#Imagine Bradford, through the lens of Ash

Ash

Ash Cooper was born in the Bahamas. The son of a croupier, he was brought up in various countries in North America, Europe, the UK and the West Indies. He is an M.A. student at the University of Bradford and the proud father of two grown-up sons. A few years ago I was working as a pawnbroker. We had customers from all walks of life: mostly ordinary working folk, some business people, even the odd teacher and local politician. Some of our customers were down on their luck, of course, borrowing a few pounds on the strength of a little gold ring or bracelet until their next social security cheque arrived. Of this last group, a handful were street workers – prostitutes to you and I.

 Between June 2009 and May 2010 three of my customers were picked up off the streets while working and murdered. Their bodies were dismembered, and at least partly eaten by a man, Stephen Paul Griffiths. The remains of one of the victims were never found, and only parts of the others.

 The serial murder of street workers is a thing that happens in other places to other people. But I had known these women for several years. Not just their names and faces, but to stop and say ‘hello, y’alright?’  to them if I saw one or the other as I walked from the shop to my car. The end of my working day, the beginning of theirs: the two oldest professions in the world.

 For the people of Bradford, the cases brought back traumatic memories of serial killer Peter Sutcliffe, who murdered thirteen women in and around Bradford and Leeds between 1975 and 1980. More recently, in 2006, five prostitutes had been murdered in Ipswich in Suffolk. How was it, people asked, that a generation after the Yorkshire Ripper murders, women were still routinely running the same risks of assault and murder on the streets?

 Nothing has changed for women who work the street since 2010, or indeed since 1975. They still face the same risks of rape, abduction, assault and murder, day after day, night after night.

So if I imagine a Bradford at peace, it is a Bradford where these women were not the victims of a cultural violence which condones and ignores violence by one gender against another. I imagine an England where they were not the victims of a cultural violence that condones and ignores violence against the poor, the marginalised, the unimportant. I imagine a city where these women were not the victims of a structural violence which somehow led them, through poverty, ill luck or unfortunate decisions, to find such a risky way to earn a living, and then kept them there at the bottom of the social pile.

 I imagine a Bradford where no other women will meet the same fate as Susan Rushworth, Shelley Armitage and Suzanne Blamires. RIP.

***

Ash is a coursemate in my African Politics class. He is extremely intelligent in world politics and to think he is not offering that course as a module just beats me. This post definitely gave me the shivers.

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#Imagine Colombia, through the lens of Angela

Angela

My name is Angela Marcela currently studying Peace, Conflict and Development in the University of Bradford. While I was writing these words I realised that some readers probably don’t even know where Colombia is. Colombia is located in northern west corner of South America (yeah America as continent is divided in three: South, Middle and North).

Unfortunately, Colombia is known worldwide for trafficking drugs, kidnapping, crimes, and widespread violence. However other than stories about violence, there are a lot of facts that make Colombia a lovely place. At a glance,it is home of thousands of species, butterflies, birds and plants that make us recognized to be the second most biodiverse country in the world. Likewise, is the only place in the region with two coasts: Caribbean and Pacific Ocean, vast plains, three mountain ranges, kilometres of rainforest which offers the riches and smoothest coffee in the world, and an amazing variety of tropical fruits, where kindness and happiness of people is an attitude

Colombians have been encouraged to change the image from a feared country to a prosperous one in the region. Currently, one of the most attractive economies of Latin America, in fact, it has become a destination of foreign investments, and the last year one of our cities was recognized to be the city of the innovation of the world. Further than that, Colombia hides a gorgeous culture. Our food is an act of love, recently a book that compiles the knowledge and oral tradition of San Basilio de Palenque, a village whose cultural space is enlisted in the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO, was awarded as the best cookbook in the world at the 2014 Gourmand World Cookbook Awards.

Colombia also knows about art: music, literature and culture. Renowned artists have promoted their art around the world not only in galleries but it can be seen in the streets and in the stages. The magical realist of Colombia is described in One Hundred Years of Solitude book, recognized as the most important and representative novel of the Latin American literature, written by our Nobel Laureate Gabriel Garcia Marquez. We also host the most important Theatre Festival in Latin America.

Since 2012, the Government has been engaged in a peace process with the largest rebel group in the country, which have a huge impact on the global coca trade. However, we as individuals need to reflect about the contribution and responsibility of our acts and behaviours in this violent chain (producers, traders, consumers). Nonetheless, beyond the violent image of Colombia, there is a reality where more than forty millions of people live peacefully together in their common lives and have been building peace from alternatives paths.

I would like to imagine Colombia as John Lennon said “Nothing to kill or die for….., imagine all the people living life in peace”.

http://www.colombia.co/en/tourism/20-amazing-pictures-colombia-will-take-breath-away.html

#Imagine Philippines, through the lens of Leo

Leo

‘Peace is possible amidst diversity’

My name is Leo Buccahan, an MA student in Peace, Conflict and Development. I was raised in a remote village in Luzon, one of the three major islands in the Philippines. With 7,107 islands that are inhabited by various groups speaking more than 170 languages, my country is truly amongst the world’s most diverse societies.

The Philippines is situated atop the notorious Pacific Ring of Fire which makes it vulnerable to numerous earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and storms all year round. Super typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan), which is considered the strongest typhoon ever in the world, hit the country on 8 November 2013 and affected more than 16 million people, particularly those living in Tacloban and nearby islands.

Despite the many challenges posed by diverse cultural and linguistic backgrounds and exacerbated by the geographical landscape, Filipinos continue to strive for a safe and peaceful nation where caring for one another is the norm rather than an exception. Like in many developing countries, it remains that millions are still living in dire poverty even with all the efforts of the government and other sectors to drive away this ugly worm that refuses to leave many of our homes. Other problems that are not endemic to our nation also persist but I think that poverty is the most pervasive.

Having this in mind, my dream is for Filipinos to achieve a better quality of life through education that is geared not only towards intellectual pursuit but more importantly emotional stability with strong conviction in promoting and maintaining peace in every household. Strong family ties and hospitality are characteristics of this most basic Filipino institution, but many families succumb to problems associated with not having enough food on the table. They say that love flies out the window when poverty walks through the door. As Nelson Mandela said, education is indeed the most powerful weapon we can use to change the world. Easier said than done of course and pessimists might say this is wishful thinking, but it is not a bleak future out there as hope abounds everywhere especially from the youth who our national hero, Dr. Jose Rizal, called the hope of our motherland. I strongly believe that as we work closely together and help free our countrymen from the bondage of poverty, the positive impact will flow to undermine other forms of structural violence and will eventually alleviate the lives of thousands of families.

In many ways, my dream for a progressive Philippines is echoed by John Lennon in his song Imagine. I envisage that a prosperous Philippines will ‘no [longer] need for greed or hunger’ as I ‘imagine all the people, living life in peace’ and harmony with one another. In the last decade, the Philippines has steadily climbed, albeit slowly, the ladder of prosperity. I wish that Mother Nature will root out corruption and its tentacles in its own peculiar way. It is not a utopian life that I dream for my country, but a life where every child is given the opportunity to see it through no matter what, where every family has enough food on the table, and where everyone can enjoy an overall wellbeing. Only then can I sing that we are a ‘brotherhood of [men and women]…sharing all the world’ peacefully in unity and diversity.

I am now in the Philippines as I finish writing this essay that I have started in Bradford. In all my life, I have missed spending the holidays back home only twice. Cliché as it may sound there is indeed no place like home. As John Denver says,

Hey it’s good to be back home again

Sometimes this old farm

Feels like a long lost friend

Yes, and hey it’s good

To be back home again.

In the middle of longing for home, I would like to imagine that peace is possible and family will always be a wonderful treasure. Finally, I would like to quote a few lines in the flagship song of the Ship for SouthEast Asian Youth Program which I joined as a youth ambassador in 1997 and as a facilitator 15 years later. Nippon Maru:“…If you carry us over and out to the world, there’s a chance we can speak to them all. There’s a chance we can tell them the world’s but a home and all people’s a family…

May these lines also inspire all Peace students in our beloved University of Bradford. Happy Holidays Everyone!

#Imagine China, through the lens of Jill

Jill

My name is Jie Huang and I’m studying Peace Studies in University of Bradford. My interest lies in conflict analysis, conflict resolution and finding cure for sadness. Except for these, I also have a wide interest in life including cooking, drawing, dancing, music and craft.

 The peaceful society that I expect in China is to respect people for their personality instead of their power and wealth. Although everyone is born equal legally in China, but the life concept of majority people are still influenced by traditional customs, which leads a widely existed potential social class inequality. In my opinion, many Chinese are accustomed to evaluate their role during situation around them, act like what this role should do, compare themselves with other people by judging social class, then respond differently. We are tied by our roles too much. It’s pathetic to have prejudice and judgment filling the society.

I wish people could view others just as human and build a basic respect for everyone. I realize how hard it is. Because not only people who have higher status and wealth expected more respect than others, but economic and political inequality also drive this phenomenon. Today we are not involved in any war, but structural violence in our country is all over. If we just look at the primary school, children who followed directions and don’t make any trouble will be praised. In a class, the teacher is the most powerful person in the room. At the beginning of any class, every student needs to stand up and shout together “Hello, teacher”. Then the teacher responds with “Hello, students”. Then the students sit down. The interesting point is we never shout the name of teachers, not even with Mr. or Mrs., this forced action is just to remind you about your social role, remind you of what you are instead of who you are. After class, this role is continued. If students meet their teachers in the campus or street or other public place, they will call teachers with their surname and “teacher”. For example, “Wang Teacher” or “ Li Teacher”. It sounds so creepy for me now but I never felt that when I was in primary school, same in middle school and high school. Teachers and students keep their unequal relationship all the time. Some people may see it as a show of respect for teachers, but I see it more sadly. It means that your job represents your social class and the way people treated you. So the moment you choose a job, it decides how you will be treated. Not only when you are working, but in everywhere. This kind of one side respect for people who have higher status than you really make it difficult to achieve the peaceful society I imagine. As long as people still feel fear from their higher-ups.

***

Respect comes up again and this time it is seen as a tool for inequality, if the respect is only tied to a job.