The Transatlantic Slave Trade

The impact the transatlantic slave had on the world’s history reveals the importance of the contributions of each individual involved in it. As Professor Abena Busia noted, when people think of the slave trade, the stress is on the word “slave,” not on the word “trade,” and looking at it with the focus on trade in a historical and contemporary context reveals its significance and present effects.

In the beginning of the transatlantic slave trade, before being slaves, each individual was part of a family, played a role to contribute to their family, and led normal lives. Although we learn of the harsh conditions slaves went through while traveling to the Americas and other territories, the slaves flourished in Latin America early on. With a robust African population, Africans in Spain that traveled early to Latin America were essential in the destruction of regimes and construction of lands. In the 1500’s Africans helping conquer lands were free to work, entrusted with arms, and helped build forts and buildings. African conquistadors were even given gold and entrusted to be translators, but the wealth and status they acquired was soon lost as white settlers seized the lands. With white settlers wanting to take over land and not wanting to perform the functions needed to do so, they turned the Africans into slaves for free labor.


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Although the slaves endured much, their trauma created significant socioeconomic contributions. Their work created wealth for families, increased trade of goods through their labor, and developed economic enterprises. Their political activism of resistance to slavery was and continues to be one of the biggest impacts the slaves left for people of African descent. Their experiences have passed on essential values that continue to impact the world today.

Meeting: The Transatlantic Slave Trade and the Socio-Economic Contributions of People of African Descent

Date/Location: Thursday, March 30, 2017; 11:00 to 12:45; Economic and Social Council Chamber

Speakers: Hawa Diallo, Public Information Officer, NGO Relations, Advocacy and Special Events, Department of Public Information; Abena P.A. Busia, Professor, Rutgers University; Ben Vinson III, Dean of the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences, George Washington University; Verene A. Shepherd, Professor, University of the West Indies, Mona Campus; Joseph E. Inikori, Professor, University of Rochester; Cy Richardson, Senior Vice President for Economics and Housing Programs, National Urban League;

Written By: Leticia Murillo, WIT Representative

The Disconnect Between Religion and Extremism

This meeting was held to discuss the issues surrounding extremism, particularly religious extremism.

Dr. Hamad started by noting political and economic improvements relate to the establishment of peace and increasing how long peace lasts.

Dr. Tangara mentioned how the enemy, in this case ISIS, is more sophisticated than many acknowledge. ISIS has taken to attacking societies by attacking their culture. Additionally, he stated that it is important to replace the ancient education that tends to have xenophobic ideals.

Mrs. Lodico commented on the importance of separation of state from religion, and of religion from state. She noted how the world lacks enlightenment, contributing to the number of jihadists. Finally, she discussed how social media has played a proliferating part in the spread of ISIS Propaganda. She said that they began with a single propaganda video, and since then their social media presence has only decreased. Additionally, she pointed out how Nazis never celebrated the genocides that they perpetrated, and yet ISIS has streamed their atrocities thanks to their access to social media. Finally, she stated that fights against ISIL needed to be holistic.

Dr. Durbak noted that Dr. Al-Suwaidi’s book exposed the exploitation of Islam by ISIS. She stated how individuals fell into ISIS as a result of issues in their environments, and pointed out how the uneven distribution of resources can lead to exploitation, powerlessness, and distress.

Reverend Dr. Thomas noted the similarities between some concept of mirages and the story of Jesus in the bible. He pointed out that in extremism, there is a disconnect between religion and reality, and noted that extremism is not confined to any particular region.

Meeting: Forum on “Extremism-A threat and a challenge that needs to be addressed”

Date/Location: Thursday, April 7, 2016; 10:00-12:00, Conference Room 8

Speakers: Dr. Tageldin Hamad, Secretary General, World Association of Non-Governmental Organizations; H.E. Dr. Mamadou Tangara, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of The Gambia to the UN; Mrs. Yvonne Lodico, Founder Grace Initiative, Former Director, UN Institute for Training and Research, NY; Dr. Christine Durbak, Chair and CEO World Information Transfer; Rev. Dr. Douglas Thomas, Adjunct Professor of Religion at Lincoln University, Oxford, Pennsylvania; H.E. Dr. Jamal Sanad Al-Suwaidi, Director General of the Emirates Center for Strategic Studies and Research (ECSSR)

Written By: WIT Representative Olivia Gong

Edited By: WIT Representative Alex Margolick

Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Religion’s Essential Role in Peacekeeping

Archbishop Dieudonne Nzapalainga of Bangui, Central African Republic, right, walks with Imam Oumar Kobine Layama, center, in Bangui, after a meeting of religious representatives, Bangui residents and African and French peacekeeping forces Feb. 10.  (CNS photo/Luc Gnago, Reuters)

This meeting was to discuss the positives and negatives of religious faith, its role in violence and peace, and how leaders of faith can promote peace.

Following opening remarks by Mr. Brez, Father Landry began by noting two common objections on faith. He stated that he felt faith-based organizations should be as important as education when it comes to the prevention of conflict. He also noted that individuals dispute whether religion is a force of peace or violence, but to him, it is definitely not the latter. He then said that secondhand knowledge of religion and religious convictions can be misleading and can spiral into endless negativity.

Next, Mr. Hodes noted how religious leaders have two options in the face of conflict. They may bring peace, or they may use conflict for leverage to gain support from the masses. He said that it is not a question of whether religion is positive or negative, but a question of how it is being used.

Mr. Flynn stated the importance of continuing to fight extremism, and went on to note the importance of youth in Security Council Resolution 2250.

Dr. Karam said she saw religion not as potential for evil, but for healing, and then went on to say how breaking the glass ceiling required honesty. She stressed the importance of the UN goals of human rights, peace and security, and sustainable development. She then said that although individuals speak on religion and culture as distinct qualities, they are more often than not intertwined.

Reverend Breyer spoke on the tension that often exists between Muslims and followers of other religions. Finally, Revered Kazanijian noted that instead of active violence, organizations should seek to establish active dialogue. He stressed the importance of establishing cohesive relationships.

Meeting: Thursday DPI Briefing for NGOs-Focusing on faith series: Promoting peace and reconciliation to counter violent extremism

Date/Location: Thursday, February 4, 2016; 11:00-12:30; Conference Room 1

Speakers: Mr. Jeffrey Brez, Chief of NGO Relations, Advocacy and Special Events in the Department of Public Information; Father Roger Landry, priest of the Diocese of Fall River, attache at the Permanent Observer Mission of the Holy See to the U.N; Matthew Hodes, Director of the United Nations Alliance of Civilization; Mr. Edward J. Flynn, Senior Human Rights Officer at the Security Council’s Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate; Dr. Azza Karam, Senior Advisor on Culture and Social Development at the United Nations Population Fund; Rev. Chloe Breyer, Director of The Interfaith Center of New York; Rev. Victor H. Kazanjian Jr. Executive Director of the United Religions Initiative

Written By: WIT Representative Olivia Gong

Edited By: WIT Representative Alex Margolick

Photo Credit: CNS photo/Luc Gnago, Reuters

Religion in Iran

   Today, there was a meeting on “Freedom of Religion or Belief,” co-organized by the Permanent Mission of Canada, the Bahá’ís International Community, and the European Centre for Law and Justice.

   The Moderator began the meeting with an introduction of the current situation in Iran. There have been more than 780 documented incidents of shop closings and dismissals of business licenses, and other actions of suppressing economic activities. More than 1450 executions have occurred in Iran since 2014, making Iran the country with the largest individual execution per capita in the world. All of these occurrences are due to the lack of religious tolerance in Iran; the only accepted religion is Shi’ism, and all other religious minority groups, the Bahá’ís, are persecuted. The panelists spoke of their personal stories: their family members and associates who were deprived of their education, unjustly arrested and interrogated, denied work and college acceptances all due to their distinctive religions. Mr. Tavakkoli spoke of the arrests and court cases he saw, as well as the multiple deaths and executions that were carried out in Iran.

   The second panelist, Ms. Aftahi, talked about how the Iranian students are always living with a feeling of uncertainty, not knowing how they will continue their education and get an occupation. Mr. Khanjani told of his family’s oppression economically, how 20 members of his family have been in and out of prison for over 45 years, merely due to their religious beliefs and practices. A video provided Mrs. Abedini’s personal account of the status of Iranian Christians and an orphanage that she created with the participation of the Iranian government, which led to her husband’s detainment and torture in Iran. The meeting closed with the message and promotion for human rights and religious freedom in Iran.

Meeting: Freedom of Religion or Belief

Date/Location: Wednesday, November 4th, 2015; 13:15-14:30; Conference Room 8

Speakers: Individuals of the Baha’i International Community: Mr. Naeim Tavakkoli, Ms. Niknaz Aftahi, Mr. Siavosh Khanjani, Mrs. Nagmeh Abedini (by video), Mr. Danial Shahri (by video), Mr. Kambiz Saghaey

Written By: WIT Representative Jin Yoo

Edited By: WIT Representative Alex Margolick