11) Just Peacemaking

 

In Wichita, Kansas, I attended a talk on peace building by Glen Stassen who wrote: Just Peacemaking (Ten Practices for Abolishing War). He explained the theory of “Just Peacemaking” is a counter to the theory of “Just War Theory.”

That is, while in Just War Theory, every possible means is exhausted to diffuse an imminent threat of war, Just Peacemaking calls for as many proactive ways as possible to promote peace in the first place.

 

Stassen said before Jimmy Carter became president, many of South America’s countries were under dictatorship. When Carter left office, because of some of his proactive peacemaking policies, a significant number of those countries had become democracies.

 

Other Just Peacemaking practices include: supporting non-violent direct actions; fostering sustainable economic development throughout the Third World to diffuse internal and international tension; reduce offensive weapons; increase grassroots peacemaking efforts.

 

For instance, Stassen exhorts people to start Just Peacemaking groups at churches all over the country.

 

Our administration, through the U.S. Department of Peace, would try to mobilize as many of the Just Peacemaking practices as possible. As we would try to mobilize yet even more international projects.

 

12) More International Projects

 

In Carmel, California, I interviewed Lawrence Lionheart, who established the non-profit “Projects for Planetary Peace.” The organization’s initial focus was Russia.

 

In the 1980s, Lionheart told me he would arrange trips for groups of U.S. athletes, business people, writers… to go to Russia to meet with Russian athletes, business people, writers… to get dialogue going and break down barriers.

 

Lionheart said he believed some of this work helped create a climate that was more welcoming to democracy in the long run.

 

Our administration would push for similar initiatives between the U.S. and countries all over the world.

 

Similarly, in Yellow Springs, Ohio, I interviewed Denise Swinger, who is a Yellow Springs Village councilperson and founder of the: Society Taking Active Responsibility for International Self-Help (STARFISH).

 

Ms. Swinger said STARFISH recruits American farmers, doctors, merchants… to travel to developing countries to team up with their counterparts there to share ideas and resources to help people become more sustainable.

 

STARFISH’S first project has been Sierra Leon, Africa, where Ms. Swinger said there is a tremendous amount of poverty and political strife.

 

13) Building Peace through Catastrophe

 

So often there is catastrophe in another country that can be used to promote more peace building. As an example, the Chernobyl meltdown has been turned into the “Children of Chernobyl” outreach project here in America.

 

In Canfield, Ohio, I met with Terry Martin. His family is a host family for Children of Chernobyl.

 

For four years, every summer, the Martins had hosted Alexei Bogdonik. His family lives 20 miles from the Chernobyl Plant. The area is still quite radioactive.

 

The boy’s mother died of cancer in the aftermath of the incident. And each year when he gets to America, Martin said the boy’s skin color is “ashen white.”

 

However after some eight weeks here, Martin said Alexis is once again “full of color,” his immune system having time to heal.

 

Along this same line, we have researched: a project to provide sanctuary for Liberian refugees fleeing political oppression; a college in Indiana (Manchester) that has provided scholarship money for a former rebel fighter in the Sudan to undertake a Peace Studies program (he will then take the information back to his war-torn country); a church in Durango, Colorado, that is reaching out to victims of AIDS in Uganda…

 

It is in the crucible of disaster that, often, significant inroads to peace can be made. And a U.S. Department of Peace would be continually strategizing about ways to assess world needs and maximize the response to help with the crisis in the short term – and build lasting peace in the long term.

 

And it is more peace that we need to build in this country as well.

 

14) Peace at “Home”

 

As an example, our schools are increasingly becoming fraught with tension, even somewhat regular shootings now. (I told Ohio Magazine that while I was concerned about our kids doing ok in English Class, I’m now more concerned about whether they’re going to be shot to death in English Class.)

 

The Peace Resource Center at Wilmington College in Ohio has an answer.

 

On a stop there, I interviewed director Jim Bolan about a Mediation Training Series they’ve developed for schools.

For instance, one of the programs is “Project Trust.” This is a two and a half day retreat, bringing “opinion leaders” from various groups (cliques) in the school together.

 

Trained adults then help students work on team building and problem solving. There are also teachings on the effects of put downs, bullying, and the like.

 

I told a newspaper in Cheboygan, Michigan, that school shootings like Columbine aren’t happening in a vacuum. And to make the schools safer, it’s not just about increased security. We have to address as many precipitating factors (put downs, bullying, prejudice…) as we can, to not only stem the violence, but build a culture of peace in the schools.

 

“There are some 15,000 hours of schooling from K thru 12, with a focus on math, English, social studies… When do we teach this (peace building)?” Bolan asked.

 

A U.S. Department of Peace would provide inspiration and incentives to teach aspects of peace building in schools.

Likewise, Wilmington College’s Peace Resource Center provides trainings in how to build a culture of peace in the family through better communication skills, creative conflict resolution strategies, active listening, etc.

 

 

“We should make war on poverty and social injustice,” said Schriner. –LA Times, Orange County edition

US Dept of Peace