Monthly Archives: October 2011

The example of Åland: autonomy as a minority protector

By Susanne Eriksson, senior legal adviser, Åland Parliament, April 2007

Photo: Hannu Vallas
Passenger ships in Mariehamn

The autonomy enjoyed by the Åland archipelago off the southwestern tip of Finland is not only of interest to the local population.

Over the past few years, the islands have attracted growing international attention as an example of how to successfully secure the position of a minority.

The words “war” and “armed conflict” bring to mind classic warfare between nations, but in today’s world such clashes are becoming more of an exception than a rule. Accordingly, most of the approximately 40 armed conflicts currently being fought around the world are internal struggles in countries with some sort of minority problem. Such problems cannot be solved by creating new small independent states ad infinitum. Looking for alternatives to nation-building, countries are increasingly turning their eyes towards Åland, whose autonomy is perceived as a compromise between independence and total integration.

Over the past few decades, Åland has attracted growing international interest. A large number of politicians, reporters and researchers from all over the world have studied Åland’s autonomy as a potential solution to conflicts. The list of regions and minorities that have led people to take an interest in Åland is long: Israel-Palestine, Nagorno-Karabach, Northern Ireland, Georgia, Kosovo, Sri Lanka, Aceh in Indonesia, Kashmir between India and Pakistan, Zanzibar, and East Timor. A number of the parties have examined Åland’s model in an attempt to avert a crisis, while others are trying to find a solution to a conflict that has already broken out.

Making the constitution work

How, then, can Åland really serve as an example? Writing a functional constitution is hard, but it is not impossible. There are many experts on international and constitutional law who are capable of framing regulations that protect the rights of minorities, but the real problem is often to make them work in practice.

Go to the Åland Official Tourist Gateway's site
The colours and shape of the Åland official tourist logo are based on the Åland flag.

There is no doubt that Åland has a functioning system of autonomy based not only on a good constitution but also on workable reality. During numerous visits by representatives of various minorities, it has been interesting to recall how a minority that initially refused to accept any form of self-rule has by now, almost 85 years later, built up a well-functioning society with the help of such autonomy. It is a society that enjoys amiable relations both with its old and new motherland. What is more, Åland is a prime example of how autonomy can be extended over time. Every problem does not have to be solved at once as self-government can be expanded at an appropriate time.

There is full awareness in Åland that no single solution can ever be universally applied to other problems, which is why Ålanders would prefer to speak of Åland as an example rather than a model. They have no ambitions of imposing their solution on anybody, nor do they have the power to do so. In fact, the absence of any such power may be a blessing, just like the fact that nobody can suspect Åland of pursuing any self-interest in this matter.

Favourable preconditions help

The preconditions for autonomy in Åland have been and remain favourable. Aside from geographically well-defined boundaries and linguistic homogeneity, Åland has a sound economy that has been growing at a brisk pace. Moreover, Finland is a democratic country based on the rule of law and controversy over Åland’s affiliation has never assumed any violent forms – circumstances that do not exist in many of today’s conflict areas.

Photo left: Matti Tirri
Photo right: Peter Karlsson/visitaland.com
Click to enlarge the picture  Click to enlarge the picture
Left: Traditional Åland boathouses
Right: Åland Midsummer pole

That said, it was never self-evident that Åland would be a success story. After all, the odds are not the best for autonomy that is imposed on people against their will, as was the case with Åland. However, Åland’s example shows that a solution with which all the parties were initially dissatisfied can be successful in the long term.

Features of autonomy

Numerous studies on Åland’s political status have shown that the range of issues attracting interest were wide-ranging indeed. Here are some examples:

1. Autonomy secured by the Finnish Constitution. The Act on the Autonomy of Åland provides for a division of political power between Åland and the rest of Finland. Laws affecting Åland’s status are passed following the procedure prescribed for the enactment of constitutional legislation subject to adoption by the Parliament of Åland (lagtinget), meaning that the island’s autonomy enjoys very strong legal protection. In practice, this means that Åland can veto any changes to the division of power between Åland and the central government of Finland.

2. Origin of self-government in Åland. The fact that the Åland issue was settled by an international resolution arouses a lot of interest. The decision of the League of Nations was a compromise that took into consideration not only the two countries involved but also the interests of the local population and, above all, the need to protect their language.

3. International guarantees. As a result of the involvement of the League of Nations in the establishment of self-rule, Åland secured international guarantees for its language and local customs. Consequently, the preservation of the Swedish language is both a national and international matter.

4. Language regulations. Åland is the only region in Finland with only one official language, Swedish, whereas the rest of the country is bilingual. The regulations concerning the language used in administration and education attract a lot of interest.

5. Division of power. The fact that legislative powers are divided between the central government and Åland, and not delegated, is of interest. Many people have studied the question of what legislative powers can be assigned to self-governing bodies and what areas are of such a nature that they apply to the country as a whole.

6. Regional citizenship. Regional citizenship, which is a precondition for land ownership and transaction of business, is reserved exclusively for persons permanently residing in Åland. Additionally, regional citizenship is a prerequisite for eligibility to vote in local parliamentary elections.

7. Law and order. The fact that most members of the police force come from Åland has created a degree of interest in places where it is important that the police enjoy the confidence of the local population.

8. The Åland Delegation. The role of the Åland Delegation as an intermediary between the central government and Åland continues to attract interest.

9. Symbols. The flag of Åland is often of great interest to people, just like Åland’s passport, which has the words “Suomi”, “Finland”, and “Åland” printed on the cover in equal size.

10. Influence over international agreements. Even though foreign policy is in the domain of the central government, Åland is not without influence in this area. Under the Act on the Autonomy of Åland, the consent of the Parliament of Åland is required for international agreements affecting the inherent powers of the province; for instance, this provision meant that the Parliament had to take a position on whether to join the European Union along with Finland in 1995.

11. Participation in Nordic cooperation. Nordic cooperation is a noteworthy form of cross-border cooperation which entitles the Nordic self-governing regions to participate more or less on the same terms as sovereign states.

12. Pragmatism. The people of Åland have always been down-to-earth with little interest in theoretical speculation. For one thing, they have never bothered to discuss whether they should be perceived as a minority, a matter that has generated lively debate and disagreement elsewhere. Instead, the people of Åland have focused on tangible regulations that secure their interests.

Åland as an international example

Åland has had and will continue to have the resources to respond to the interest that its political status generates world-wide. Over the years, Ålanders have hosted a large number of seminars and received lecturers and visitors from all over the world wishing to learn more about the Åland example. This helpful openness seems certain to remain part of the character of the province.

Ålanders have realised that it is of great importance for the credibility of the Åland example that representatives of both the majority and minority of the local population have declared that they are pleased with the solution. The central government is also interested in providing information about the Åland solution in situations where it may be of relevance. To this end, the Åland Government and the State of Finland have jointly appointed a contact group under the auspices of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs.

ÅLAND
Click to enlarge the picture
Åland’s flag

The province of Åland, also known as the Åland Islands, has a special status in Finland as a demilitarized, self-governing region. The basis for this rests in the Treaty of Paris that ended the Crimean War in 1856. Their demilitarized, neutral status was confirmed and extended in subsequent treaties, in particular the multilateral Åland Convention concluded in 1921 on the initiative of the League of Nations.

Click for a larger image
Åland’s location

Click for a larger image
…and a closer view

The autonomous status of Åland is also based on a decision of the Council of the League of Nations in 1921 that resolved a dispute between Finland and Sweden over the islands and is intended to guarantee the preservation of the local language, which is Swedish, and the local culture. Åland has its own representative on the Nordic Council, as have the other Nordic self-governing areas, the Faroe Islands and Greenland.

The province of Åland consists of more tha 6 500 islands and skerries, of which 6 400 are larger the 3 000 m². The current population of 65 000 live on only 65 islands, and over 40% live in the only town, the capital, Mariehamn.

Nature is perhaps Åland’s greatest attraction. The climate is milder than elsewhere in Finland, the bird population is exceptionally varied and the flora very distinctive.

The special character of the islands has inspired painters, writers and musicians over the centuries, and today they attract many people interested in sailing, tradional boat-building, fishing, cycling, summer cultural events and historical ruins.

Source: Portraying Finland

 

Links

Åland
Åland Official Tourist Gateway

This Is Me—The Muslim Self-Portrait Project

The Institute for Cultural Diplomacy :

Todd Drake is a community-based artist out of North Carolina, whose latest project responds to the stereotyping of Muslims with a series of collaborative self-portraits that “share real, rather than seeming, reflections of self to a wider audience.” The project is called Esse Quam Videre (to be rather than to seem to be), and it is predicated on the idea that humans naturally fear what they do not know. Photographs, collages and self-drawn images are linked with short essays to give a brief yet sincere snapshot of identity for Muslims in North Carolina and in Manam, Bahrain.

The images are a perfect example of the arts as cultural diplomacy, thanks above all to Drake’s insistence on commonalities, on understanding and on what he calls the artistic “curation” of identity images. Perhaps more importantly, they’re spectacular. They can all be viewed on the project’s homepage here, and below, Todd Drake speaks to Alex Wells of the CD News team about the process and the vision behind his work. The interview has been edited for concision. What inspired you to do the Muslim Self-Portait Project? Was it political, cultural, artistic, or a mixture of them all? Four years ago, when I started this project, I was worried that the Muslim community in the United States would suffer the same fate as Japanese-Americans during WWII. I also suspected that what I was reading and seeing in the media did not represent the actual Muslim community in the United States. I have worked for many years with marginalized communities like refugees, the elderly, and so on. I did not, however, know a single Muslim and I did not know if they would embrace this project.

I moved forward based on the eagerness I had received from another marginalized community that I had worked extensively with in the US: the undocumented immigrant community from Mexico. I found the same enthusiasm among Muslim Americans. Both minorities have had their public perception shaped by the mainstream media and by those who would profit in some way from their negative depiction. I also think there is a tendency to fear what you do not know.

The Muslim community only makes up about 3 % of the US population so most Americans—like myself—do not have the opportunity to meet a Muslim. From an artistic stand point, I believe that art and artists serve a role in society to point out beauty and truth in places that we would otherwise overlook. This is what I am trying to do with all my art projects: helping others clearly see what is before them. The original audience for this project was US non-Muslims. It has, however, found an audience among Muslims who appreciate the deeper and more expansive view it is giving on their own community.

Now it has also found traction for bringing together Shia and Sunni sects, as it did in Bahrain. All good. How did the process work for each self-portrait you collected? Was it very collaborative—and did you take much direction? Were there any delights or difficulties that recurred with the folks you were working with? So, Muslims can participant in two ways with this project. They can create the whole image themselves and submit a self portrait for me to consider for inclusion. The other way is to work collaboratively with me to realize the content they wish to share. In both instances, I am looking for images that share something personal and specific, that are also universal and possibly anti-stereotype: images that relate a love of animals or basketball, a charitable act, an injustice—things that others (Muslim or non-Muslim) can relate to and things that build a bridge between themselves and the subject. If the person is not artistic, I offer my trained eye to shape the image’s form but again leave the content to them. I also give them full control of which particular image is selected for inclusion.

This approach has been successful most often. I have had a few participants nix what I though was a strong image. Another approach that I am finding successful is holding photographic workshops in which I teach the participants how to take better photographs, then challenge them to take their own self portrait. This was an overwhelming success in Bahrain, where I collected over 25 self portraits from 50 participants in the workshops. My ultimate goal is to have Muslims create their own images and help define who they see themselves as. So as the project develops, I am happy to have more and more of the images come directly from them. I want to, in a way, work myself out of job. Recurring delights include the enthusiasm for the project I have had from the Muslim community. Also, the repeated statements from those who have seen the work. They appreciate this broader, deeper window into the community. I have even had Muslims thank me for the renewed appreciation the project has given them for their own community as they had begun to be deeply affected by the image portrayed in the mass media. Recurring difficulties include getting that same mass media to pay attention to the project.

I have had great local coverage and some good international coverage but the US national media has stayed away from it. I have worked it from the inside even and watched as news services turn this project down but rush to Florida to cover a pastor burning a Koran, or the Ground Zero Mosque controversy. You are described as a community artist. How do you imagine yourself in this role? Do you offer your own insights to the communities you engage with, in your art, or do you act as a passive secretary (if that’s even possible)? And how does the photography medium fit into this? As a community artist I see myself a bridge for communication. I am interested in delivering a benign message of empathy and compassion—but today, in my culture, such messages are provocative. When working with any community, I try to offer a window for them to project themselves through, and I try to be as clear and unbiased a window as possible.

I believe that by projecting individual stories of self we get at the universal. I consider myself a curator or filter only to the degree that I try to get at the deeper truth of that person’s experience. My own life has also been deeply effected by this project and I have become an advocate for issues like immigration reform and stopping Islamophobia. In working with other cultures, I have stressed the importance of identifying common human needs as a beginning point: food, shelter, love, laughter, respect, trust, and so forth. When someone recognizes a shared need in another, there is a bridge built. I point out that violence is not a need. Often, this way of thinking is new and provocative. I have come to photography after working in painting. With the advent of Photoshop, photography has in fact become painting, in my opinion.

I enjoy working in the digital medium because of the access it gives me to sharing images with others. I also still value the experience of seeing the work in print and on the wall. Something about these images being life size makes them immediate and like a conversation with another person – you cannot really get that on a computer. Is it important that Muslims are collaborating in the process of producing their own image today? And does this kind of project also leave room for the airing of dirty laundry, as well as demonstrating intercultural similarities on a personal level? Collaboration is important only in the sense that we both have something to offer, that combined effort makes something greater than could have existed without our collaboration.

I feel like I give my artistic training, my curatorial ability, my interest in finding the humanity in others, my creativity, my ability as a teacher. They bring their authentic experiences, their desire to communicate, their creativity. This process does leave room for airing of dirty laundry. Many of the self portraits made in the US are protests against problems experienced from being Muslim in the US—loss of job opportunities, being pushed from college by their peers, etc. The participants from Bahrain could not speak as freely. Work after work of theirs spoke about the breaking of trust (a universal need.) I was proud that the US State Department did not censor these negative works from the exhibition in Bahrain. It was also an object lesson in free speech.

Hrh Prince Omar Kiram statement

 
Dear AllSalam and greetings. Please read the current policies of HM Sultan Fuad A. Kiram I, The Sultan of Sulu & The Sultan of Sabah. With our good wishes.

POLICIES OF HIS MAJESTY SULTAN MUHAMMAD FUAD A. KIRAM I
… (THE SULTAN OF SULU & SABAH)

Our Royal Hashemite Sultanate of Sulu & Sabah reached the crossroad of our aspirations and goals that will be our foundations for a strong and fulfilling Sultanate and society. We live in a modern world where advance technology and global information and market forces ruled our everyday life. But we can strike a balance wherein our arts and culture and our customs and traditions can be upheld while embracing modernity in our society. Thus, primarily, we are desirous of strengthening the backbones and fabric of our Sultanate through peace and order, harmony, stability, better social and economic developments and peace and prosperity for us all.

OUR POLICIES ARE:

1. To revive the spiritual well-being and to strengthen the arts and culture, customs and traditions of our people and make sure our Tausug language will flourish that made us unique as an Unconquered Kingdom for centuries.

2. To attain our goals of a new dimension for our people founded on peace, harmony, stability and prosperity for all.

3. To pursue the truth there is “only one crown and throne” of Sulu and Sabah, and that the deception of our people and the outside world by false sultans must end, as the good people of the Sultanate have rejected these impostors and self-appointed sultans, who have no right to claim the rank and title of Sultan since they did not and could not fulfil the Law of Succession of the Royal House of Sulu and Sabah that only the sons and male heirs of the Reigning Sultan must ascend the throne namely from the sons and heirs of our beloved father His Majesty Sultan Muhammad Esmail E. Kiram I (Sultan of Sulu & Sabah 1947 to 1973) who transferred the Sabah Sovereignty to the Philippines from the Royal Sultanate of Sulu on 12 September 1962.

4. To continue our move to press for the ending of the Malaysian illegal occupation of Sabah since 1963 to this day for the benefits of our Tausug and Filipino people and that we persist to realize the return of Sabah as a property owned by the people of the Royal Sultanate of Sulu. The Sabah sovereignty was transferred in 1962 by the Royal Sultanate of Sulu to the Republic of the Philippines but it is our understanding that if within 30 years of the Philippines owning the said Sabah sovereignty and the Philippines failed to recover Sabah from the illegal occupation of Malaysia that the said Sabah sovereignty will revert back to the Royal Sultanate of Sulu.

5. To achieve full autonomy status of the dominions of Sulu and Sabah under the aegis of the Philippines with a parliamentary monarchy with us and our heirs as the Reigning Sultan i.e. Zamboanga peninsula, Basilan, Sulu, Tawi-Tawi, Palawan with Sabah as one genuine autonomous region similar to Aland Suomi Autonomy of Finland that has its own parliament, own government administering services to our people, own police force, own law courts, own passport (with Sulu and Sabah on top and Philippines below), own flag, own symbol (coat of arms), and can accept foreign direct investment (FDI), as well as being a member of ASEAN and other regional groupings of nations similar to Aland Suomi as member of Nordic Council and a veto on international agreements of the Philippines that can impact on the welfare and well-being of Sulu and Sabah people and finally the Sulu and Sabah Genuine Autonomy is guaranteed by the Philippines and the United Nations (like Aland Suomi guaranteed by Finland Constitution and U.N.), and provided however that the genuine autonomy shall always enshrine the Royal Commission Against Corruption (RCAC) to guard against the “improper and corrupt conduct of any government personnel to assure that the taxes of our people are used solely for the intended services and well-being of our people of Sulu and Sabah.”

Aland Suomi autonomy information please click this link:
http://finland.fi/Public/default.aspx?contentid=160122&nodeid=37598&culture=en-US

6. Concomitantly with this Sulu and Sabah Genuine Autonomy Status policy is our full support for a Free and Independent Sabah to materialize in Sabah (wherein the people of Sabah will be the masters of their own destiny) with a parliamentary monarchy and the members of Sabah parliament elected by our people on a 4 year period, with us and our heirs as the Reigning Sultan, and with the RCAC also as one feature and a parliament that will administer laws and services to our Sabah people to determine how, when and where the over US$50 Billion a year gross domestic product (GDP) from oil and gas, agriculture, tourism and other industries will be spent to benefit our Sabah people. Since our own beloved father His Majesty Sultan Muhammad Esmail E. Kiram I (Sultan of Sulu & Sabah 1947 to 1973) transferred the Sabah Sovereignty to the Philippines from the Royal Sultanate of Sulu on 12 September 1962, then we as his last son and heir and the Reigning Sultan solely and singularly can determine the Sabah sovereignty and no one else for the benefits of our people.

7. Support for the government of H.E. President Benigno Simeon Aquino III, and sincere aspirations and embrace of the peace and order initiatives in Mindanao and Royal Sultanate of Sulu, with our fervent wish for the full implementation of the 1996 Peace Treaty between the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and the Philippines will be realized as the cornerstone of peace and prosperity in Mindanao.

8. Seek the approval of H.E. President Benigno Simeon Aquino III to declare the Royal Sultanate of Sulu or parts of the Royal Sultanate of Sulu, a Free Port Zone or Special Economic Zone, so that local and foreign manufacturers and fabricators can produce their goods and service in our Sultanate, that will create employment, lift living standards and establishment of infrastructures such as power plants, water supply systems, sewage treatment systems, telecommunications, roads, bridges and other infrastructures.

9. To work for peace and prosperity for our beloved Royal Sultanate of Sulu and Sabah, for Mindanao and the region and to uplift economic developments of our industry e.g. carrageenan or seaweed, copra, coffee, fishing, farming, abaca, agriculture, tourism, resort hotel developments, oil and gas exploration and production and others.

10. To enhance, foster and develop long lasting bond of friendship, respect, mutual cooperation and links with the Philippines, Indonesia, China, USA, EU, ASEAN, Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) and others to assist us reach our goals of a better society centered on peace, harmony, stability with social and economic developments leading to prosperity of our people.

11. To reject terrorism and other extremist fanaticism in our Royal Sultanate of Sulu and Sabah and in Mindanao that will destroy our way of life and others and to support and augment all works and efforts toward peace and economic prosperity in our beloved Royal Sultanate of Sulu and Sabah and the Philippines.

See More,  

finland.fi

The autonomy enjoyed by the Åland archipelago off the southwestern tip of Finland is not only of interest to the local population.

Bongbong: Revive RP’s Sabah claim

By Perseus Echeminada (The Philippine Star)

The son and namesake of the late President Ferdinand Marcos, who initiated the Philippine claim to Sabah 30 years ago, is set to file tomorrow a resolution reviving the Sabah claim and an alternative bill drawing a new archipelagic baseline in accordance with the 1987 Constitution and guidelines set by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

Ilocos Rep. Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. said he will also deliver a privilege speech to urge his colleagues to consider his bills to strengthen the hold
on all territorial water
resources, including active claims provided for under treaties and international covenants by properly and finally defining the archipelagic baseline of the Philippines.

“We must ensure that the definition of national territories provided for under the 1987 Constitution is such that it includes all those enumerated in the 1935 and 1973

Constitutions, including active claims lodged by the country in all forums local and overseas,” he said.

The deputy minority leader insisted that thePhilippinesnever abandoned its claim toSabahand that it must be considered in defining the Philippine baseline.

He said the baseline bill and the territorial claims are two separate issues that can be deliberated at same time.

Marcos said the mix-up of the baseline and the territorial claim of the country triggered the controversy surrounding the deliberation of the baseline bill.

He said drawing the archipelagic baseline in accordance with the UNCLOS and the 1987

Constitution would actually strengthen the claims of thePhilippinesas what happened toChina, which has defined its baseline.

The Ilocos Norte congressman warned that if Congress passes a law that is in conflict with the UNCLOS it will not be recognized by other countries and would also weaken the active claims of the Philippines in the Kalayaan Island Group andSabah.

He said the resolution, which he will file, will direct the foreign affairs department to review the definition of the national territory to ensure its integrity and, as necessary, initiate such measure to actively pursue our outstanding claims over land and waters.

Marcos said the bills pending before the Senate and the House of Representatives are fatally flawed because if passed into law as worded, it is unsupported, if not violative of specific provisions of international law and will be rejected by the international community.

He said the inclusion of the Kalayaan Island Group (KIG) and Scarborough Shoal in the definition of our baseline in the bill filed by Rep. Antonio Cuenco actually violated provisions of the UNCLOS, which provides a 125-mile limit measured from mainland to a high elevation point into the sea.

Royal communiqué

Hrh Prince Omar Kiram

Royal communiqué: Royal Grant of Award of Knighthood to The Honorable Lady Datin Maria Gracia R. Yllana, LRSS; The Honorable Datuk Sir Rogelio S. Basilan, KRSS; The Honorable Datuk Sir Ferdinand N. Cortez, KRSS and The Honorable Datuk Sir Reman M. Recio, KRSS.

27 October 2011

Royal Maimbung, Sulu

A Royal communiqué from His Royal Highness Prince Omar Kiram Dux de Legazpi Duque de Vivar-Maniquiz, Grand Prince & Prince Marshal & Grand Master of the Royal Orders.

To All and Singular: To all whom this Royal communiqué shall come, greetings!

“Be it hereby duly known with the most gracious Royal assent and approbation, and after due deliberation by the Royal Council which unanimously agreed and recommended to His Majesty Sultan Muhammad Fuad Abdulla Kiram the First, The Sultan of Sulu & The Sultan of Sabah, Head of Islam & Head of Sultanate, The 35th Reigning Sultan – for the four (4) select personages to be granted the illustrious and honorable award, rank and title as “Knight” and are entitled to be called “The Honorable” and they can use the letters “KRSS and LRSS” (Knight of the Royal Order of Sulu & Sabah) after their names as post nominals announced hereto.”

Citation reads:

For continuing exemplary services rendered to the Royal Crown of Sulu and Sabah and for their unflinching support to the policies of His Majesty Sultan Muhammad Fuad Abdulla Kiram the First, The Sultan of Sulu & The Sultan of Sabah, Head of Islam & Head of Sultanate, The 35th Reigning Sultan, the four grantees of honors and distinction whose names appear below shall become Knights of the Royal Order of Sulu & Sabah with immediate effect as from today the 27th day of October in the year 2011:

The Honorable Lady Datin Maria Gracia R. Yllana, LRSS

The Honorable Datuk Sir Rogelio S. Basilan, KRSS

The Honorable Datuk Sir Ferdinand N. Cortez, KRSS

The Honorable Datuk Sir Reman M. Recio, KRSS

Their personal Knightly Arms shall be designed and marshaled by the Royal College of Arms and to be granted by His Majesty Sultan Muhammad Fuad

Their personal Knightly Arms shall be designed and marshaled by the Royal College of Arms and to be granted by His Majesty Sultan Muhammad Fuad Abdulla Kiram the First, with their names inscribed on the “motto scroll” as a mark of favor and recognition of their achievements for their exclusive use in any of their honorable pursuit and endeavor.

His Majesty Sultan Muhammad Fuad Abdulla Kiram the First thereafter ordered and issued a Royal Edict to be signed and sealed today at Royal Maimbung, Sulu this 27th day of October in the year 2011.

This Royal Edict appears as a matter of public records and to be made known accordingly and we congratulate the four (4) well-deserving Royal grantees.

Note: This Royal grant as Knights of The Royal Order of Sulu & Sabah appearing hereto is free and without any fee or payment from any of the grantee, as this Royal award is based on achievements and contributions to society and not the ability to pay for the recognition. We have many Royal Grantees globally and no one paid any fee to us to receive the much sought after Royal recognition from the oldest unbroken royalty in the Philippines since the year 1405 to this day to be declared as our Honorable Knights of The Royal Hashemite Sultanate of Sulu & Sabah.

We are:

HRH Prince Omar Kiram Dux de Legazpi Duque de Vivar-Maniquiz
Grand Prince & Prince Marshal & Grand Master of Royal Orders
The Royal Hashemite Sultanate of Sulu & Sabah

Christians Under Siege as Radical Islam Sweeps ‘New Middle East’

Monday, 24 Oct 2011 12:43 PM

By Henry J. Reske

Attacked by mobs and terrorists, repressed by the growing popularity of fundamentalist Islamic law and cut off from crucial business ties, Christians are fleeing the Middle East in an unprecedented exodus.

More than half of Iraqi Christians — an estimated 400,000 people — have left that country over the last decade as power has fallen in the hands of increasingly hostile Shi’a Islamic leaders.

In Egypt, home to at least 8 million Copt Christians — a number that exceeds the populations of Israel, Lebanon, Jordan, and Tunisia — at least 95,000 Christians have emigrated since March 2011. The number could reach 250,000 by the end of this year, reports the Egyptian Federation of Human Rights.

“At the present rate, the Middle East’s 12 million Christians will likely drop to 6 million in the year 2020. With time, Christians will effectively disappear from the region as a cultural and political force,” reports Daniel Pipes, a leading scholar of the Middle East.

The most popular destination for fleeing Christians was the United States, which took in an estimated 42,000 of the Egyptian Copts. Other destinations included Canada, Australia and western Europe.

The situation threatens to worsen as the Arab Spring removes dictators who, paradoxically, shielded Christian communities. The parties that are gaining power in Libya, Egypt, Tunisia, and other countries tend to be offshoots of the fundamentalist Muslim Brotherhood.

In Libya on Sunday, transitional government leader Mustafa Abdul-Jalil laid out a vision for the post-Gadhafi future with an Islamist tint, saying Islamic Sharia law would be the “basic source” of legislation and existing laws that contradict the teachings of Islam would be nullified.

In Egypt, where Christians make up about 10 percent of the population, Coptic Christians have been subjected to a series of attacks. On New Year’s Day, 21 Coptics were killed leaving Saints Church in Alexandria, and dozens more killed in clashes that followed, all leading up to the Oct. 9 demonstration killed at least 24 Christians, many run over by military vehicles, and injured hundreds more.

In an attack on a Baghdad’s Our Lady of Salvation church in October of 2010, 58 Syriac Catholic worshippers were killed and 78 wounded. The al-Qaida-linked Islamic State of Iraq claimed responsibility for the massacre.

On Sunday, in a speech that stirred fears among some Middle East observiers, Jalil called for all laws to conform to Islam. The myriad of practices that declaration covers is widespread and includes charging interest on loans, which Abdel Jalil promised will be abolished.

“We are an Islamic state,” he declared to a cheering crowd in Benghazi Sunday.

While Iraq was not part of the Arab Spring, the toppling of Saddam Husseim in 2003 by the U.S. military created its own vacuum and hundreds of thousands Christians have fled the country due to sectarian strife. In Syria, where Christians make up about 10 percent of the population, a similar fate is feared should President Bashar al-Assad be toppled.

“Virtually the entire region now experiencing the convulsion of the Arab Spring lived inside the very large tent of the Ottoman Empire until World War I,” James Traub wrote in Foreign Policy. “Ottoman rulers welcomed the Jews who fled the Inquisition. In great Ottoman capitals like Aleppo, in modern Syria, Jews, Christians, Kurds, and Sunni Muslims lived in the same neighborhoods.”

However, the fellow of the Center for International Cooperation and contributing writer for the New York Times Magazine noted that the pluralism once found in the region was destroyed by those stoking nationalism to consolidate power.

“Populist rulers can accommodate diversity, as they have largely done in today’s Turkey, or they can unleash the forces of sectarianism, as they have in Iraq, where Shiites and Sunnis kill one another and both kill Christians. Older Iraqis will tell you that no one ever spoke of ‘Sunni’ and ‘Shiite’ when they were young; but whether in Bosnia or Iraq, sectarianism, once provoked, has a very long half-life. There is no more volatile substance in the modern nation-state.”

Christian Syrians have clung to the government of Assad, fearing what might follow should it fall, having seen what has happened in neighboring countries. Indeed many Christians who have fled sectarian strife in countries such as Iraq have ended up in Syria.

Traub wrote that while violence against Egyptian Copts does not approach what has occurred in Iraq, it has been growing in recent years.

“There’s no wishing away the anti-Coptic attitudes, or prejudices, of ordinary Egyptians. But Copts have lived with that for a long time,” he wrote. “The big question is whether it will get worse — and how much worse. And that will be a matter of political choices and political leadership.”

Traub concluded that the situation could go either way.

“Egypt’s new military rulers, like the military ruler they replaced, have proved all too willing to exploit street-level resentment. Power-sharing cannot wait until a new president is elected in mid-2013 or so. Egypt’s democratic forces say that they are determined not to allow themselves to be divided against one another. Let’s hope so. In Egypt, and all across the former Ottoman outposts of the southern Mediterranean — Tunisia, Libya, Syria — it is not just democracy but also pluralism that is at stake. It would be a terrible thing, and a deeply unnecessary one, if the rise of the former meant the end of the latter.”
© Newsmax. All rights reserved.

American, British troops team up, bring donations to Afghans

 

U.S. Army Chaplain (Maj.) Ephraim Garcia, left, of New York City, helps an Afghan woman hold her bag open while British Royal Navy Captain Jim Higham, right, of Plymouth, England, gives her a hygiene kit at an internally displaced people’s camp in Kabul, Afghanistan, Oct. 7.Story and photo by U.S. Army Sgt. April Campbell

KABUL, Afghanistan (Oct. 7, 2011) – For the servicemembers in Afghanistan who coordinate the partnership with Afghan government and national security force leaders, lasting results can take days, weeks and sometimes even months to fully realize.

Sometimes, however, a mission gives the International Security Assistance Force troops an opportunity to have a more direct and immediate effect on the Afghan people.

A group of American and British servicemembers from ISAF Headquarters in Kabul, Afghanistan, were given just such an opportunity when they traveled to a nearby internally displaced people’s camp, Oct. 7, to donate two truckloads of much needed clothes, shoes, blankets, hygiene kits and toys.

The mission was the second of a series of volunteer community relations missions coordinated through the ISAF Chaplain’s Office. The donations, themselves, came from a variety of contributors across the U.S. and Great Britain.

“The Daughters of the American Revolution in Arvada, Colo., and Broomfield, Colo., contacted me and let me know they wanted to help out in Afghanistan. That spurred me to find a way for them to contribute,” said U.S. Air Force Maj. Marc Adair, who serves with the United States Forces – Afghanistan Joint Visitors Bureau at ISAF Headquarters.

Adair, an Arvada native himself, spoke to the ISAF Headquarters chaplain, U.S. Army Chaplain (Maj.) Ephraim Garcia, who was enthusiastic about the plan.

“The folks here at ISAF are very generous and this gives them an opportunity to actually go out there, experience the Afghan people, the Afghan nation, and have a hands on experience where they hand off these donations to people they actually see have a real need,” said Garcia, a New York City native deployed from the 77th Sustainment Brigade, Fort Dix Army Reserve.

Expanding upon the initial generosity of the Daughters of the American Revolution, Adair reached out to family and friends in Denver, Houston, Arizona, Washington, D.C., and Virginia.

“The donations are coming from more places than I ever thought they would. Two different dental clinics that really wanted to contribute heard through the grape-vine we were doing this and sent dental hygiene supplies,” Adair said.

For their part, British servicemembers have reached out to their friends and families back home who have donated a variety of items including hygiene kits that were given to children at a hospital during the previous mission and to families at the IDP camp.

With the donations coming from good Samaritans overseas, the British and American troops found a good Samaritan inside Afghanistan to help them coordinate the mission and work with the needy families.

Afghan citizen Abdul Wakil works with the charity organization Sozo International, and helps Garcia and the other volunteers find the locations in Kabul where Afghans most need their donations. He and five other Afghans he works with also help organize the donation process so that the items go to those who most need them. Wakil’s generosity is, in no small part, driven by the connection he feels to the Afghan families at the camp.

“There are about 80 families that we will be able to help today,” Wakil said. “It makes me really happy that we were able to help these poor, internally displaced people since I was raised in a refugee camp in Pakistan. I remember how we lived, and, now, with help from friends from the U.S., Great Britain and all over the world, I can help these people.”

These efforts did not go unnoticed and were greatly appreciated by Rogul, the camp elder who is displaced from Nangarhar province in eastern Afghanistan.

“We are very glad to have the Coalition forces here and we appreciate the clothes and all of the supplies,” Rogul said. “The children love the notebooks, crayons and toys, and the women need the clothes. The donations will help us a lot for the winter.”

This appreciation was expressed in the faces of many camp residents, despite the language barrier between themselves and the ISAF servicemembers.

“I enjoy being able to see the children’s faces light up just because they are getting pink pencils,” Adair said.  “Hearing them laugh and play with new school supplies is just awesome.”

For some of the troops, the mission offered both a change from their normal day-to-day jobs and a more well-rounded view of Afghan life.

British Royal Navy Captain Jim Higham, of Plymouth, England, who serves with the strategic planning cell of ISAF Headquarters, normally helps to plan for ISAF engagements with key Afghan leaders, but, during this mission, he enjoyed passing out toys to the Afghan children. Higham and his wife regularly donate their children’s old toys to local charities in England, but rarely does he have the opportunity, like this one, to see the excited children who receive the toys.

“With the toys, invariably, someone smiles at you, and, if you exchange smiles, then all the cultural and language barriers seem to melt away. It’s a universal connection,” Higham said.

Perhaps fellow ISAF servicemembers will be greeted with similar smiles during the next volunteer community relations mission when Garcia plans to go to an Afghan school

Even though Adair is in the process of returning home to serve at the Pentagon, he has been able to put the Daughters of the American Revolution and other American donators in contact with Garcia, who plans to hand the program off to the chaplain who replaces him in March 2012.

“I think the missions give people at ISAF Headquarters a better perspective on everyday challenges that Afghans have and an understanding of how important it is to help them and to see them be able to build their country and build a nation,” said Adair, “because you can’t do it without the Afghans.”

Afghan youth Taekwondo team shows ISAF kickin’ good time

 

KABUL, AFGHANISTAN – A member of the Afghanistan National Taekwondo Federation Junior Team flies through the air to break a board held by his teammate at the International Security Assistance Force Headquarters gym, Oct. 22. The team of 6 Afghan girls and 11 Afghan boys demonstrated their athletic abilities to kick, slice boards and work as a team, and the ISAF crowd loved it. Through the Youth and Sports Outreach program, ISAF is working with the Afghan’s to reach 68 percent of the Afghan population who is below the age of 30. (Photo by U.S. Army Sgt. April Campbell, International Security Assistance Force Public Affairs)

Story by U.S. Army Sgt. April Campbell, International Security Assistance Force Public Affairs
KABUL, AFGHANISTAN — From front to side, tornado to crescent, the kicks flew as the Afghanistan National Taekwondo Federation Junior Team put on a show at the International Security Assistance Force Headquarters gym, Oct. 22.

With a crowd of ISAF servicemembers cheering them on, the team of 6 Afghan girls and 11 Afghan boys demonstrated their athletic abilities to kick, break boards and work as a team.

“It was a great demonstration of tremendous athletes, tremendous sportsmanship and young people that are doing important things for their country,” said U.S. Navy Rear Adm. Hal Pittman, of Tampa, Fla., who serves as the ISAF HQ deputy chief of staff for communications.

As the team chief for Sports and Youth Outreach in the ISAF Headquarters Traditional Communications office, U.S. Army Lt. Col. Terry Love, of Soperton, Ga., headed up the effort within ISAF to organize the event.

“This demonstration shows the partnership that exists between ISAF servicemembers and Afghanistan – a long standing partnership,” Love said. “This is all about building the capacity within the government of Afghanistan.”

In a country where the age of youth ranges up to 30, they are considered crucial in building that governmental capacity.

“We understand that with youth and sports, if you compound that or make sure that’s part of your outreach strategy, then you’re reaching all of the population because in Afghanistan 68 percent of the population are considered youth,” said Love.

According to Kabul native Samir Jaihoon, chief of the Afghan team’s exhibition committee, these youth are responding.

“This is a very good opportunity that, day-by-day, we are having most kids come and say that they are really keen to come and do the sports instead of doing the wrong things or taking a gun in their hand and doing something wrong for the community,” Jaihoon.Instead, Afghan youth like Ahmad Walid and Saja Sohrabzada, who participated in a friendly sparring match during the demonstration, are honing their athletic abilities.

“The entire program was good, but the best part was the competition between the two of us,” Walid said. “It was a competition between friendly combatants.”For Sohrabzada, the demonstration only deepened his desire to continue practicing Taekwondo.

“I hope that someday,” said Sohrabzada, “I win a world competition and bring Afghanistan up in the world.”

With or without a competition, 16-year-old Laila Houssaini, who has been practicing Taekwondo since she was 4, has no plans to quit.“I want to go to the end,” she said. “My favorite part is breaking the boards. It makes me feel strong.”

That dedication and determination is nothing new to Love, a father of five who has coached youth sports, including track and field, basketball and football back in the U.S.“All of my children are athletes and I played a lot of sports coming up in high school and college,” Love said. “I love athletes, I love sports and I love working with youth.”With the help of the Afghan Junior Team, Love was able to share his appreciation with servicemembers throughout ISAF headquarters.

“This is a diplomacy effort,” Love said. “This is not about one section—this is about all of ISAF understanding what we are doing because we are trying to reach out to Afghans.”

Condolences After Earthquake in Turkey

Bismillahirrahmanerraheem,

On behalf of HM.Sultan Fuad Abdullah Kiram and The Prime Minister of The Sultanate of Sulu and Sabah HrH Prince Omar Kiram, I Datuk Sir MYR Agung Sidayu,Bt,DRK,KRSS  The Royal Cultural Representative and Ambassador to Indonesia and Timor Leste,  we offer our deepest condolences to the families of those who perished in this disaster and our wishes for a full and speedy recovery for those who were injured.

You are in our thoughts and have our deepest sympathies.  We wish you all a speedy recovery.

Hadha Wallahu Yaranam Wayakhfaduna

Walhamduluillahi Rabbil Alamin

Philippines: Strong Fundamentals Cushion Impact of Global Economic Turmoil—WB Report

Series #:12/08
Contacts:
In Manila: David Llorito (632) 917-3047
E-mail: dllorito@worldbank.org
Erika Lacson-Esguerra (632) 917-3013
E-mail: elacson@worldbank.org
In Washington: Carl Hanlon (202) 473-8087
E-mail: chanlon@worldbank.org

Related Content

Philippines Quarterly Update (September 2011)

Manila, October 6, 2011—The slowdown in the United States and Europe is affecting Philippine exports but the country’s strong macroeconomic fundamentals are cushioning the impact of the global economic turmoil on the local economy, says the Philippines Quarterly Update (PQU) released today by the World Bank.

The PQU says that the Philippines’ external position and macroeconomic fundamentals remain strong. The current account surplus increased by 20 percent in the second quarter (year-on-year), owing to higher remittances and net services receipts.

“Net foreign direct investments increased in the first half and foreign reserves have surged to record highs thanks to strong capital inflows as well as sustained growth of remittances and income from investments abroad,” says the PQU.

Attracted by relatively higher growth prospects and yield differentials, net foreign portfolio inflows soared through August, at US$3.1billion, more than triple last year’s amount, the report says.

“To better insulate the Philippine economy from external shocks, it is important to maintain strong macroeconomic fundamentals and improve its competitiveness through diversifying exports, strengthening domestic competition, and improving productivity of the services sector,” said World Bank Economist Soonwha Yi who led the team that prepared the PQU.

Produced by the World Bank Office in Manila, the PQU provides regular updates on key economic developments and policies in the Philippines as well as presents findings from recent World Bank work in the country.

The report says in view of the slower growth and weaker economic outlook in advanced economies, the Philippines is forecast to grow at 4.5 percent in 2011 and 5.0 percent in 2012, a revision from the previous forecasts of 5.0 percent and 5.4 percent, respectively, for both years.

“Private consumption is expected to grow steadily, buoyed by lower unemployment, higher government spending and sustained remittances,” said Ms. Yi. “With ample fiscal space, the government is expected to boost spending in the second half and catch up on delayed implementation of infrastructure projects.”

According to the PQU, government’s zero-based budgeting process has generated sufficient fiscal space to scale up spending on priority social and economic agenda.

The report says that domestic investment is projected to expand to 21.8 percent of GDP for 2011 (from 20.5 percent in 2010), and to improve further to 23.1 percent in 2012, as the government accelerates the pace of its capital outlays and as business sentiment turns more positive.

“On the supply side, growth for the full year 2011 is expected to come from the services and industry sectors, favored by a more upbeat business sentiment and with the full roll-out of infrastructure-related projects,” said Ms. Yi.

World Bank Lead Economist Ulrich Lachler said that the Philippines is currently enjoying relative political stability and a strong fiscal position. Capital inflows are expected to continue, but foreign direct investment (FDI) is projected to moderate as foreign investors have become more cautious in light of recent financial turmoil, he said.

“To ensure inclusive growth or growth that benefits the poor, higher revenues through improved tax administration and reforms will enable the government to meet its priority spending targets, especially in public infrastructure and investment in human capital,” Mr. Lachler said.

 

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.