peace in Chechnya are very much inspired by many letters of support from different organizations and individuals, among whom are:
Canadian Islamic Congress;
"Mothers of Chechnya";
The American Committee for Peace in Chechnya;
The Chechnya Committee of Paris, Strasbourg, Clermont-Ferrand;
Boston Group Against Ethnic Cleansing;
Physicians for Human Rights;
Azzam Publication;
Charity organization "Civil Assistance", Russia;
Ekaterinburg Jeepsy's national-cultural autonomy, Russia;
Movement Against Violence, Russia;
Women's organization "Vera, Nadezhda, Lyubov", Russia;
Kaluga migrants association, Russia;
Ms. Elena Bonner;
Mr. Ross Wilcock;
Ms. Cora Mateo;
Dr. Emilio Asti;
Ms. Ekaterine Goginava;
Dr. Ben Weaver
and others. Members of the Fast group are deeply grateful to everyone for their support.

As the Fast began, positive changes in the political climate were generated by civil initiatives both in Russia and Chechnya:

The Russian All-national Committee "For ceasing war and establishing peace in the Chechen Republic", founded in the beginning of this year, made an appeal to President Putin and President Maskhadov, calling for an immediate cease-fire and political dialogue. The appeal was signed by prominent State Duma and Federal Council deputies, human right activists, writers and scientists.

Chechen refugees organized the first Refugee Conference in Nazran, Ingushetia and for the first time organized the Chechen Nation's Salvation Committee, calling for political dialogue and promoting a mass non-violent movement to end the Chechen war.

Recently the Chechen diaspora of Russia also organized a conference in Moscow and adopted a resolution calling for political dialogue between President Putin and President Maskhadov for a political solution of the Chechen conflict.

"Radio Liberty" reported that on Saturday 7th April the first mass rally took place in Grozny. The participants demanded the peaceful negotiations between President Putin and President Maskhadov to immediately end the war.

International politics, reflected at the 57th Session of the UN Commission on Human Rights, clearly shows that the international community has no political will to commit itself to working for a political solution to the conflict. Rhetorical criticism of Human Rights abuses in Chechnya by Western states was not accompanied by any concrete action to halt or reduce the ongoing suffering of the Chechen people on the ground. It is crucially important, therefore, that there should be concerted efforts by international civil society to support and encourage the peace initiatives by people in Russia and in Chechnya. Only the strength of people world-wide can bring real change to the situation.

During the first weeks of the Session, useful discussions took place with representatives of "Memorial" and the Chechen Nation's Salvation Committee who may jointly facilitate the reception of the international inter-religious peace mission to Chechnya.

Next week is crucial because the EU may table a draft resolution on the situation in Chechnya

if it fails to negotiate a consensus Chairman's statement with Russia.
Next week we will put out another update on our Geneva Fast for Peace in Chechnya

With respect and appreciation for your work for peace.

On behalf of the initiative group of the Fast,
Rev. Junsei Terasawa