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Some days it just plain pays to get out of bed.

npFor the past 110 days, Nonviolent Peaceforce, the global civilian peacekeeping organization for which I work, has been traumatized by the kidnapping of one of our peacekeepers on Basilan Island in the Philippines, a Sri Lankan national named Umar Jaleel. Since his abduction on February 13, I have had the privilege of watching from the inside as this frankly amazing organization worked tirelessly to bring about his release without violence or ransom. I can finally talk about it publicly because today, at 1245 UTC, Jaleel was released and is now receiving medical attention before returning home to his family. We are all beyond relieved.

Jaleel is one of a team of 17 International Civilian Peacekeepers (ICPs) serving in the Mindanao region of the Philippines, where fighting between the Armed Forces of the Philippines and an Islamic separatist group has put tens of thousands of civilians in the line of fire. The ICPs offer accompaniment and protective presence to displaced persons while working with local peacebuilding groups to create lasting structures for nonviolent conflict resolution. The idea is to protect civilians during this conflict while building civil society structures to prevent the next one. A new model for managing and resolving conflict — and it works.

csm44309This afternoon I talked for over an hour with Jeff MacDonald, a reporter from the Christian Science Monitor. He’s working on a piece about how the nonreligious movement in the U.S. is not only growing but changing in character — becoming more humanistic, as it were, more comfortable with and interested in the emotional side of things — less exclusively focused on the intellectual. More Sally than Harry, you might say.

fbbThen there’s the growth of Foundation Beyond Belief. Since the announcement on June 1st, over 550 600 650 people have signed up on either the Facebook Causes page or the mailing list. I was hoping for 1,000 Foundation members by January 1. While mailing list does not equal donating members, I do think it’s time to upgrade my dreams a bit.

In addition to the general interest, I’ve been blizzarded with messages from people wanting to help in one way or another, and even a few from organizations hoping to be considered as beneficiaries.

I daresay we’ve struck a chord.

I’ll keep you all updated as we hit major landmarks. Much fun and sweat ahead!

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Dale McGowan is the author of Parenting Beyond Belief, Raising Freethinkers, and Atheism for Dummies. He holds a BA in evolutionary anthropology and a PhD in music.