Trump gives a punchy speech to the United Nations General Assembly

First of all, what is the UN’s General Assembly?

It was established in 1945 under the Charter of the United Nations, and it takes a central position as the chief deliberative, policymaking and representative organ of the United Nations. Comprising all 193 Members of the United Nations, it provides a unique space for discussions between world nations. It also plays a significant role in the process of standard-setting and the codification of international law. The Assembly has the power to make recommendations to nations on international issues. It has also started actions—political, economic, humanitarian, social and legal—which have affected the lives of millions of people throughout the world. You might learn how the UN works in Religious Studies lessons in Year 9 and Year 11.

Today Donald Trump gave his first speech to the United Nations as US President and it was full of headline grabbing gambits…

He told the UN General Assembly that America would destroy North Korea if forced to defend itself or its allies. He openly mocked North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un, saying: “Rocket man is on a suicide mission.”

North Korea has been testing nuclear bombs and missiles in defiance of the UN.

The UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres had earlier urged statesmanship, saying: “We must not sleepwalk our way into war.” On the photograph below UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres is on the left and President Trump on the right:

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The American leader didn’t hold back either by also attacking Iran, saying it was a “corrupt dictatorship” which was intent on destabilising the Middle East. He called on the government in Tehran to cease supporting terrorism and again criticised the Obama-era international agreement over Iran’s nuclear programme, which he called an embarrassment.

With such a bolshy speech by the US President it will be interesting what North Korea, Iran and the USA do next.

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Massacre in Burma or is it Myanmar?

A group of people, the Rohingya (Muslim), have been fleeing their homes in their thousands this week and sharing stories with refugee, government and new agencies about their mistreatment in Burma/ Myanmar (majority Buddhist).  More than 160,000 of Burma/ Myanmar’s 1.1 million ethnic Rohingya minority have fled to Bangladesh, bringing with them stories that they say describe ethnic cleansing.

Ethnic cleansing – the mass expulsion or killing of members of one ethnic or religious group in an area by those of another.

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The leader in Burma/ Myanmar is Aung San Suu Kyi, a Nobel Peace Prize winner who said in 1991: “Wherever suffering is ignored, there will be the seeds of conflict, for suffering degrades and embitters and enrages.” There is a petition that she is stripped of her Nobel Prize for not stopping and condemning the attacks on the Rohingya.

News agencies are being cautious with their language when reporting the story as there have also been reports of Rohingya terrorists attacking and killing Buddhists and Hindus. So when they report on a massacre against the Rohingya they use language like the Guardian cannot independently corroborate the villagers’ accounts to protect themselves if the stories do turn out not to be true.

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USA urges Security Council of the United Nations to take “the strongest possible measures”

What is the UN Security Council? The Security Council has the main responsibility for the keeping international peace and security. It has 15 Members, and each Member has one vote. Under UN rules all Member States are obligated to (as in they have to) comply with Council decisions.

“The time has come to exhaust all diplomatic means before it is too late,” Nikki Haley the US envoy to the United Nations told an emergency meeting of the Security Council in New York today.

North Korea has been in the news for most of this summer. There are reports which suggest that North Korea is preparing new test missile launches. It tested a nuclear bomb underground on Sunday. Estimates of its power range from 50 kilotonnes to 120 kilotonnes. A 50kt device would be about three times the size of the bomb that destroyed Hiroshima in 1945.

At the start of Monday’s Security Council meeting the UN Under Secretary General Jeffrey Feltman said North Korea’s actions were destabilising global security, and he called on Pyongyang to abide by Security Council resolutions.

“The DPRK [North Korea] is the only country that continues to break the norm against nuclear test explosions,” he said.

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The British ambassador to the UN, Matthew Rycroft, said direct talks with North Korea were only possible if Pyongyang stopped the escalation.

“Dialogue will always be our end goal but returning to dialogue without a serious sign of intent from Pyongyang would be a set-up to failure,” he said. “North Korea must change course to allow a return to dialogue.”

Meanwhile China’s envoy to the UN, Liu Jieyi, reiterated a call for all sides to return to negotiations. “The peninsula issue must be resolved peacefully,” he said. “China will never allow chaos and war on the peninsula.”

People often wonder what type of pressure the United Nations can put on a country not keeping to international law.  Well in the case of North Korea just last month, the Security Council voted unanimously to ban North Korean exports and limit investments in the country. Diplomats are suggesting that the next harsh sanction which could be imposed is an oil embargo that would have a crippling effect. Other serious steps that countries might take through the United Nations are  a ban on the North’s national airline, limits on North Koreans working abroad, and asset freezes and travel bans on officials. All of these things are designed to put pressure on North Korea. Do you think they would work?

Holy Sites in Jerusalem Re-Opened

Last Friday three Arab Israelis opened fire from a sacred site in Jerusalem which is called Noble (Haram Al Sharif) Sanctuary for Muslims and Temple Mount for Jews. Using automatic weapons the three Arab Israelis killed two police officers and were later shot dead inside the compound. The Holy Sites were re-opened today with stricter security checks.

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The Arab-Israeli conflict is only studied a little in British schools as the focus is on modern wars such as World War I and World War II. We take an initial look at the subject in Religious Studies when studying about pilgrimages and how Jerusalem is contested and valued by Muslims, Jews and Christians. A short BBC video explains the importance of Haram Al Sharif and Temple Mount, and there is a BBC Pictures special about the holy sites, explaining how through modern history there has been unrest over who the site belongs to. The history of the sites brings you closer to understanding both faiths, with important stories for Jews such as Abraham almost sacrificing his son Isaac there, and Temple Mount being where people will receive redemption when the Messiah arrives. Compared to Muslim stories of Muhammad PBUH  having his Night Journey from Makkah to Jerusalem to hear in heaven from Allah about prayer (salah, one of the five pillar of Islam).

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3 million people displaced, 14 million facing starvation – heard of the civil war in the Yemen?

A YouGov poll by the Independent newspaper found that only 49% of people questioned had heard of the conflict currently causing death and hunger in the Yemen. This number got even smaller with the younger age group of 18-24 year olds with only 37% knowing about the conflict. The map below shows that Yemen is located south of Saudi Arabia:

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Thanks to Sophie our school’s BBC School reporter even more people will have heard about what’s going down in the Yemen. You may need to search Global, RE on the school’s BBC Report page to read Sophie excellent report. The Independent are trying their best to make  UK citizens aware of a conflict where British weapons purchased by Saudi Arabia are being used in questionable circumstance.

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The Lost Boys of Sudan

They were known simply as “The Lost Boys.” Orphaned by the brutal civil war in Sudan, which began in 1983, these young victims traveled as many as a thousand miles on foot in search of safety.  Fifteen years later, a humanitarian effort would bring 3,600 lost boys, as well as girls, to the West. Their story has been told in a feature length film as well as documentaries.

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The Good Lie is a film with Reese Witherspoon playing an employment agency counsellor who has been enlisted to help find the young Sudanese refugees find jobs.

  1. What was your immediate response to the film? Were there any scenes that you found particularly powerful and memorable, and why?
  2. How does Margaret Nagle’s script put the Sudanese characters at the centre of the story? What is the significance of Carrie’s role? What is the effect of having their different perspectives brought together in one story?
  3. What did you think of the performances of the four lead Sudanese actors – Ger Duany, Emmanuel Jal, Arnold Oceng and Kuoth Wiel? What unique qualities and life experiences do they bring to their individual roles, and to the film as a whole? ‘This is my story being told here.’ – Actor Emmanuel Jal
  4. How did you feel during the early scenes in the film, when we see the children escaping violence and undertaking a tough journey? How do the group form the emotional bonds which will sustain them?
  5. How did you react to the character of Carrie, and what emotional journey does she go on over the course of the film? How is she changed by her relationship with the refugees? ‘Carrie’s experience of getting to know these three boys and their sister really opens her up in a way she hasn’t before.’ – Actress Reese Witherspoon
  6. How did you feel about the character of Mamere, and the emotional journey he goes on throughout the film? What are his priorities? How did you react to his decision to tell a ‘good lie’? ‘He has to be strong. He has to be the guy that takes the lead and looks after his family.’ – Actor Arnold Oceng
  7. How, and why, do Carrie and Jack (Corey Stoll) develop compassion and understanding for the refugees? How can we learn to listen to the stories of those who’ve lived very different lives from us? ‘What’s their story, anyway?’ – Jack
  8. What motivates Mamere to make his decision at the end of the story? Do you think he was right to tell his ‘good lie’, and why or why not? Under what circumstances, if any, might lying be justified?
  9. Does the film have anything to say about our responsibility for those who aren’t family, or who aren’t even known to us personally? In today’s connected world, how might our actions and attitudes affect people on the other side of the globe?
  10. What hopeful message does The Good Lie have for Sudan, and for people everywhere who have been affected by conflict? What messages might the story of Sudan’s Lost Boys have for those of us who haven’t experienced this kind of suffering first-hand? ‘The journey is not yet finished… because this is the story of the nation.’ – Actor Emmanuel Jal
  11. What does The Good Lie have to say about the power of sacrifice? Why do you think self-sacrifice is such an important theme in so many stories? Which examples of self-sacrifice have been particularly poignant to you?
  12. How do the film’s characters learn the importance of human connection? How might life be different if we all felt able to ‘lean on’ each other in this way? ‘We find out through the course of the story . . . the importance of human connection, and how much we need each other, to communicate, to lean on, to provide for each other.’ – Actress Reese Witherspoon

On YouTube you can watch a CBS documentary in 3 parts tell the story of the Lost Boys; a BBC documentary which provides a follow up story to their tale; a NY Times clip about a Lost Boy who joined the Police; and a documentary called Lost Boys of Sudan (2003) with a grainy trailer on YouTube; and the documentary which originally sparked my interest in this story which was narrated by Nicole Kidman called God Grew Tired of Us.

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