Nearly 100 women representing many countries (including U.K., Bosnia, France, Serbia, Croatia, Spain, Israel, Austria, Armenia and many more) convened in Leuven, Belgium (March 2-3, 2019) to stand in solidarity for peace, for the end of war, and for the end of the occupation.
Women in Black began in Jerusalem when the First Intifada broke out in December 1987. A handful of brave Israeli women wanted their neighbors and the government to understand that the occupation of Palestine was wrong, so they stood silently in black holding signs. They’ve been protesting the occupation every week for the past 31 years. Today these Israeli women need support and solidarity from their international sisters because change is not going to happen from within.
They’re joined by women in many different countries. I’ve stood with Women in Black in Albuquerque, Baltimore and London. Thankfully, I could join the Leuven WiB when they stood in front of their beautiful city hall silently for an hour on Saturday.
The Grote Markt, one of the city’s busiest squares, was a great location with many pedestrians and cyclists flowing past, reading the signs, and sharing their support.
When the organist at Saint Peter’s Church across from City Hall played John Lennon’s “Imagine,” the tears and goosebumps mingled to make this the most special vigil for peace that I’ve ever joined. (Thank you WiB Leuven!) Next year the international gathering of Women in Black will be in Armenia. Look here for more details.
Imagine there’s no countries
It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion, too###Imagine all the peopleLiving life in peace###You, you may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you will join us
And the world will be as one###Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you canNo need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man###Imagine all the peopleSharing all the world###You, you may say I’m a dreamerBut I’m not the only oneI hope someday you will join usAnd the world will live as one
Following the vigil, the women gathered inside City Hall in the beautiful legislative chambers for reports, songs and fellowship.
Ria Convents (Leuven) moderated and opened the meeting; Yvonne Deutsch (Israël) shared the history of how WiB began; Maria Vandoren and Mieke Coremans read poems they had written for the occasion; and Lies Corneille (the new municipial officer for equal rights and global policy in Leuven) welcomed us and thanked Women in Black for being a strong and consistent voice for peace. She mentioned the importance of being a powerful role model for the next generation of women.
Stasa Zajovic from Belgrade spoke about the impact of nationalism and fascism in the world, and Jadranka Milisevic from Sarajevo told us about her work with young women in post-war Bosnia-Hercegovina. Women from Belgrade and France shared the important role of feminist lesbians in the peace movement, and Armine Karapetyan welcomed us to Armenia next year.