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Culture & Conflict
In our previous exploration of Culture and Conflict, we looked at how war affects the lives of women – and how today’s young women are courageously dealing with the aftermath of devastated families and war-torn nations.

Now explore the perspectives of the young men who march into the battlefields and who are targets of enemy fire. Read Atem’s story, ”Life is Good” about his experience fleeing civil war in Sudan and the treacherous journey that he and other Lost Boys of Sudan had to make in an effort to find security. Get a glimpse of the lives of young Iraqi boys through Ali Tamimi’s photographs… or read Reza Aslan’s perspectives on the challenges faced by Muslim men today.

Does war still affect men and women differently? Join the conversation.
Jens van Tricht
Netherlands, the
When I think about conflict in young men's lives, one of the first things that comes to mind is violence. Violence is a way of dealing with conflict, and men are the main agents of violence in this world.

Men fight wars among each other, leaving huge collateral damage to women, children AND other men. Images of men tell them to be tough and rough, both from the inside and the outside. I feel lucky not having experienced war in my life. As a political activist, however, I have seen and experienced the negative influence of violence and conflict on the behaviour and character of men, and vice versa. We can see it all now happening in the world, on a daily basis. How can we change the world for the better, how can we become and create better men, how can we learn to solve conflicts in other ways than violence?
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Beth Stover
Posted on Tuesday, March 06, 2007 8:00 PM
The change must come and education is the key. If the men and women of Islam would understand just how important education is and what it would bring to thier country. Knowledge is power and maybe that is what these people are afraid of. I am happy when I hear of natives of undeveloped countries getting an education and making a difference. This will bring improvement, peace and security.
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patrick o'heffernan
United States
Posted on Wednesday, February 28, 2007 9:03 AM
I agree with everything you have said and understand from your words - and manyothers - than the change must come from within Islam, not from without. The domination of the rich over the poor, whites over non-whites, etc, is foundational to the domination of men over women and it is not just in Muslim cultures. Unfortunately, Islam evelved within one of these dminator cultures, and was immediately attacked within in and so had to turn quickly to vilene to fight back. But the defensive violene that Muhamend and his early followers needed to use when they were driven from Medina, turned to offensive violence - in keeping with the male-based clan culture of the time and place - to spread Islam. And of course, Christian Europe perpetrated its own violence against Islma (and women!). We have come to the oint where either Islam goes through the kind of reformation that Christianity went through or it will be forever mired in internal battles that will squeeze out the moderate Muslims. This is now becoming apparent in Canada and teh US where moderate Muslims who have established gender-equal mosques are being forced to push back against new arrivals who are more conservative and want to re-enslave the mosques women.
The best thing that non Muslims can do is support the moderates, give them pathways to political, economic and soical power - and fiercely enforce gneder equality laws, inlcuidng severe punishments for Muslim men who try to violate the freedom and persons of women.
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Jens van Tricht
Netherlands, the
Posted on Wednesday, February 28, 2007 3:56 AM
Somehow my posts from this week have disappeared in cyberspace; a real pity and great frustration because I spent quite some time reflecting on all your posts and relating them to some of the stories in the exhibit.

Anyway, I want to thank you all for your participation, the wonderful stories about men acting positively in harsh situations, the hope and confidence that can be read from your accounts. It is important to face the problems in the world, and it is equally important to see the good things happening.

Having said that, I wish to share my feelings of sadness and doubt about the general equation of Muslims with violence and problems. It seems that for many people it is not done to associate violence with masculinity in general, but doing so with Muslim masculinity is happening all the time. Let's not forget, as Reza Aslan makes clear in his "Reclaiming the Middle Ground", that most of the 1.5 billion Muslims in the world are not violent and not causing the main problems the world is trying to deal with. And, as Baba Ali shows in his both critical and hilarious flm "Fear of Flying", the lives of 'middle ground' Muslims has not become easier the last few years. I can very well imagine the resistance growing among moderate Muslims against the mainstream that doesn't accept them and treats them like secondary citizens and potential suspects all the time. What's more, let's not forget which is the real culture of dominance in this world; white middle and upper class heterosexual men rule the world, usurp most of the resources, profit from unjust relations in the world, and stay at the top completely uncriticized.
In my opinion, compassion for those who suffer from conflicts in this world is more important than blaming anyone. Men suffer a lot in these conflicts, let's be compassionate about that, let's empower men to be compassionate and to not participate in conflicts themselves, to ally and share with women and other men, to develop their part of a culture of peaceful nurturing.

Thank you all once again!
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Luz Sanchez
Posted on Tuesday, February 27, 2007 7:56 AM
I really like Wael's photos from Lebanon. We always think the war ends when it's over. When the bullets stop that's when the war really begins. Who even thinks about environmental destruction.
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patrick o'heffernan
United States
Posted on Sunday, February 25, 2007 2:41 PM
I think Riane Eisler got it right: there are two human cultures, one of violent dominance and one of peaceful nurturing. Men in most cultures are inculcated into the cutlure of violent dominance and gloification of violence, and women into the culture of nurturing, social building, and peacemaking. Until we can remove, or at least tightly control, the culture of dominance, men will continue to spend most of their time fighting each other and abusing women. Unfortunately, one of the world's great religions, Islam, evolved within a desert culture of dominance and, while its dogma does not in any way advocate the abuse of women, its history and its present do just that - and in doing so spread violence and female abuse around the world. This is the reaosn NO Mulsim country has developed democratically, economically, or culturally. When you put men in charge - which is what the culture of dominance does - the men never mature emotionally beyond the age of 14 or 15. Their priiorities are fighting each other and tormenting their sisters when they are not fighting. The result is a male-dominated, violent clan-based society in which the men behave like teenaged boys with no supervision - all they do is fight among themselves and torment women. Just look at Palestine for an example.
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Joan Hecht
United States
Posted on Friday, February 23, 2007 6:44 AM

Thank you Ben, for bringing this issue to light. The people of Uganda, in particular the children abducted by the LRA (lords Resistance Army), have been subjected to unspeakable horrors. To list a few, they’ve been tortured, killed, forced to practice cannibalism against their own people and used as sex slaves. It’s extremely disturbing just to think about such atrocities, much less have to live them. I'm so sorry that you've been witness to such things. My thoughts and prayers are with you, your family and the people of Uganda.
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atube ben
Posted on Thursday, February 22, 2007 4:55 AM
vacally all the posted comment are almost the same,but here in my country (Uganda)i have a different exspierance because the men have suffer more than young wemen.
A number of young men have lost their life,alot cursolity that is why there are alot of wemen are suffering now day because there is not enough men to look after them.And a number of young men who have been aducted,killed in the bush upto now they are still missing no where to expect wher they are which has course alot pain to there fellow friends who are still leaving in this county.

Thanks for sending me those conversation if i had enough time i would have send for you alot of comment.

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Joan Hecht
United States
Posted on Wednesday, February 21, 2007 2:18 PM
Absolutely. They know better than anyone who the enemy is and what the enemy is capable of doing. However, many of them also realize that in order to bring peace to their homeland they must some how learn to live with these same people, without sacrificing their own beliefs or losing the right to live freely in the process. I don't know if such a thing is possible when dealing with “supreme” mentalities, but some people from the south are taking heroic steps to ensure that it such an event happens. Some of the Lost Boys and others from the south recently visited a refugee camp in Darfur where some of the very same people who had killed their family and friends were living. I guess you could say the cards had turned for these individuals, as they were now being killed by their own government just as the southerners were by them. (Please do not assume that all refugees in Darfur are guilty of such atrocities, most are innocent civilians just like those in the South). The Southerners did not visit the camp with the intent of revenge, they simply went to take food, blankets and supplies to their former captors and those who took part in killing their families. They did so in an effort to bring about forgiveness and peace in their country. When seeing them, I'm told that the Muslims (men and women) began crying and fell at the feet of the Southerners begging for their forgiveness saying, “How can you help us when we killed your families and took everything from you?” One of the boys replied, “We can forgive you, because Jesus forgave us.” Regardless of your faith, whether Christian, Muslim, Buddists, etc… you have to appreciate and admire the courage it took for these young men to do such a thing. The people of Southern Sudan continue to amaze and astound me on a daily basis. The world has missed so much by not reaching out to them and getting to know them. They are truly incredible.

And while we MUST acknowledge and hold accountable those people responsible for the genocide in Sudan, we must also acknowledge that not all Muslims subscribe to that behavior, or extremism. But those who don’t should certainly be more vocal in renouncing such actions, provided that the media allows them the opportunity of doing so. In our efforts to be “politically correct” or “tolerant” of all people and all beliefs, we should guard ourselves against those who threaten our well being and our continued freedom. That’s just my opinion.
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noPC noPC
Posted on Wednesday, February 21, 2007 11:08 AM
Does this young man ever acknowledge that these janjaweed who are muslims and claim to follow the koran, have mass-killed, raped, enslaved and tortured his whole family, village and country and still do? I guess so. How can he heal if he doesn't say the truth and call a spade a spade? Did we? No, we might offense people. Let them be offensed! Hundreds of thousands are dying and suffering because we don't define the ennemy. How can we help Sudan if we don't say the truth and call a spade a spade?
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Jens van Tricht
Netherlands, the
Posted on Wednesday, February 21, 2007 1:10 AM
Dear Richa,

Thank you for your posting! I agree totally with you that there is a huge dilemma in the general expectations of men. It is expected from men to protect their families, communities and countries, while at the same time we want men to be loving, caring and understanding. And in many many cases this is exactly what men are and what they do! However, the question remains important to look critically at the side effects of our expectations of men. For not only do we expect men to be protective, we expect men to be able and willing to show and use agression in order to be real men. I have the feeling that this expectation of masculinity is getting out of hand too often, causing unneccessary pain and trouble to themselves and others. And, let's not forget the price men have to pay to develop personalities that are able and willing to protect themselves, their families, communities and countries. It seems that masculinity sometimes works as a dynamic of its own, creating and causing exactly those violent conflicts that we all are trying to stop. Can we expect violence and peace from men at the same time?
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Richa Gaur
Posted on Wednesday, February 21, 2007 12:44 AM
Wow Joan that was really a touching story. In my opinion, i would never blame a man for conflicts or violence. I think it purely depends on the mind of a person and obviously the environment further supports u for doing violence.. A man can be arrogant but at t same time loving from inside. Lets not divide these issues on the basis of gender.

But yes i do agree in most of the conflicts on an international or political level men have played a key role. But we should never forget the other side of the story, we r protected because of those men only who r fighting for us. Its like two sides of one coin. Rather than discussing on which gender is responsible for conflicts we should concentrate on how to solve conflicts, and stop violence or terrorism.
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Joan Hecht
United States
Posted on Tuesday, February 20, 2007 4:55 AM
I'd like to hear the stories of positive male role models that have made a difference in time of conflict. Men such as former NBA star, Manute Bol, also from Southern Sudan. The Lost Boys tell me that he traveled to Southern Sudan during the war between the north sand south and when seeing them, as children, in dire need of food and medical attention he began to cry. He left shortly thereafter and the boys thought they would never see him again. But then they heard the sound of helicopters in the air and realized that he had returned with enough food and supplies for everyone. He went on to spend most of his NBA earnings helping the people of Southern Sudan.

One of the boys also told me the story of a young Lost Boy who was captured by government militia along with numerous other young boys. Their captors threw them in a pit they had dug in the ground. Those underneath the crush of bodies died during the night due to suffocation. But early the next morning, a man moved the brush covering from the top of the pit and pulled the young boy and others to safety saying, “I am a Muslim, but this is not right. You’re only children. You must run far from here. Run home.” Surely he put his own life in grave danger to save the life of little slave boys from the South of Sudan.
There’s also the story of Bishop Nathaniel Garang from the Dioceses of Bor, in Southern Sudan who became known as “The Lost Bishop.” Despite Sudanese government mandates ordering the evacuation of all missionaries and priest from the South of Sudan, Bishop Garang returned to the bush, disappearing from the outside world and putting his own life at risk in order to bring the message of Christ/Hope to his people.

There are so many incredibly courageous men in our world! I’d like to hear how some of them have influenced young men today. What about the firemen and policemen who gave their lives to save the lives of others in the twin towers? Let’s focus on the positive aspects of the modern men and hear how they have helped to influence our society for the better.
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Jens van Tricht
Netherlands, the
Posted on Monday, February 19, 2007 11:32 PM
Positive masculinity is a quote I took from Steven Botkin's post in this conversation. It would be nice to hear from Steven what it means to him, and to the men he's working with. To me, it depicts a clear opposite to the normative masculinity that in so many respects has negative implications and consequences. Positive masculinity to me is non-violent, pro-feminist, self-critical, empowering and cooperative towards women and gay people, it allows men being vulnerable and showing it, it is communicative, open, empathetic, caring. To begin with. What is it for you Luz?
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Luz Sanchez
Posted on Monday, February 19, 2007 10:41 PM
Jens, what is 'positive masculinity'?
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Jens van Tricht
Netherlands, the
Posted on Monday, February 19, 2007 12:28 PM
Steven and Joan, thanks so much for your comments. It is great to hear of such good work being done! The images that equate men and violence also leave a lot of boys and men alienated from themselves, their families and their communities, creating trauma in personal development and terrible loneliness among their peers. Good to hear of the Male Involvement Project of te IRC, I would love to get some more insight in the ways these men deal with their peers who are less eager to ally for positive masculinity and violence prevention. Isn't it of crucial importance to have men stand up and speak out?!
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Joan Hecht
United States
Posted on Monday, February 19, 2007 7:06 AM
The IRC (International Rescue Committee) is a wonderful organization. Thank you for your personal efforts in searching for peaceful solutions to violent conflicts around the world, in particular Africa.
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Steven Botkin
United States
Posted on Monday, February 19, 2007 6:51 AM
I just returned from Liberia helping to launch a Male Involvement Project for The International Rescue Committee's Gender-Based Violence Program. Nine commmunity-based men's action groups have been formed to collaborate with the existing women's action groups.

Over the past year Men's Resources International ( also provided consultations and/or training for newly forming men's initiatives in Zambia, Nigeria, Rwanda, Niger and Ethiopia.

Wherever we go we find men who are eager to develop culturally relevant strategies and skills for engaging as allies with women for positive masculinity and violence prevention. There is a heartening growth of interest among international and community-based organization in this work, and a need for the development and dissemination of effective approaches to reaching men.

Thank you for this exhibit/conversation.
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Joan Hecht
United States
Posted on Monday, February 19, 2007 5:27 AM
That's a great question. Thanks for asking.

My foundation supports the health and educational needs of Lost Boys and their families, which now includes siblings, wives and children. We also support numerous projects in Africa that benefit women, men and children, such as the building of schools and health clinics, water wells, survival kits, etc… For many years our primary focus was that of the Lost Boys, simply because until recent years, we had no Lost Girls living in our city. In 2001, when the largest groups of Lost Boys/ Girls arrived to the US, there were approximately 3800 Lost Boys, but only 87 Lost Girls. The discrepancy in numbers between the girls and boys stems in large part to their arrival as children to the refugee camps in Ethiopia. The boys were placed in “boys only” areas of the camps, while the girls, according to Sudanese culture, were assimilated into existing families within the camps, or placed with surviving relatives. In order to be a part of the resettlement program in 2001, the refugees had to be considered as orphans. Because the girls had been living in families units for a period of 9-14 years by that time, they were not eligible to participate in the program. Also factored into the equation, was the issue of marriage dowries. Many foster families were reluctant to give the girls up for resettlement to the US, because in doing so, they forfeited all rights of a dowry on their behalf. And while this may be appalling to most of us, for these families, who live in squander with no hope for jobs or any semblance of a meaningful existence, it might well be their only means of survival. Having said that, I must also say that the price of these dowries for Lost Boys living in the US has reached astronomical prices, which I find extremely disturbing.

As I speak around the country, I always make known the plight of the many Lost Girls who were left behind. I strongly encourage audience members to speak out on their behalf to government officials and non-government agencies. Even if they are ineligible for resettlement to other countries, like their male counterparts, we must demand that they receive adequate food and water, medical attention, a proper education and an equal opportunity for reaching their full potentials as human beings and citizens of Sudan.

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Jens van Tricht
Netherlands, the
Posted on Sunday, February 18, 2007 2:38 PM
Back after a weekend relaxing on a small Island, I jump into the conversation immediately. But I will try to keep it short.
Thank you for your contributions, I'm happy to see the conversation really has started now. All of you add important views, all asking and answering the question 'what to do?', facing the horrors of war, hatred and conflict. Of course I agree that both men and women have to do their best, that we all have to take our responsibility, that we all have to act not just speak. However, I feel uncomfortable with too much focus on gender neutral perspectives, because they don't allow criticizing men for what they do as men, they don't allow scrutinizing the deep connections between normative - cultural! - masculinity and violence. I believe the problem has to be named in order to be able to work on solving it.
Let us please acknowledge that violence is a men's problem, that men have to take it seriously, not just theoretically but politically and personally. Where is the man who has never felt he should measure himself against others? Where is the men who does not feel that ultimately he will have to be able to defend his family, his property, his country, his honour, if needed? What do these prescriptions do to us men, as men?! Why is it so difficult for men to express emotions, other than through anger and violence?

Joan, why is the foundation focusing on the Lost Boys of Sudan?

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Joan Hecht
United States
Posted on Saturday, February 17, 2007 7:15 AM
I remember watching the evening news one night in the early 1980’s when a multitude of African men, women, and children filled the screen. Having fled their country due to civil war and drought, the refugees had traveled by foot for months before reaching the distant borders of Ethiopia. I looked in horror at their frail bodies, ravaged by starvation and disease, and their images were forever etched into the walls of my heart and mind. The young children touched me the most. Many of them had deteriorated to the point where they could no longer walk or stand and with quiet resign, they waited for their certain deaths. Like many viewers, I wanted desperately to do something, but Africa seemed so far away. What could I possibly do? I was only one person. Ultimately, I did the only thing I thought possible and simply said a prayer on their behalf, and then with the rest of the world, I turned the channel hoping someone else would come to their rescue.

In the years that followed, their images continued to haunt me, but I heard nothing more about them. I guess that’s why I incorrectly assumed that someone had indeed come to their aid. I had no idea that a journey that began for them in Sudan would one day lead them not only to America, but also into the deepest corners of my heart.

When first meeting the Lost Boys of Sudan in 2001, I’m sorry to say that I had never heard their incredible story. After working with them for six years and establishing a non-profit foundation Alliance for the Lost Boys of Sudan, to support their health and educational needs, I travel around the country speaking to schools, business groups and religious institutions on their behalf. As usual, I recently addressed a group of approximately 800 students and teachers in New York and asked if anyone had ever heard about the civil war between the North and South of Sudan. Only two people raised their hands. I’m saddened to say that this is not an uncommon response. How is it possible that civil war raged in the country of Sudan for over two decades, killing approximately 2.5 million people and displacing another 4 million without the majority of the world even knowing about? If we are truly going to stop genocide and the killing of innocent people around the world due to the color of their skin, oil and religious differences, we must step out of our isolated boxes and view the world around us. We must be a voice for those who have no voice and when talking proves to be ineffective proves to be ineffective, such as the case of Darfur, WE MUST DEMAND ACTION! Please due your part, write your politicians and the Embassies of complacent UN countries, or those that profit from the deaths of innocent civilians. Use your voice and your votes, to Stop The Genocide Now!
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