IF there can be any hope found in the rubble of embattled Gaza, it lies in the sea of humanity from around the globe shouting out its support for the Palestinians while the Israel-Hamas war drags on.
From world leaders to the man on the street, their hearts are touched, ofttimes broken, upon watching the news or coming across pictures detailing destroyed buildings, famine and, worst of all, thousands of deaths in the matter of a month.
People all over are coming together to call for peace in Gaza, something the illegally occupied territory has been without for 75 years. Among them are Malaysian creatives who have gathered fellow South-East Asian (SEA) artists to sign a memorandum that was launched last month.
As of Nov 21, the SEA Artists, Creatives and Cultural Activists for Peace: Stop Genocide in Gaza memorandum had received 709 endorsements from 49 organisations and 660 individuals from around the region. The participating nationalities are from Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam.
Malaysian filmmaker and screenwriter Nik Jassmin Hew is directing the campaign and explains that it came together quickly: “The idea for it came about very suddenly out of frustration and helplessness. It is a result of many people coming together, contributing what they can for this urgent cause.
The memorandum, she says, is an initiative to express their concerns about the plight of the Palestinians in Gaza and to call for Asean leaders to actively put a stop to the genocide that is happening there.
“We are affected by the unprecedented atrocities that are unfolding before us, and it has come to a point that they cannot be ignored,” says Nik Jassmin in a recent interview.
“The memorandum also serves as a reminder for other artists, creatives and cultural activists to support humanity through peaceful and creative ways,” she adds.
These are some of the memorandum’s calls to action:
> Asean countries to halt economic activities with Israel until Gaza is safe from indiscriminate bombings and civilian Pales-tinians are guaranteed safety from becoming military targets.
> Asean leaders to call on the United States government to stop funding Israel’s genocide in Gaza.
> Immediate assistance with medical supplies without delay, along with psychological support for children affected by the war.
> Immediate opening of borders for the supply of food, water, and fuel.
> Protection of churches, mosques, hospitals, and schools.
> Safe passage for the channelling of international funds to rebuild Gaza.
The memorandum has certainly been well-received: “Within 24 hours of spreading the initiative, we received endorsements from all over South-East Asia except Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar.
“And after a few days, it penetrated Cambodia and then Myan-mar too. We have yet to receive support from anyone in Laos, but the numbers are growing every day.
“We anticipate the numbers will grow even more once the memorandum is translated into the respective languages of the Asean countries,” Nik Jassmin says.
To date, the memorandum has gathered almost 800 endorsers who are prominent figures and organisations of various backgrounds.
For Malaysia, this includes Bront Palarae, Datin Sofia Jane, and Datuk Sheila Majid; Indonesia’s Acha Septriasa, Tio Pakusadewo, and Viva Westi; and Singapore’s Datuk Ramli Sarip, Art Fazil, and Erwin Dawson.
Among the organisations, Malaysia’s Masakini Theatre Company, Yayasan Afdlin Shauki, Film Directors’ Association of Malaysia, Five Arts Centre, Empathy for Youth, Persatuan Dokumentari Nusantara Malaysia, and Instant Cafe Theatre were very quick to respond.
During the memorandum’s launch on Nov 11, Nik Jassmin says many artists gathered to give touching performances which were livestreamed across the region. The event at Masakini Theatre’s Ramli Hassan Studio in Kuala Lumpur was attended by about 60 artists, creatives and cultural activists. It was made possible by volunteers.
“The launch of the memorandum was only the beginning. Discussions and talks, as well as the campaign for the memorandum have been ongoing since,” says Nik Jassmin.
And when the Palestine-based Ashtar Theatre called for The Gaza Monologues to be read by theatre practitioners around the world as a global campaign to highlight the situation in Gaza, the SEA for Peace memorandum collective responded.
“We organised a reading online with an amazing lineup of Malaysian theatre practitioners, which included Marina Tan, Dr Munirah Ibrahim, Charles Roberts, Farah Rani, Fiona Lee, Abdul Musawwir Islahuddin, Khairi Anwar and theatre veterans Datuk Sabera Shaik, Mano Maniam and Datuk Zahim Al-Bakri.
“It was broadcast live on Facebook. The Gaza Monologues were written and performed in 2010 by youth in Gaza. These youth are now adults who are stuck in this war and whose lives are now in turmoil – if they are still alive even,” Nik Jassmin says.
Hoping for peace
Nik Jassmin says the memorandum will be presented to Asean headquarters in Jakarta as well as to all Asean leaders.
“We hope it will lead to further pressure and discussions. And moving forward, there should be more campaigns and collaborations between artists and activists around the region towards this common goal for humanity.”
She also hopes the initiative will have an impact on those who have the power to promote change in Gaza.
“It is not only an indication of the unity of SEA artists and activists in this urgent matter but also in encouraging everyone to continuously fulfil their roles and purpose, to use their positions, art and creations to create awareness, to change the narrative, and to pressure for peace in Gaza and beyond.”
The memorandum and full list of endorsements can be found at seaforpeace.secretproject1.com.