Here we are on the threshold of a new year – 2014!
My hopes are high for an extraordinary year and with good reason. Who would have thought a year ago that 2013 would turn out to be a year where our nation and the world finally stood up to the evil that has claimed untold numbers of innocent lives in genocides and mass atrocities? Who would have thought that the proliferation of weapons that has fueled the evil of war lords, terrorists and genocidal dictators would finally be brought under control with the signing and ratification of an international arms trade treaty.
Of course, it wasn’t easy. Political pundits in Washington confidently predicted that ratification of the arms trade treaty negotiated at the United Nations by the U.S. Senate was “mission impossible”. After all, the National Rifle Association was against it. The NRA based their campaign of opposition using two political weapons – 1) Outrageously false claims that the treaty would be an assault on the rights of sportsmen and women in the United States and trample on the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution; and 2) The intimidation of politicians of every political stripe with the promise that they would face the wrath of their members come election time if they dared vote for ratification of the treaty.
Well, it turns out that members of the National Rifle Association are not the ONLY group of Americans who care deeply enough about an issue and are willing to ACT on their beliefs!
Hundreds of thousands of United to End Genocide members – and allied organizations from throughout the country – mobilized in support of the treaty and an end to the killing. They called Members of Congress in record numbers; sent letters and e-mails; wrote letters to the editor in papers across the country; and showed up at Congressional Town Hall meetings. Faith leaders provided congregants with information and encouragement to have their voices heard on what is clearly a moral issue requiring uncommon courage by those we elect to do the right thing. A wide range of civic groups and community organizations passed resolutions and endorsements of Senate ratification.
And, it turns out that the OTHER side of the story emerged from this outpouring of citizen engagement. The facts behind the case for ratification of the treaty overwhelmed the false claims on which opposition was based. Including:
- 1,500 people die in armed conflicts every day – or more than one person every minute;
- Over 26 million people throughout the world are forced from their homes and see their lives and livelihoods destroyed by armed conflict;
- Before the Arms Trade Treaty, there was virtually no regulation of the international trade in conventional arms allowing terrorist groups and war lords who commit crimes against humanity to have ready access to weapons;
- The treaty makes it possible to stop the flow of these weapons into the wrong hands, providing hope to the tens of millions around the world who stand in harm’s way.
We congratulate all of our members and allies for making this victory – and this extraordinary year – possible. You have not only helped to bring hope to citizens threatened with genocide and mass atrocities in volatile regions throughout the world, you have helped to transform politics in America. And, that makes even more progress possible in 2014 – progress that can help to create the first generation without genocide – a generation that will only know genocide from the pages of history books.
THANK YOU for all that you did to make 2013 a year to remember – a year that will be saving lives for many years and generations to come.
It is indeed a HAPPY NEW YEAR!
Ok, and now back to New Year’s 2013…
Is my New Year’s message for one year from now truly “mission impossible” as political pundits confidently predict? Perhaps. But, then again, perhaps not. Because when the power of people – committed to an idea and an ideal – organize and take action, NOTHING is impossible. It starts here and it starts with each and every one of us. As the late Bobby Kennedy told a group of students at the University of Cape Town in South Africa who were gripped in the stranglehold of Apartheid in 1966:
“It is from numberless diverse acts of courage and belief that human history is shaped. Each time a man stands up for an ideal or acts to improve the lot of others or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring those ripples build a current that can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.”
A generation without genocide IS possible. But it will take ALL of us to get there. That is why your engagement in United to End Genocide and this historic movement is so critical.
Let’s make 2013 a truly extraordinary year. And to do so, let’s not just make ripples as Bobby Kennedy admonished, let’s make waves!
Happy New Year!