by Jen Saffron
In 2011, photographer Lynn Johnson embarked on a trip to India, documenting for National Geographic’s March 2012 cover story. Her journey enabled her to follow the Christian Apostles, including St. Thomas in India, where she documented refugees – survivors of religious violence now settled in the community of Koraput in India’s Orissa State. She discovered what other news sources, such as the BBC, had already witnessed: religious violence.
Three years ago, the Christian village of Talagumandi was subject to a wave of violence plaguing this eastern, predominately rural area, with many killed and the entire village burned down and returned to farmland. The extremists demanded that the Christians convert back to Hinduism or risk death.
Those who survived fled to the forest and eventually wandered toward the village of Koraput, where they took up residence, and still live, as squatters in a collection of abandoned buildings. Extremists seek to regain social control over this impoverished class, keeping them out of schools, and passing laws to bar them from community funds, property ownership, government support, etc. Their only advocate in the area is Pastor Debendra Singh, an Indian who leads a small congregation in nearby Jeypore.
“Jennifer, I am mailing you $100 for that India thing,” my mother sighed through the phone, “and this is after Connie Peduzzi’s son asked me for money for the American Heart Association. Everyone wants money from me and it’s getting really old. I don’t know how to decide.”
“I know, I know, Mom.” I said, skirting the familiar Italian Catholic guilt trip. She did, however, have a point. How are we supposed to decide?
With close to one billion people going hungry and one in eight people lacking clean water, where is one person to start? It’s a personal choice: our call to action and its terms, costs, and benefits.
When Lynn Johnson returned from her trip in India, she recounted the life-changing conversation with one young man, Anil, who was tied to a pole and beaten for eight hours. After listening to his testimony, she made her choice to answer her call to action. Lynn invited me to come on her journey to help transform the situation for 500 refugees in Koraput. It’s a place to start, and I said yes.
We started talking with people, some we knew and some we didn’t, schooling ourselves in microloan programs for women, the history of the caste system in Orissa, and religious intolerance both East and West. We started G-Chatting and receiving updates from Pastor Singh. We set up a bank account to handle U.S. donations for Koraput infrastructural necessities – such as a well – to lay the foundation for sustainable living.
Yesterday we received a snapshot of a land deed being signed. The refugees bought their own land as a direct result of money raised at fundraisers held here in Pittsburgh.
As trained photographers, people working in the field to write and document other people’s plights and triumphs, we are trained to observe. We disappear into the background and watch, sometimes appearing with small notebooks, asking questions such as, “What is your name, how old are you, and where are you from?” We don’t get involved. In fact, we are trained how to assess sources and work from neutrality (or at least fairness).
When we return from the field to the “majority world,” we craft our observations and experiences into exhibitions, magazines, and installations designed to engage the consciousness of viewers, who are also of the majority world (you). This is an imperfect set-up as we all know. The oft-toted phrase “raising awareness” can offer a glimmer of shared experience, but then what? Whose awareness are we raising? To what end?
These are the questions we’re taking with us as we embark on a new journey to create a community project based in a model of mutuality. Coming together with Koraput, we seek to create a new community, inextricably linked and moving forward, together – a seed of peace.
This is a lofty goal, it’s been a challenge to us, personally and professionally, and we’re going for it.
Jen Saffron is a writer, educator and curator of photographs. Lynn Johnson is a professional photographer. Both reside in Pittsburgh, and will travel to Koraput on March 14. Read about their experiences and check out their photography here in the Council Blog. Find out more about their project, here.
On any given Saturday morning you can count on seeing members of the World Affairs Council braving the cold Pittsburgh winter and running 8+ miles, past PNC Park, across the 31st St. Bridge, up the Penn Avenue hill towards the Children’s Hospital of UPMC, or through the Strip District’s wafting aromas from the various restaurants and cafés opening up downtown.
Just a couple of fitness freaks? While many members of the World Affairs Council of Pittsburgh do like to keep in shape, these runners have a specific goal they are working toward. They are getting ready to run the Pittsburgh Marathon and Half Marathon on May 6th as part of the WorldRunners Team, the group of people who have committed themselves to raising money and awareness for the Council’s global education programs.
“I’m supporting the Council because I think that students in the U.S. now, more than ever, need to be educated on world events so that they will be prepared tocompete in the global marketplace when they graduate and go out to look for jobs,” says Ryan Hoffman, a student in the University of Pittsburgh’s Graduate School of Public and International Affairs, and a member of the WorldRunners Team.
This is the first year that the World Affairs Council has been an official charity for Dick’s Sporting Goods Pittsburgh Marathon’s Run for a Reason Charity Program, along with about 40 others in the Pittsburgh area. The Team is really excited to use the Marathon as a way to help bring the Council’s various award-winning education programs, including the Student Ambassador Program, International Student Summits, and the Global Travel Scholarship Program, to underserved schools throughout the Pittsburgh region. Go Team!
If you’d like to join or support the team, you can go to their FirstGiving page to get involved.
Happy New Year, everyone! 2012 is off to a snowy start here in Pittsburgh, and this seems like a perfect time to review what has happened over the past 360-some odd days.
As always, the global stage was full of tumult and change: 2011 saw the deaths of influential world figures (Warren Christopher, Muammar Gaddafi, Vaclav Havel, Steve Jobs, Kim Jong-Il, and Osama bin Laden, for example); uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa; the withdrawal of American forces from Iraq; devastating natural disasters (earthquakes in Japan and New Zealand, typhoon in the Philippines, floods in south-east Asia, and famine in the Horn of Africa); and economic crisis in Europe.
We’ve scoured the web to find some of the best of the “2011 in Review” resources, and compiled them below. Are there any we’ve missed? Let us know in the comments.
2011 Year in Review (Reuters): Photos and descriptions of the most important news stories of the year, including a dramatic 60-second multimedia video presentation of the key stories, and some of the top images from 2011.
Best Articles of 2011 (Foreign Policy Magazine): Although not necessarily highlighting the most important news stories of the year, here are the most-read articles from foreignpolicy.com in 2011.
Best International Relations Books of 2011 (Foreign Affairs): In every issue of Foreign Affairs, scholars review recent academic and nonfiction books. At the end of 2011, the reviewers were asked to select the best ones. Here you will find the best books in a number of categories, including: Western Europe; the Middle East; the Western Hemisphere; Eastern Europe; Economic, Social, and Environmental Subjects; Asia; Africa; the United States; Military, Scientific, and Technological Subjects; and Political and Legal Subjects.
Personal Favorites from 2011 (A Realist in an Ideological Age): Stephen M. Walt is a professor of international affairs at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government and writes a blog, A Realist in an Ideological Age, for Foreign Policy. In this post, he shares his favorite blog posts from the past year, all of which are worth a read.
Shots Seen ‘Round the World (Foreign Policy Magazine): Fifty of the best/most important photographs from 2011, as selected by Foreign Policy.
Top 5 Foreign Policy Books in 2011 (Foreign Policy Association): The FPA asked its staff, editors, writers and bloggers to select the best books about foreign policy. Here is what they came up with.
Top 5 International Documentaries of 2011 (Foreign Policy Association): The FPA asked its staff, editors, writers and bloggers to select the best international documentaries on issues related to U.S. foreign policy. Here is what they came up with.
Twitter’s 2011 Year in Review (Twitter): It is no secret that social media is playing an increasing role in current events. Here is a look at some of the key stories, hot topics, and important moments of 2011 — as seen on Twitter.
Your Top 10 Stories of 2011 (The Guardian): Links to the top ten news stories of the year, as selected by readers.
The Year in Foreign Policy (Foreign Policy Association): The FPA looks at several key foreign policy events that promise to shape the coming year, including the 2012 election.
Year in Review (Foreign Policy Blogs Network): The FPA’s blog network has a number of great, topic-specific “Year in Review” posts, all of which can be found here. Read about 2011 in Russia or Israel, or the year in Global Food Security or War Crimes (to name just a few).
For more information, check out the Pittsburgh Business Times’ article: Pittsburgh to Host 2012 One Young World Conference.
Pittsburgh looks forward to welcoming the world once again!
Well, it’s been a whirlwind first two days at the One Young World Summit here in Zurich. We’ve been hard at work, discussing some of the most pressing issues of the day with other young professionals from around the world. All told, there are approximately 1,200 delegates here, from 170 different countries, all sharing their ideas, their passions, the projects they are working on, and their visions of a better world.
It’s given the Pittsburgh delegates some food for thought. In our discussions outside of the plenary sessions, we are constantly discuss ways we can incorporate the lessons we are learning here into our everyday lives back home. I think this Summit has demonstrated just how small the world really is, how global, and how important it will be for Pittsburgh to look beyond the city limits in order to fully participate in a fast-changing world.
The biggest theme to come out of the Summit thus far has been the need for increased corporate social responsibility and sustainable business practices. Yesterday and today, we started with a series of sessions on Global Business where we heard from top executives from Shell, Hewlett Packard, the OPEC Fund for International Development (OFID), Barclays, and Siemens. Each of the speakers presented their various development projects from ending energy poverty to ensuring enhancing access to technology throughout the developing world. Some of the most interesting perspectives, though, were provided from the audience, many of whom come from developing countries who are themselves working to find solutions.
Today’s plenary sessions covered a range of topics with a host of exciting speakers. Jamie Oliver kicked off with a discussion of the challenges posed by both hunger and obesity. Roger Federer provided a taped introduction to the plenary session on the impact of sports programs on community engagement. The interfaith dialogue with Muslim, Catholic, Buddhist, and Jewish speakers resulted in an intense exchange of ideas on how we can end sectarian conflict.
For me, the most exciting plenary session of the day was the one on changing media featuring Wael Ghonim, the Egyptian internet activist that started the “We Are All Khaled” facebook page that helped spark the recent revolution in Egypt, and Oscar Morales, founder of One Million Voices against the Farc. This plenary offered a great discussion of how social media is changing the way we connect with one another, the importance of free speech for democracy, and the ways in which each of us can hold corporations and governments to account.
All in all, this has been a very rewarding, and very exhausting two days. In between plenary sessions, we’ve ridden across Lake Zurich, sang happy birthday to Archbishop Desmond Tutu with Bob Geldof, and run out of all our business cards. I’ll be headed back to the U.S. on Sunday, with a load of new contacts, new friends, and new ideas for how I can work to foster more global engagement in Pittsburgh.
-Caitlin, Program Officer at the World Affairs Council of Pittsburgh
The first day of the One Young World Summit was an epic whirlwind of plenary sessions, a lovely ride on Lake Zurich, and some heart-warming celebrations of our common humanity. If that sounds like a lot for one day, it was! But it was also incredibly rewarding.
Day one was the One Young World Business Day, and featured speakers from the OPEC Fund for International Development, Barclays Retail, Shell, Hewlett Packard, Siemens, and a “Boot Camp for Entrepreneurs” courtesy of Doug Richard of School for Startups which coaches new entrepreneurs on how to succeed in business. By and large, the themes of the sessions were the need for enhanced corporate responsibility, sustainable business practices, and the need for young talent in the world of business. Energy was an important topic, with many discussing how both the developed and developing world can capitalize on new technologies as not only a way to fight climate change, but to produce jobs and economic growth.
Another theme that came out of the mornings plenary sessions was the role that new technologies, especially social media, are having upon the world. It is clear, said Doug Richard, that we live in a smaller, more connected world.
After the morning’s sessions, the delegates, all 1,500 of us from 170 different countries, were treated to a long boat ride across Lake Zurich. What would be a trip to Switzerland without the quintessential lake trip? The boat trip, while crowded, provided an excellent time to meet some of the other delegates from around the world. Up on the upper deck, looking out across the blue water at hills dotted with quaint Swiss churches and houses, I chatted excitedly with people from Ghana, Morocco, Australia, Jordan, Canada, Turkey, France, India, and many, many more nations.
It’s so rewarding to be in such an international atmosphere, talking freely with young people from around the world. So far, I’ve learned a lot from my fellow delegates, and I think the feeling is universal. Everyone seems eager to meet one another, to reach out to people from other countries, in the hopes of forging lasting connections.
The topper of the night was the opening ceremony. Back at Kongresshaus, there was an emotional laying of the flags ceremony before the introduction of the Summit’s Councilors. There’s quite a diverse and impressive mix of Councilors this year including Bob Geldoff, Desmond Tutu, Jamie Oliver, Oscar Morales, Wael Ghonim, and the Crown Prince and Princess of Norway.
After a welcome from Zurich’s mayor, Corine Mauch, Crown Prince Haakon of Norway was the first to speak. He gave a poignant talk in which he drew on the recent terrorist attacks in Norway. The most important lesson of such attacks is what we learn about ourselves, he said. We can’t undo the terrible things that happened, but we can choose how it affects us.
Next to speak was the “unreasonable” Bob Geldof. As an activist and musician, Geldof’s speech was more of a call to arms. The potential for destruction has never been more palpable, he said. He implored the delegates to seek political answers to the world’s problems and to take action to make the world a better place. You are the thinking present, he said to the delegation, not the future, he said.
And then, of course, was Desmond Tutu. The effable Archbishop gave a charismatic welcome that had the delegates at one point on their feat waving their hands.
It was a poignant and emotional night for all. At the end of the evening, as we wound down from the very long day, a lot of the Pittsburgh delegates were left with some important questions of our own. We wondered how we could be more engaged in the world, how we can pressure our own politicians to become more globally aware, and the importance of Pittsburgh stepping into the truly global present.
-Caitlin, Program Officer at the World Affairs Council of Pittsburgh
Approximately 30 young professionals from Pittsburgh are representing the region at the One Young World Conference in Zurich, Switzerland this week (September 1-3). Pittsburgh is a finalist to host the Conference in 2012 along with Johannesburg, and the winner will be announced Saturday (fingers crossed). I have the great fortune of being a delegate, and I must say that Day 1 of the Conference was AMAZING!
I was one of several ambassadors chosen to join HKH Crown Prince Haakon and Crown Princess Mette-Marit of Norway for a special Global Dignity Day celebration at the Zurich International School. Prince Haakon co-founded the Dignity Project (www.globaldignity.org), whose mission is to “implement globally the universal right of every human being to lead a dignified life.” The Dignity Project is based on 5 principles:
- Every human being has a right to lead a dignified life.
- A dignified life means an opportunity to fulfill one’s potential, which is based on having a human level of health care, education, income and security.
- Dignity means having the freedom to make decisions on one’s life and to be met with respect for this right.
- Dignity should be the basic guiding principle for all actions.
- Ultimately, our own dignity is interdependent with the dignity of others.
Dignity Day events are carried out by volunteers all over the world who lead plenary and classroom sessions for students. This project is especially important in light of the recent terrorist attacks in Norway, and it was an honor to be chosen by Prince Haakon to participate in this amazing work.
After a special briefing with Prince Haakon we headed to the school, where each of us was assigned a group of students to lead through the exercise. I arrived in my classroom to find that I had a co-presenter, none other than Crown Princess Mette-Marit! I’m not sure how princesses are supposed to act, but she is one of the most down-to-earth people I’ve ever met, and our session was great!
As part of the exercise the students shared their own stories of global dignity with the group. The students told stories of how they’ve volunteered in developing countries, did a good deed, or simply made someone’s day brighter by just being a friend. It was wonderful to see that even at a young age these students understand the importance of respecting, tolerating, accepting, and caring for others, especially those in need. It’s good to know that even in a world plagued by hate, greed, and intolerance, there are still people who understand the importance of dignity in their own lives and the lives of others.
One Young World 2011 is off to a great start! I can’t wait to see what Day 2 has in store!
-Allyce, Program Officer at the World Affairs Council of Pittsburgh
One of our area high school students, Valerie, is currently studying Korean in Seoul, South Korea. We asked her to say a few words about her experience:
Hello! I would like to thank the World Affairs Council of Pittsburgh for awarding me with an apprenticeship that eventually yielded me the opportunity to study at Sogang University this Summer in Seoul, South Korea. So far, it has been an extremely rewarding experience and I haven’t experienced much culture shock yet in these past 2 weeks that I’ve been here because everything is so new and exciting. It is a completely different world studying abroad here because it is such a homogenous country.
Every day on the subway I’m stared at because many people here in Korea rarely see a waeguk-saram (or foreigner). Many people also automatically ask me why I’m here. They aren’t ever rude, just genuinely intrigued that a foreigner would come to study Korean! I find it sort of fun to think that I actually stand out amongst such a large amount of people! I have never been thrown into a situation where everyone around me was speaking a different language than I knew, but this full-immersion experience in school and with my host family has been extremely useful in my language-learning skills and life-experience.
I still have a ways to go and so much left to see, but so far, studying abroad has been the best experience of my life! I would like to encourage everyone to study abroad because honestly, despite how scary it can seem to drop everything and leave the country, it is a thrilling and life-changing opportunity that you won’t regret!
Related Breaking News: South Korea is struggling with record-setting amounts of rainfall this summer, causing a landslide that left more than 30 people dead. For more information on this, please click here.
Honorary consuls are private citizens who serve (without pay) as representatives of foreign governments in major cities without a formal Consulate General. Along with their countries’ official diplomatic efforts, they help to promote relations with the United States while also assisting citizens from the countries they represent.
Currently, we have 15 honorary consuls in Western Pennsylvania. The countries represented in Pittsburgh are: Austria, Belgium, Canada, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Georgia, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Poland, Slovak Republic, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom. The contact information for the honorary consuls can be found after the jump.
President of the Consular Association:
Mr. Jean-Pierre Collet
Former Consul of France
1328 Cathedral of Learning
Pittsburgh, PA 15260
TEL : (412) 362-8970
FAX : (412) 362-2301
EMAIL : email@example.com