PEACEWORKS STANDS FOR SOCIAL JUSTICE

 

We came across the non-profit organization Peaceworks in Columbia, Mo., last week. It's a grassroots educational organization that's vision is: ... "an ecologically sound, sustainable world, and a violence free community, in which human equality and justice flourish." 

 

Columbia's Peaceworks spokesperson Mark Haim said the local membership is about 500 families, and the organization is continually working for social change through public education, advocacy and fellowship.

 

The night we arrived in Columbia we attended a Peaceworks sponsored talk on Third World sweatshops at the University of Missouri campus. 

 

Global Exchange spokesperson Media Benjamin said it would take a Nike Company worker in Indonesia two and a half months of wages to afford one pair of company shoes; while Nike's CEO, Benjamin said, is worth $5 billion.

 

"There's something wrong with this system," said Benjamin.

 

An MU campus arm of Peaceworks is organizing strategies, including protests, to get the college to buy clothes (that carry the MU emblem) only from companies that offer a "living wage" and other basic human rights to their workers.

 

Peaceworks also has a number of regular volunteers to help with things like the operation of their downtown store PeaceNook.

 

While at the store, I interviewed volunteer Sharon Lee. She has been a volunteer the past six years, and is particularly interested in things that contribute to "sustainable living." (Peaceworks offers a rather comprehensive series of classes on sustainable living, said Haim).

 

Lee said in her evolution toward sustainable living, her and her husband grow an organic garden; recycle; com- post; use alternative medication (herbs, etc.); use bicycles (she's 66, he's 65) as their main mode of transportation.

 

"We come from a generation that believes that since we're Americans, we have a right to use up the world," she said. "We don't. "

 

The following night I attended a Peaceworks sponsored talk by Native American Tom Bedonie, who is traveling the country to raise awareness about what he says is the unfair, if not unconscionable, relocation of the Dine (a traditional Navajo tribe in Hoteville, Ariz.). 

 

It is reported energy companies interested in extracting coal from the land the Dine currently are living on have created pressure for the relocation (for some 10,000 people). Bedonie said it is a travesty the US's insatiable demand for electricity creates such devastating human rights violations.

 

Traditional Navajos, because of cultural, family and spiritual reasons, don't want to give up their land and people around the country are now mobilizing to help.

 

This night at Peaceworks, people donated money, volunteered to do advocacy woding against what they believe is unfair relocation, standing for, for that matter, sustainable living... Wouldn't it be something in this country if the real enemy for everyone was poverty and human rights issrk, and some are even considering traveling to Arizona to help.

 

As I walked the several blocks back to our motor home after the event this night, I thought back over the last three days. People standing against unfair Third World labor practices; standing against what they believe is unfair relocation, standing, for that matter, for sustainable living... wouldn't it be something in this country if the real enemy for everyone was poverty and human rights issues worldwide?