Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Rais Campaign for a World Without Hate

Also read Rais Bhuiyan's Website and get involved with his campaign for a World Without Hate

Rais Bhuiyan is in the middle

Also see World Without Hate website GO or CLICK here

And see the article here

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Save One Life to Save the Human Race: More on Rais Bhuiyan

I missed this article earlier and reading it today found tears rolling down - it's one of the most moving stories of my life:

Rais Bhuiyan, a Bangladeshi immigrant, was shot by Mark Stroman, a white supremacist, in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks. First Posted at Huff Post: 7/18/11 07:54 PM ET Updated: 7/18/11 09:11 PM ET

Just weeks after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, a masked man stormed into the Dallas convenience store where Rais Bhuiyan, a Muslim immigrant from Bangladesh, worked as a cashier. He asked where Bhuiyan was from -- then shot him in the face at point-blank range before he could reply.

His attacker was Mark Stroman, an avowed white supremacist and methamphetamine addict, who was caught and confessed to the shooting as well as two other attacks on South Asian convenience store workers. Those men died, while Bhuiyan survived, although he was blinded in one eye and still carries 35 shotgun pellets embedded in his face.

In less than 48 hours, Stroman is scheduled to die by lethal injection at the Texas death chamber at Huntsville for the crimes. A last-ditch appeal to the Supreme Court for a stay of execution was rejected without comment in June.

But even as the clock runs down on Stroman's time on death row, an unlikely advocate is trying to spare his life: Bhuiyan, the man he casually shot and left for dead nearly a decade ago.

Over the past several months, Bhuiyan, a devout Muslim, has mounted an aggressive campaign to convince Texas authorities to commute Stroman's sentence to life in prison without the possibility of parole. He has asked the state board of pardons and paroles to make a positive recommendation for clemency to Gov. Rick Perry, and has asked Texas prison administrators for permission to meet face-to-face with Stroman for a victim-offender reconciliation process.

After those efforts were met with no response from Texas officials, Bhuiyan filed a lawsuit against the state, arguing that his rights as a crime victim to meet with his attacker had been unjustly denied. That lawsuit was moved from state to federal court on Monday and remains unresolved.

In an interview with HuffPost, Bhuiyan said his efforts on behalf of Stroman were motivated by his Muslim faith. The Koran teaches that those who forsake retribution and forgive those who have wronged them become closer to God, he said.

"My faith teaches me that saving a life is like saving the entire human race," he said.

Bhuiyan is not alone in his efforts to save Stroman's life. He has support from family members of the other victims, including the widows of the two murdered men, Waqar Husan and Vasudev Patel, he said.

"We decided to forgive him and want to give him a chance to be a better person," Nadeem Akhtar, Husan's brother-in-law, said in an interview.

Akhtar said that his sister, Husan's widow, had written a letter requesting that the Dallas district attorney's office support the effort to obtain clemency for Stroman. The district attorney's office declined to support the petition, however.

According to those close to Stroman, the efforts by Bhuiyan on his behalf have contributed to a change of heart in a man who called his crimes "patriotic" before his trial and who prosecutors once described as a cold-blooded killer.

In an interview last week, Stroman told Ilan Ziv, a documentary filmmaker, that he was remorseful for the crimes and was deeply moved by Bhuiyan's attempts to save his life.

"I received a message that Rais loved me and that is powerful," said Stroman, who suffered extreme abuse and neglect as a child at the hands of his alcoholic parents, according to court records.

"I want to thank him in person for his inspiring act of compassion. He has forgiven the unforgiveable and I want to tell him that I have a lot of love and respect him," he added.

Ziv, who met with Stroman for several hours on Monday, said the condemned man had little hope that Bhuiyan's efforts would succeed in sparing his life.

"He's very realistic," Ziv said. "He knows he's got no chance."

Stroman's last bid for a reprieve will come in less than 48 hours, as the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles weighs his petition for clemency or a stay of execution. The board has voted for clemency just once in the last 10 years, a period when the state carried out a record 231 executions. A spokeswoman for Perry's office said the governor has not expressed an opinion on the petition to the board.

Bhuiyan's request to meet face-to-face with Stroman before the execution -- a meeting that Stroman has enthusiastically agreed to -- is also unlikely to occur. Michelle Lyons, a spokeswoman for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, said that both victims and offenders must go through months of counseling and complete other preparatory work before such a meeting can take place.

"There just is not enough time to prepare the victim and the inmate for a meeting," Lyons said.

Bhuiyan said he would have begun the mediation process long ago, but was not informed of his rights to such a meeting by the Dallas district attorney. That complaint was the basis for his lawsuit attempting to force the state to postpone Stroman's execution until the mediation meeting could take place; a state judge in Austin ruled Monday that the suit belonged in federal court.

If the suit is dismissed and Stroman's bid for clemency is denied, the execution will almost certainly go ahead as scheduled at 6 p.m. Wednesday evening.

For Bhuiyan, such an outcome would be a tragedy. "If he's given a chance, it's very likely that he can contribute to society," he said. "If he can educate one person who is full of hate, that is an achievement."

Yet at least one mind has been changed by Bhuiyan's outreach -- his attacker's.

"It is due to Rais' message of forgiveness that I am more content now than I have ever been," Stroman said in the interview with the documentary filmmaker. "If I don't make it I want Rais to carry on his work teaching people not to be prejudiced."

"We need to make sure there is not another Mark Stroman," he concluded.

A "Catch-up" Page From JOH FB


I'm so grateful that there is such an active FaceBook page and discussion blog going on here for JOH and my plans are to find better ways to interconnect with the folk participating there in a few weeks as well as to upgrade my own technical abilities as blogger and would-be more of a helper to the JOH website/movement.

Meantime here are a few excerpts BUT best to go directly to that LINK I just gave you above to read the rest and get the other links directly. Plz add your comments to BOTH those discussions as well as here at the JOH blogsite.

See info on The Ella Bella Butterfly Foundation
A 501(c)3 (pending) dedicated to the prevention of violence through criminal justice reform and victim advocacy efforts. (Page: ‎194 people indicated they liked this) which was just posted 23 hours ago TOP of the JOH FB page for Friday

Also see Bill Pelke's post on NC restorative Justice Conference before that entry see Lisa Rea's posting via Bill and find link there to "listen in" to crime victims along with Bill, Lisa, Debbie and others - the post is entitled:
Listening to crime victims: North Carolina restorative justice conference — RJ Online - This concerns what happens "When crime victims speak about the effect violent crime has had on their lives"

I was glad to see Hooman Hedayati and others liked this one:
"Iranian Woman Forgives" posted both on this blogsite below in our July Archives and on the JOH FB page...While not usual post, this one certainly speaks to one of our major themes: forgiveness. Iranian blinded by acid pardons her attacker.

I was also grateful to the current "host" on the FB page discussion - Debbie Kearns -who carefully followed the story about the victims and victim families who forgave the man recently executed in Texas and tried to stop his execution:

GO see that interesting set of excerpts, video and comments:

Debbie Kearns comment here condenses the jist to this saga:

"So far, Rais Bhuiyan and the families of Patel and Hasan are crying because nobody in Texas listened to their pleas for clemency for Mark Stroman, whose evidence of child abuse and of his sister who got killed by 9/11 went TOTALLY ignored by the Texas courts...

'Somewhere, these death penalty-supporting yahoos (including Brian the death penalty-supporter) are saluting Texas' and Georgia's cruel governors for "a job well done in sending these monsters to hell and ensuring that justice is served for victims' families", which is, in fact ...justice is NEVER SERVED FOR VICTIMS' FAMILIES AT ALL ... At least both Mark and Andrew made their peace with God and are now with their deceased family members in heaven. May they and their victims rest in the peace and justice that were totally denied for them on earth." (Gilles Denizot left a note that "The Georgia execution of Andrew Grant DeYoung has been rescheduled for Thursday at 7 p.m.")

Stroman's last words reflect Bhuiyan's campaign message: "Hate is going on in this world and it has to stop. Hate causes a lifetime of pain." (Director of the SMU Embrey Human Rights Program and former Amnesty International, Chair, Rick Halperin, Ph.D., became involved in Bhuiyan's campaign...)

Crime victims’ rights “essentially” symbolic, says Governor By Patricia BohEmail: Published: Friday, July 22, 2011

"Arab slayer" turned peace seeker, Mark Stroman...See More here on this blogsite in the July Archives for 2011-07-23 21:07:00 GMT

Debbie Kearns added: "...Gov. Perry claims that he supports crime victims' rights, yet he TOTALLY ignored the rights of Bhuiyan and of the families of Patel and Hasan! He's just so arrogant that he only supports the rights of victims who support the death penalty!"

(Note: Rais Bhuiyan, Victim of Post-9/11 Shooting, was said to try to sue the State of Texas, evidently, to Try to Spare Attacker's Life By Anna Merlan posted Thu., Jul. 14 2011 @ 9:31AM - ​At 10 this morning on the steps of the Heman Marion Sweatt Travis County Courthouse, Rais Bhuiyan, who was shot in the face by white supremacist Mark Stroman as part of a post-September 11, 2001 shooting spree, was to announce that he's filing suit today against Gov")

Also see or GO here

Then there's this story I missed here which got attention from both Debbie and Bill Pelke since the case relates to one we at JOH know well: Va. judge throws out drug dealer’s death sentence in slaying which was at The Washingtonpost (Hope Bill or Terri S will write up something more fully on this case soon for our JOH blog!) The jist was that Veteran Prince William County prosecutors withheld or ignored crucial evidence and potential testimony in the capital murder case, a federal judge rules...
Samir Bouzid liked this and Bill Pelke said: "Debbie, thank you for your post. This is a very special case to all of the Journey of Hope family. Terri Steinberg is one of us."

Thanx, JOH Family, for remaining true to our principles of forgiveness, compassion and seeking a better way.

Continue to support Journey of Hope with your Comments, Suggestions and in other ways.

Monday, August 01, 2011

Gang 'Interrupters' - Stopping the next killing

We in the Abolition Movement must work toward prevention. Here's an inspiring movement...

Gang 'Interrupters' Fight Chicago's Cycle Of Violence
August 1, 2011

Listen to the Story - Fresh Air from WHYY - [44 min 1 sec] GO here

Ameena Matthews, a violence interrupter with the Chicago organization CeaseFire, mediates disputes to prevent gang violence from escalating.

Aaron Wickenden, a violence interrupter with the Chicago organization CeaseFire, mediates disputes to prevent gang violence from escalating.

For 11 years, former gang members in Chicago have entered dangerous neighborhoods in the city and staged group interventions for at-risk youth, in an effort to try to stop the cycle of retaliatory gang violence that plagues the city's western and southern neighborhoods.

The men and women, known as "violence interrupters," work with an organization called CeaseFire, which operates under the assumption that violence moves through a city in the same way that an infectious disease moves through the body. To fix crime, says the organization, violence needs to be stopped at the source.

But there's a problem: "Not just anybody can come in and tell a guy to put his gun down," says CeaseFire's director Tio Hardiman, in a scene from The Interrupters, a new documentary about the group. "Most of the violence interrupters come from the hierarchy in some of these gangs. [And they] have one goal in mind: to stop killings. They're not trying to dismantle gangs. What they're trying to do is save a life."

Chicago's Schools, Police Work To Stem Violence:

The film is a collaboration between Hoop Dreams director Steve James and journalist Alex Kotlowitz, who profiled their organization in 2008 for The New York Times Magazine. The topic of violence in Chicago hit particularly close to home for both men, James tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross.

"Alex saw three people in the course of writing [his book There Are No Children Here] perish on the streets," he says. "And for me, two people [related to the cast] from Hoop Dreams ... were murdered. ... What we wanted to do, in some ways, was to refocus some attention on this issue because it feels like we've gotten to a point where murders are down, but they're still way too high. And I think there's this feeling that we've kind of done what we can do — and it's just the way those neighborhoods are at this point."

Members of CeaseFire establish relationships with people affected by violence and then work to get them to channel their anger in non-violent ways. The film profiles three of the interrupters, including a man whose father was murdered and another who committed a murder when he was 17.

The third subject of the film is Ameena Matthews, one of only two female members of Chicago's interrupters team. Matthews is the daughter of a famous gang member and had been in a gang herself — which, she says, gives her credibility when navigating potentially volatile situations among teens on the streets.

"The first thing they'll say [to you] if you come on the block and you haven't lived or walked the walk, [is] 'How can you tell me anything? You don't know how I live. You don't know how I breathe. You don't know nothing,'" Matthew says. "And nine times out of ten, these little young guys and girls that I encounter, they know my father."

I'm looking at 13, 14, 15, 18, 19-year-old men and women dying on the streets of Chicago. That's what's so profound to me about the violence.

- Ameena Matthews
Gang members who aren't familiar with Matthews or her father will often do research on her before she comes back to talk to them again, she says.

"And when I come back around, the way they look is 'Oh my goodness, what did I do to have this person come and speak to me?'" she says. "It's a door opener."

When Matthews was heavily involved in gang activities, it was her Muslim faith, her children and grandmother who served as her own violence interrupters, she says.

"[My grandmother] would step in the middle of raids, asking, 'Where's Ameena?'" she says. "Guns were drawn and she's not even looking at the guns or the gas that was thrown in the building to smoke us out, she's yelling my name and telling me to get my behind out. ... She was there."