Begin the new year with a sense of hope! Share an initiative aimed at bringing about a little more empathy, tolerance, forgiveness, compassion, inclusion, assistance, solidarity, reconciliation, non-violence or world peace!
On January 1st 2016, during World Peace Day, as a part of the 24 hours for World Peace, the public is invited to cheer on the initiatives and the candidates for the Public Peace Prize by sending “bravo”, “thank you” or other adjectives showing appreciation and recognition.
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Proposed Peace Initiatives
Cinema and Media as Instruments
of Reconciliation and Peace
Brazilian Couple Sebastião Ribeiro SALGADO
and Lélia WANICK
Sebastião Ribeiro Salgado and Lélia Wanick married since the early 1970s, produced The Salt of the Earth, a prize-winning film at the 2014 Cannes Festival.
Their eldest son Juliano says that his parents share an incredible bond and a single vision of the world.
Sebastião Salgado is a Brazilian photojournalist and “citizen of the world.”Humanist, economist and Marxist, he began his career in photojournalism with projects about humanity’s great ills, Workers in 1993 and Migrations in 2000. Very much aware of ecological issues, in 2013, he returned from an eight-year trip around the world with a series on fauna and flora entitled Genesis. His new black and white portfolio has the effect of an atomic bomb.
Also Brazilian-born, Lélia Wanick moved to Paris early in her life. In addition to her secondary education, she spent several years studying piano at the Conservatory, French at the Alliance Française and attended an artist’s studio to study painting.
Married to Sebastião Salgado, they lived in Paris with theirs sons Juliano, – who followed in his father’s footsteps to become a filmmaker – and Rodrigo who has Down syndrome. In Paris, Lélia studied architecture at Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Beaux Arts, and urban planning at Université de Paris VIII, where she obtained her bachelor’s and master’s degrees.
In 2013, Sebastião and Lélia published together a collection of works entitled Genesis, a portfolio of large-sized prints from various locations on the planet. Later, a mainstream edition presented a different collection of photographs organized into five geographical chapters: Sanctuaries, Planet South, Africa, Amazonia and Pantanal, and Northern Spaces. In their own way, the collection of works and the mainstream edition — both created and produced by Lélia Wanick Salgado — paid tribute to Sebastião Salgado’s Genesis project, a project as grandiose as it was outstanding.
The couple also established Instituto Terra, a private organization which has enabled the reforestation of the Rio Doce Valley in Brazil. This couple, photographers enamoured of the environment, fill our minds, fill our hearts. This makes them peacemakers.
Throughout their lives, Sebastiâo and Lélia have faced together the challenges of life and have had the courage to take great risks, ultimately worthwhile risks. They are among those people who are not satisfied with following the norm or falling into line. By inventing their life, they invent a new reality for humanity.
Nomination submitted by
Peacemakers on all Levels
The WISE Prize Winner who Faced Up to the Taliban
“I have dedicated my life to promoting the importance of education because I really believe it is the only way to bring peace,” said Dr Yacoobi.
A courageous Afghan leader of education who confronted Taliban militants first hand has been awarded a prestigious global award in recognition of her humanitarian work.
When a group of armed men raided Sakena Yacoobi’s school one day, she came out to greet them and defend her practise. While other staff members locked themselves in an office, terrified for their lives, the senior educator invited the group of Taliban members to sit down for a cup of tea, eventually convincing them to leave the school in peace.
“Of course I thought they were going to kill me,” she said, “but I wasn’t scared. With the help of god I stayed calm and defended myself, telling them how the Quran states a woman’s right to an equal education.”
At a ceremony in Doha, Qatar Dr Yacoobi was named this year’s WISE Prize laureate in front of an audience that included Michelle Obama and a host of education experts from around the world. The award, established by the Qatar Foundation, has come to be regarded as the equivalent to a Nobel Prize in education and donates $500,000 towards the winner’s causes
During the time of Taliban occupation, when education was banned for girls and strict laws dictated what could be taught to children, Dr Yacoobi returned from the US, where she was living as a refugee, to her native Afghanistan to help.
Dr Sakena Yacoobi has been awarded five honourary doctorates and won the Opus Prize in 2013 Alissa Everett
José MUJICA, from Uruguay
José Mujica, the former president of the Republic of Uruguay from March 1, 2010 to March 1, 2015, deserves all my respect. During his entire term in office, he did not alter any aspect of his life and remained faithful to his beliefs.
He declined to live in the presidential palace and preferred to live in his humble farmhouse, a small, weathered dwelling with a corrugated sheet roof. There, he resided with his wife, Lucía Topolansky, a senator, and, like him, a former revolutionary, and his three-legged dog, Manuela. During his time in office, he had no staff, other than two guards who ensured his safety. Mujica refused to “play president. I would have to have three or four servants following me. I wouldn’t be able to get up in the middle of the night in my underwear to go to the toilet.” Furthermore, as he had few belongings, he did not worry about being robbed.
While in office, he would often be seen going shopping or, at times, picking up a hitchhiker in his 1987 Volkswagen Beatle. His simplicity was also reflected in how he dressed: He would attend very important meetings in his sandals.
During his term, he donated 90% of his salary to charities and to organizations for social housing. In the winter, when shelters were filled to capacity, he opened the presidential palace to the homeless. He also legalized same-sex marriage, abortion and the use of marijuana, lowered the salaries of ranking members of his party and opened his country to former Guantanamo detainees.
He preached simplicity. Having only the minimum, he considers himself rich because he has time to dedicate himself to motivating occupations. “That is true freedom, austerity, consume little.” He reminds us of the great philosophers Epicurus and Seneca, and the Aymara Indians who declared: “The poorest is not the one who has little. The poorest is the one who needs a lot to live.”
Before becoming president, he was a guerilla fighter and spent more than 13 years in the prisons of the dictatorial regime (1973-1985). He was beaten, humiliated, put in isolation for nine years with insects as his only companions. For seven of those years he was not even allowed to read a book. This taught him to survive with the strictest minimum. He was also tortured and bullet wounds cover his entire body.
He stated: “I do not regret what I lived. I would never have learned as much as I did. In life, we learn more from pain and failure.” Today, he says, “War is a barbaric, prehistoric method. No matter what the reason for the war, the ones who pay the highest price are always the weakest and those least responsible.” “Living intensely is worth it. You can fall down one, two, three, 20 times, but remember you can get up and start again. The only losers are the ones who stop fighting and the dead are those who no longer fight for life,” he declared.
He considers himself a “former revolutionary” and a “peasant with a vocation.” Mujica said: “For ten years I lived in extremely hard conditions. If I had a mattress to sleep on at night, it was like winning the lottery. So I learned how to sleep with nothing…”
“Let us concentrate that human life is a miracle, that there is nothing more valuable than life. And that our biological duty is above all respect for life, to boost it and understand that we are the specie, it’s us.”
She Left the Legal Profession in Answer
to a Deeper Calling
A dynamic former attorney from Colombo, Sri Lanka’s capital, Dishani Jayaweera left the legal profession in answer to a deeper calling—to work closely with people throughout Sri Lanka to create a peaceful and just society.
Dishani, a Buddhist and Tanenbaum’s first Peacemaker from a non-Abrahamic faith, founded the Centre for Peacebuilding and Reconciliation (CPBR) in 2003 with her husband, Dr. Jayantha Seneviratne. Their organization, for which Dishani serves as Executive Director, operates on the belief that the process of building peace begins with individuals. CPBR targets young people and religious leaders, understanding them to be powerful shapers of social attitudes and behaviors in Sri Lanka, and key to bridging religious and ethnic divisions.
In its work, CPBR encourages personal transformations that will in turn empower communities to seek structural and political change. CPBR’s interfaith work promotes understanding among Sinhalese Buddhists, Tamil Hindus, Muslims, and Tamil and Sinhalese Christians through dialogue, training in conflict analysis and transformation, and supporting clergy as they mobilize communities to experience the joy of interdependence and coexistence.
Dishani continues to develop innovative peacebuilding ideas throughout Sri Lanka. Lately, she has dreamed up new ways to engage the youth population.
To Nourish Peace in the Maluku Islands of Indonesia
To nourish peace in the Maluku Islands of Indonesia, Rev. Jacklevyn “Jacky” Frits Manuputty promotes an interdependent society, strengthens communal bonds and facilitates public initiative and participation.
In 1999-2003, violent clashes between Muslims and Christians in Maluku killed 10,000 people and displaced over 500,000. Rev. Jacky responded with peace campaigns and advocacy nationally and internationally. Because he engaged all parties, he was at times labeled “enemy” by Christians and Muslims alike, as well as the Indonesian military and police. He persisted despite death threats and the destruction of his home by arson. Rev. Jacky personally signed the Malino II Peace Agreement, which ended the violence.
Concerned by the lack of local reconciliation efforts, he co-founded the Maluku Interfaith Institution for Humanitarian Action (LAIM). LAIM creates institutional capacity-building programs, develops positive public discourse, and builds a network of pluralistic conflict prevention observers. Using a multi-level/stakeholder approach, LAIM builds interfaith peace groups of journalists, women, religious leaders and students. In its “live-in” program, clergy men and women spend overnights in each other’s homes in order to build trust and work together to solve social problems in the country. Rev. Jacky and his colleagues have developed a peace curriculum, an interfaith peace sermon program and a trauma healing program. Additionally, LAIM seeks to build community development and the local government’s peacebuilding capacity.
Bishop Ntambo Nkulu Ntanda
Organized Care for Street Children,
Helping Reduce Recruitment of Child Soldiers
From meeting basic medical needs to negotiating with militia, Bishop Ntambo Ntanda has worked at multiple, interrelated levels to build sustainable peace in Katanga province of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
Ntambo became a bishop of the United Methodist Church in 1996, at the start of an armed conflict that has killed 5.4 million people to date. He built brick churches and fishponds, and these physical signs of permanence helped empower the people of Kamina to stand firm, not flee, in the face of approaching rebels.
As the war progressed, Bishop Ntambo provided refuge for internally displaced persons (IDPs) and identified clergy and lay leaders among them to organize systems of relief and support both for IDPs and for those who remained in the areas of heavy violence. He solicited food and medical supplies from the United Methodist Committee on Relief and distributed them to other affected communities as well as his own, through his relationships with local Roman Catholic, Pentecostal and Muslim leaders. In 1998, he created an agricultural training center to develop a way to sustainably feed the displaced. Kamisamba Farm continues to train local farmers and adult and child soldiers seeking to reintegrate into society.
Religious, governmental, traditional/tribal, and military leaders have all identified Bishop Ntambo as a spiritual guide; they have sought him out to pray both with them and for them. His relationships with diverse actors make him an effective mediator. In 2004, the government asked Bishop Ntambo to convene a peace conference with the Mai-Mai (or Mayi-Mayi) militia in Katanga, a group labeled evil by the national army.
As a senator, Bishop Ntambo works within his position to open doors new development projects while keeping his distance from the corruption expected in politics. In 2013, the Congolese government honored Bishop Ntambo with the highest civilian award for public service, the Order of the Leopard. Still Bishop, he connects the peacebuilding experiences and concerns of his people to national decision-making, always seeking better lives for his people.
In Pursuit of Peace
The film In Pursuit of Peace features Ottawa-born Andrew Marshall, who has spent most of his life in Geneva and now is in Paris. He is a world-renowned specialist in political mediation between armed groups and governments, and has worked in Darfur, Nepal and Yemen. “Marshall talks about conflict that he was involved in for five years, others that people focus on for 15, 20 years, and eventually realize that it is just not working. Violence begets violence,” Beitel observes.
Canadian filmmaker Garry Beitel concludes that Canadian and world leaders have to wake up to the new reality, that “wars in the world aren’t won by military victory any more, it’s an old model. All the wars in the world are between ethnic groups within countries, and just about every one of these conflicts is resolved by a mediator who steps in and convinces them to put down their arms.
“The world needs to be healed of violent trauma, and that’s what these people are doing, trying to intervene in that way.”
Betty Oyella-Bigombe, Uganda, Peacemaker
Betty began her career with the Ugandan government as a member of Parliament in 1986, during a period marked by rebel fighting that ravaged the country’s northern districts. The Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), under its leader Joseph Kony, used violent guerilla tactics and child abductions, to kill thousands of civilians.
In 1988, Betty was appointed as the Minister of State for Pacification in Northern Uganda. In this position, she worked to establish stability and reconciliation in the region, becoming one of her country’s most important peacemakers. One of the greatest challenges to the peace process was convincing Kony and his men to engage with the government representatives. Betty initiated contact with Kony in June, 1993, when she traveled with a small team into the bush to urge him to stop the violence and participate in talks with the government.
In 1997, Betty accepted a fellowship award in International Development at Harvard University. After completing her program with Harvard, she worked at the African Development Bank and the World Bank. However, in 2004, in the wake of the brutal Barlonyo massacre near Lira town in northern Uganda, Betty felt compelled to return to Uganda. She left the World Bank and returned to her homeland to serve as the chief mediator on a second wave of LRA peace negotiations. Although these peace talks ended in 2005, Betty’s work has created a firm foundation for the Juba talks, which are currently taking place on the border of Uganda and Sudan. Betty has served as a Distinguished Fellow at the United States Institute of Peace and the Woodrow Wilson Center. She worked behind the scenes in Uganda to further the peace process and from 2011-2014, Betty served as the State Minister for Water Resources in Uganda’s Cabinet. She now utilizes her peacebuilding skills in her new position as the Senior Director for Fragility, Conflict, and Violence at the World Bank.
“I have often heard that Afghan women are not political. That peace and security is man’s work. I am here to challenge that illusion.”
Addressing the United Nations Security Council 2001 meeting on the implementation of Resolution 1325, Jamila Afghani continued, “I am a woman fighting for education. In Afghanistan and Pakistan that is politics. I run a humanitarian NGO. In Afghanistan and Pakistan that is politics.”
Raised during the Soviet invasion of her country, Jamila began her peacemaking career as a social worker in Afghan refugee camps in Pakistan. In addition to addressing basic camp needs, she taught Qur’anic education classes. Through these classes, many of the women learned to read and write for the first time. After the fall of the Taliban, Jamila moved back to Afghanistan and founded the Noor Educational Centre (NEC) in Western Kabul, the most war-looted and structurally damaged part of the city. One of her strongest memories of NEC’s first year was the death by stoning of one of her students by another. Responding to evident need, NEC developed accelerated peace education, economic skills training, human rights, and gender training specifically from an Islamic perspective.
Azhar Hussain is Leading a Critical Effort
to Equip the Next Generation with the Knowledge
and Skills Necessary for Peace and Reconciliation
As a Pakistani-American and a Muslim, Azhar Hussain has been personally affected by global extremism as well as sectarian violence in Pakistan.
Azhar grew up in Pakistan, where he witnessed firsthand the influential role of the madrasa education system on Pakistani students and society. Madrasas, or religious schools, often provide room and board for children who cannot otherwise afford it, and groom them to serve as the future religious leaders of the country.
Formerly the Vice President for Preventive Diplomacy at the International Center for Religion & Diplomacy (ICRD), Azhar (known as Azi to his friends) headed the Madrasa Enhancement Program in Pakistan. In keeping with ICRD’s mission to address identity-based conflicts that exceed the reach of traditional diplomacy, Azi worked tirelessly to engage the Pakistani madrasa leaders and help them develop skills to be agents of peacebuilding, reduce violence, and provide improved opportunities for Pakistani youth.
Firmly Rooted in Grassroots Movements and Society
Until the current civil war in Syria, most people knew Hind Aboud Kabawat as an international consultant who divided her time between Damascus and Toronto. However, even before the war, Hind became involved in different citizen diplomacy and educational initiatives to spur positive change in Syrian society. In addition to her legal practice in Toronto, Hind serves as an adviser to many national and international firms and organizations, including the World Bank, the Syrian Public Relations Association, and the Center for World Religions, Diplomacy and Conflict Resolution at George Mason University, where she is a senior research associate in Public Diplomacy.
Growing up as a Christian in Syria, Hind was surrounded by the rich multi-religious history of the region. In her peacemaking work as an adult, she draws upon religious leaders to help change attitudes, reverse prejudice and work toward conflict analysis and reconciliation in Syria and throughout the Middle East.
In just a few years, Hind quickly established herself as an important figure promoting dialogue among various sectors within Syria and throughout the Middle East. As an international advisor and attorney, as well as an educator and intellectual, she leads public diplomacy efforts that encourage interfaith tolerance and cooperation, modernization, reform and educational innovations in conflict resolution and diplomacy education.
Hind is firmly rooted in grassroots movements and society in Syria and surrounding refugee camps in Turkey and Jordan. Motivating dialogue and conflict resolution skills from the ground up, Hind remains dedicated to building a peaceful Syria. She is also connected with international and academic institutions that give her opportunities to promote change within society. Her latest projects involve trainings for peace activists in refugee camps surrounding Syria. Other past projects include opening a dialogue among Middle Eastern women and Western women from all religions through roundtable discussions on interfaith peace building.
A Grassroots Peace Activist
The soldiers’ automatic weapons pressed into her body from different angles, as Deng shielded the priest from a group of inebriated soldiers. Taking in the situation, Deng saw that the soldiers’ name patches had been hastily ripped off, leaving the threads exposed. Composed, she began to negotiate for their lives.
This happened in the 1980s, when the Communist Party of the Philippines’ military, the New People’s Army (NPA), fought the Philippine government for land rights and political control. Peace seemed impossible and communities were shattered as the NPA battled the national military, the police and civilian militias. Maria Ida Giguiento, known to all as Deng, and her colleagues at the Archdiocese of Cotabato were in the midst of the conflict, pursuing justice and peace. It was while they were researching the bombing of a Filipino mountain village, allegedly by the Philippine military, that they were forcibly detained. Clearheaded, Deng negotiated their escape. And despite the harrowing event, she remained steadfast in her peacebuilding and reconciliation work.
Deng’s profound commitment towards interfaith peacebuilding is an expression of her Catholic faith. For more than 20 years, she has worked on the ground in the Mindanao conflict in the Philippines, creating alliances among conflicting Christian, Muslim and indigenous groups. Truly a grassroots peace activist, Deng learned the indigenous Maguindanao dialect from women by shucking corn alongside them, from which her hand still bears a scar. As former Director of Notre Dame University’s Peace Education Center in Cotabato City, she developed programs, facilitated interfaith dialogue workshops with religious leaders, raised awareness about Muslim victims of conflict and helped civil society develop their agenda for peace. That agenda was included in the 1996 final peace agreement accord between the Philippine government and the Moro National Liberation Front (MILF).
Today, Deng is the Training Coordinator for Peacebuilding at Catholic Relief Services (CRS) in the Philippines. She also serves as one of the core Facilitators at the Grassroots Peacebuilding Learning Institute (GPLC) where she trains youth, village elders and leaders from different religions and sectors of society. Deng also serves as one of the core Facilitators at the Mindanao Peacebuilding Institute (MPI) where she co facilitates in training peace educators, peace practitioners, and key stakeholders in peace processes from Asia, Africa, Europe, the Americas. It was at MPI where a new layer of Deng’s peacebuilding initiatives unfolded.
Reverend Canon Andrew P.B. White Has Dedicated his Life to Reconciliation in the Middle East
As a fervent religious leader in Iraq, he has been kidnapped, robbed, hijacked, and has received countless death threats over the years. As a British Christian with Multiple Sclerosis, Canon White lives amid the sectarian violence other Westerners only read about, and calls leading Shiite, Sunni, and other Iraqi leaders his close friends in the struggle to end the conflict.
For the last fifteen years, the Anglican vicar, activist, and scholar has dedicated his life to reconciliation in the Middle East by focusing on the positive role religion can play in resolving conflicts. Living in a constant state of risk, he negotiates the release of hostages, forges relations among key religious leaders, brings forth important peace agreements, and provides desperately needed food and shelter to victims of violence. Today known as the “Vicar of Baghdad,” his religious calling has brought his critical peacemaking efforts to Iraq.
Although diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis, his physical symptoms have hardly slowed him down. As he explains, “If I stop, I feel ill. So I keep going.” The mental strain is more difficult, however, with the loss of many of his close friends and colleagues due to the violence, in addition to his own life being in constant danger. The strength to continue comes from his deep faith, as well as his love and respect or the people of the Middle East. In Canon White’s own words:
“Does the death and destruction of these people really not matter? The pain is great, the anger is great and I am convinced more than ever that the only way forward is to talk. This too is difficult, painful and not without risks but if it only saves one life it is worth it.”
His Work Has Had a Powerful and Profound Impact
Ricardo Esquivia Ballestas is a lay leader working within the Mennonite Church of Colombia and the Colombian Council of Evangelical Churches. Since 1998, he has represented all non-Catholic religious groups on the National Council of Peace, which advises the President of Colombia. He has participated in national and regional dialogues with both legal and illegal armed groups, including the National Armed Forces of Colombia and members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).
Mr. Esquivia is Co-founder and Director of the Commission for Restoration, Life and Peace of the Evangelical Council of Churches of Colombia (CEDECOL). He is also the Founder and former Director of both Justapaz, the Christian Center for Justice, Peace and Nonviolent Action of the Mennonite Church of Colombia, as well as Sembrandopaz, a peace and development initiative of Protestant churches on the North Coast of Colombia. In 2008, Mr. Esquivia’s lifelong work was honored with the Fellowship of Reconciliation’s International Pfeffer Peace Prize.
Ricardo remains active in the peacebuilding community and his work has had a powerful and profound impact on Colombia. The organizations Ricardo has founded, including ASINDECO, Justapaz, ASVIDAS, the Network for Development and Peace of the Montes de María Foundation, and Sembrando Paz, have trained countless people across Colombia.
A New Papua
A native of West Papua, the Reverend Dr. Benny Giay is working tirelessly to reconcile conflicts in the region that have claimed tens of thousands of lives and forced many more from their homes. His story is one of faith, courage, and a guiding vision for what he calls “a New Papua.”
Born into a family from the Melanesian Me tribe, Benny was a young child when his parents converted to Christianity. He soon followed in their footsteps to become active in the Evangelical Church. His devotion to his faith, however, made him all the more frustrated as he came to recognize the Church’s failure to address human rights’ violations of its own Papuan constituency.
Determined, Benny decided to dedicate his life to making social justice a reality for his community. In doing so, he has reconciled his indigenous and Christian roots, reaching a community that treasures its many historic traditions. The results are new ideas and practices that speak to his fellow Papuans.
A prolific writer, Benny has also produced numerous books and articles exposing the human rights abuses within his community to the outside world. His latest writings outline how to reach a “New Papua” of reconciliation, nonviolence and peace.
One of West Papua’s greatest moral and intellectual voices, Benny is recognized as a man who puts his profound faith into practice as he works for the people he loves.
I have chosen to present Marie-Hélène Mathieu, an inspiring woman who I had the joy of meeting in the early 1970s in Trosly-Breuil (at the community of L’Arche – The Ark – founded by Jean Vanier), at the end of the first Lourdes pilgrimage organized by Faith and Light. Faced with the suffering of the parents of two children with a serious disability who had felt marginalised at Lourdes, she launched a remarkable pilgrimage to Lourdes with Jean Vanier for people with intellectual disabilities, their families and friends.
From this extraordinary gesture, Faith and Light, an international association currently present in over 1,500 communities in 80 countries, was born.
The trigger: In 1962, the “Liège Trial” concluded with the acquittal of parents who had killed their profoundly-disabled baby daughter. The announcement of the verdict was met with scenes of jubilation. The violence of the event deeply shook society in both Belgium and France.
It was in this context that Marie-Hélène Mathieu founded OCH in 1963. The Foundation aims to support families, encourage a response to their distress and offer them new hope, particularly through the introduction of a permanent place of welcome and financial support for Christian associations and establishments.
In 1968, alongside the lectures and meetings, Marie-Hélène Mathieu created Ombres et Lumière, the OCH magazine aimed at people with disabilities, their families and friends. The magazine’s reach and influence would exceed expectations.
In addition to OCH and Faith and Light, Marie-Hélène Mathieu was involved in creating the Simon de Cyrène Foundation for people who have suffered a severe head injury. She is also one of the founders of Relais Lumière Espérance, which is aimed at close friends and relatives of people suffering from mental illness, as well as the Groupe de liaison Saint Joseph, which twice a year brings together around twenty organisations working to found and support Christian homes for adults with intellectual disabilities. In the same spirit, the Pierre-François Jamet Working and Communion Group, which she launched with Xavier Le Pichon, enables around thirty small communities to meet and supports them in their care for people suffering from psychological distress.
Marie-Hélène Mathieu was appointed by Pope John-Paul II to the Pontifical Council for the Laity (1984-1989) and as expert for the Holy See at the Council of Europe. She is the first woman to have given a Lent address at Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris (in 1988). Pope Benedict XVI appointed her auditor to the synod on the Eucharist (2005).
Aware of the plight of the weakest and their families, Marie-Hélène Mathieu is an agent of peace who leaves traces of light and peace wherever she goes.
For further information:
Focus… on Marie-Hélène Mathieu — Faith and Light International:
Marie-Hélène Mathieu | OCH:
Marie-Sol St-Onge: A Woman of Courage and Peace
Marie-Sol, artist and mother of two young children, had both her arms and legs amputated as a result of an aggressive attack by flesh-eating bacteria which occurred in 2012. Marie-Sol St-Onge’s life and that of her spouse, Alin Robert, has since changed.
After a long convalescence, Marie-Sol wrote:
“As lovers of life and parents of two small children, my spouse, Alin Robert, and I have chosen to look at our future with a positive and optimistic outlook. Surrounded by incredible solidarity, I threw myself wholeheartedly into rehabilitation. Today, I walk, I paint with the help of my prostheses and our future is promising once again!”
Often when she meets young people, she talks about the importance of being in good health, of having objectives and of maintaining a positive attitude even in difficult times.
Marie-Sol St-Onge has a precise idea of the message she wants to communicate to the people who attend her conferences, “Absolutely, believe in your dreams and persevere. Do not give up when obstacles get in the way.”
Today, in 2015, after she, with her spouse, published a book entitled, Quand l’Everest nous tombe sur la tête (When Everest Falls on Our Heads), she continues on her path with her family. She combines her work as an artist with engagements as conference speaker. On her website, lesillusarts.com, the section, “Conferences,” contains all the interviews she has given to various audiences since 2012.
Like Marie-Sol often says, without the love of her spouse, Alin Robert, she would not be where she is today. They are a wonderful couple, and with their two sons, they are an inspiring family.
For more information about Marie-Sol St-Onge:
A testimony to resilience | ICI.Radio-Canada.ca
The Everest of Marie-Sol St-Onge and Alin Robert | L’Écho de Trois-Rivières
Conference | Les Illusarts
Quand l’Everest nous tombe sur la tête | Les Illusarts
Making Peace with all of Creation; Taking Care of the Environment
Nuns protest at an anti-fracking rally at COP21
Mercy Sr. Aine O’Connor stands outside the main venue of COP21 Dec. 9 in Le Bourget, France. “We are hearing and heeding the cry of persons and earth impacted by fracking,” she said of peoples in Argentina, Australia and the U.S. who have reached out to the Sisters of Mercy.
“What do we say to the seven-year-old child whose ears now bleed, who has difficulty breathing as a result of living near a gas field; to the mother who must travel miles to the town in order to have her doctor review and treat her child objectively for gas-related medical conditions; to the farmer who has no voice with his government when his bore hole has run dry and he can no longer farm; and to his family, who cries out in desperation after he takes his own life?
“These cries of people and earth are our shared concern today, because we believe and insist on the dignity and the promise of abundant life for all,” she said.
O’Connor, however, categorized fracking among “false, toxic, tragic solutions to climate change, and insisted that true leaders concerned about climate change don’t frack.
The Mercy sister’s passionate speech was part of a demonstration that drew roughly 100 people, including several women religious, opposed to fracking. A young Native American woman denounced not only the environmental impact fracking has had on her community in the Dakotas, but the social repercussion the mining camps have had, with rates of sexual assault escalating drastically.
Their protest is part of an international anti-fracking movement. Organizing the protest were the Center of Biological Diversity, Food & Water Watch, Californians Against Fracking and several other organizations
Art as a Passport for Peace
Peacemakers with HeARTs
The African Artists Peace Initiative (AAPI) is a Pan-African movement of artists and peace-makers, championing a culture of peace and non-violence in Africa. The overarching objective is to use ”The ARTS” as a weapon and tool for nurturing a culture of peace based on values, attitude, and ways of life conducive to the promotion of peace among individuals, groups and society.
- To mobilize a massive movement of artists involved in peace building across Africa.
- To create a platform in which visual and performing artists can unite their artistic abilities and advocate creatively for non-violent conflict resolution by engaging with each other and their audiences, especially young people in conflict, post-conflict and fragile states.
- To foster intercultural/youth exchange activities across the continent
- Champion African art as an educational and outreach force for the attainment of the AU 2063 agenda.
Art as Advocacy
An art installation at Trinity Church, Wall Street, New York, is using waste materials to invoke images of refugee camps in an attempt to “foster awareness and spur greater relief efforts on the part of citizens and governments worldwide” for Syrian refugees.
The installation, Another Day Lost, has been installed in the churchyard and parish centre as part Trinity Wall Street’s art-as-advocacy project. It has been created by UK-based Syrian-born artist Issam Kourbaj, and is inspired by aerial photographs of refugee camps.
“Another Day Lost offers a sombre perspective on the human cost of the Syrian civil war,” Trinity’s director of justice and reconciliation, the Revd Winnie Varghese, said. “Though far away, we cannot stand by at a time when worldwide, we are faced with a desperate humanitarian crisis. Growing numbers of people need asylum. In global partnership, we must find ways to welcome the stranger to our midst.”
The Episcopal Church has been vocal in its efforts to encourage the United States to accept greater numbers of Syrian refugees.
The Global Art Project
The mission of the Global Art Project is to joyously create a culture of peace through art. The Project celebrates diversity and multi-culturalism while expressing the idea: We Are All One.
The Global Art Project is an International Art Exchange for Peace. Here’s how it works: Participants create a work of art in any medium, expressing their vision of global peace and goodwill. The art is displayed locally in each participant’s community. Global Art Project then organizes an international exchange by matching participants—group-to-group and individual-to-individual. The exchange occurs April 23-30 biennially, resulting in thousands of people sending messages of Peace around the world at one time—visions of unity simultaneously encircle the Earth. The art is sent as a gift of global friendship and exhibited in the receiving community.
Participants may send documentation of the art created and of the people who came together to create the art to the GAP Art Bank. Global Art Project exhibitions, books, slide presentations, and this website give people an opportunity to experience visions of peace and unity created by individuals from diverse cultures around the world.
Create Peace Project
Create Peace Project was founded in May of 2008 by Ross Holzman in San Francisco, CA. CPP was formed in response to the overwhelming amount of violence in the world, the violence and negativity streaming through the mass media, coupled with the severe lack of creative arts in people’s lives, the deterioration of arts-programing in U.S. public schools, and the suffering people are experiencing as a result. Create Peace Project is responding to growing need to strengthen human connection, cultivate self-awareness, spread hope and create peace in people’s lives.
By educating, empowering and activating joyous feelings of self-worth using the universal language of creativity, Create Peace Project achieves it mission of strengthening community and fostering self-awareness through our arts-for-peace practices.
Mentoring Peace Through Art
Mentoring Peace Through Art identifies, engages, and develops leadership potential of young individuals through art projects that serve the social needs of diverse communities. This mission is accomplished through its two programs: MuralWorks® in the Streets and MuralWorks® in the Schools.
Whether on the streets or in the classroom, Mentoring Peace Through Art immerses young people in the real-life situation of working together. Regardless of their talent, ability or cultural background, every MuralWorker® is essential to the success of the group: Actionable teamwork turns into a positive work ethic, which, in turn, results in a genuine feeling of self-worth by all participants.
Mutual Aid Initiatives to Support Migrants, Refugees and Victims of Armed Conflict
Maya Rostam, a Syrian child-refugee, was discovered in the photography workshops created by Iranian photojournalist Reza while he was visiting Kawergosk Refugee Camp. “I (have) always communicated through photographs and words, this mix helps us to better understand (the) values we have in common. For this exhibition, A Dream of Humanity (Paris, October 2015), I wanted to highlight seven words which are part of our Humanity’s values. Here is one.”
Refugee camps are, for the Iranian photographer, a “land” he knows well. It is suffering he has seen many times and has photographed extensively…
If Reza captures human suffering so accurately, it may be because he himself knows the wounds of exile. Since he was forced to leave Iran in 1981, Reza has been relentlessly photographing wars and the suffering they bring. For over thirty-five years, he who has become one of the most recognized photojournalists in the world has born witness to the refugee situation throughout the world. He has been awarded many distinctions for his photographic work and for his humanitarian commitment.
In a newly established camp, Reza arrived with an idea: initiate children to photography. As he surveyed the alleyways of the Kawergosk camp for his own portfolio, he set up a temporary photography workshop.
She stands there in front of the tent. It requires patience and a silent presence. She has heard the news. On the second day of the photography course, I notice her. It’s her first time there. She observes and listens to our small group of 10 young students from afar. For two days, Maya Rostam, 12-years-old, does not leave us. It is the end of the day when the cold night falls on the camp and everyone disperses to their semblance of a home, in a tent, huddled against one another.
At the end of the second day, I approached her and asked about her constant presence. She tells me about the sounds of war, the long, grueling road of exodus, the scolding sun that beats down upon the survivors and the fatigue of the flight.
And since then, her life in the camp, with its rows of tents, and the occasional lull that makes them believe there is still the possibility of a new life. The days pass, and then months. An immense feeling of boredom invades her every day, the feeling of not living a real life, but a life of survival. I ask her why she is present and her answer reminds me of a child in Tabriz whom I photographed. Maya Rostam said:
“I want to learn photography because I believe that with it, everyone can see what I feel and how we live.”
So, I went to buy other cameras to expand the class, since, like Maya, other children follow us with the same enthusiasm. By the evening, she left with a camera. Her mission? To photograph at night. I added that I would like to see these photographs and if they are good, she could join the course.
Maya clenched the camera like a treasure and ran into the night amid the rows of tents before even fully learning how to use it.
But the next morning, Maya is not there. I am concerned and inquire about her absence, but no one knows which tent is hers. I remain confident.
The course begins. Maya appears and advances timidly. She is embarrassed, terribly embarrassed. I asked her about the delay. She said nothing and lowered her head.
I am busy with other students, but I repeat the question: “Why are you late?”
Without a word, she extends her camera out towards me to show me this image. She adds in an almost inaudible voice: “My shoes were frozen; I had to wait to put them on.”
I have never been so deeply touched by the symbolic power of an image.
Today, Maya Rostam a 12-year-old Syrian refugee in the Kawergosk camp in Iraq is one of the best students. She is becoming a visual narrator of her own story.
Nomination submitted by
For further information:
Find out more about Reza’s creative process on “Œil pour Œil,” a program dedicated to his work (in French): http://info.arte.tv/fr/loeil-de-reza-photographe#sthash.35wZMwTv.dpuf
Reza’s photography workshops exist because of the story of Maya, 9 years old: https://fr-fr.facebook.com/Rezaphotojournalist/photos/a.340882925986904.76241.331978343544029/572817156126812/?typé/
Exile Voices: Images by the Children of Kawergosk Refugee Camp:
Children of Kawergosk Photography Workshop | ARTE Info (in French):
A Dream of Humanity, a photographic mosaic by Reza with Ali Bin Thalith and Syrian children refugees (in French): http://www.paris.fr/actualites/reza-expose-son-reve-d-humanite-sur-les-quais-de-seine-2827
From shipwreck to becoming an entrepreneur
Lieutenant Antonio Dovizio of the Italian Navy, just returned from a year at sea performing search and rescue operations in the Mediterranean Sea, where his crew rescued more than 5000 people. With Tareke Brhane, a former Eritrean refugee, now a European citizen, who made the treacherous journey across the Mediterranean Sea, he founded the organization, the 3rd of October Committee. Underlining our human connection, Dovizio said, “When you come across a shipwreck, you don’t ask about their nationality, race or status, if they are a refugee or a migrant. You ask if the people are alive or dead.”
Muslim-Jewish Forum Celebrates Efforts
to Resettle Syrian Refugees
On the evening of Tuesday, December 15, the recently created Montreal Muslim-Jewish Forum (MMJF), held a Season of Twinning event at the historic Atwater Public Library in Westmount. The event, which was sponsored by the Center for Research-Action on Race Relations (CRARR), the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding (FFEU) featured Rabbi Lisa Gruschcow of Temple Emanu-El Beth Shalom in Montreal and Shaheen Ashraf, Secretary of the Canadian Council of Muslim Women, Montreal Chapter on the subject of “Welcoming Syrian Refugees: Muslims and Jews -s Working Together.” Dr. Karen Mock brought greetings from the Canadian Association of Jews and Muslims.
Rabbi -Grushcow, who wrote a ground-breaking article in the Montreal Gazette last September entitled “Why Our Congregation is Sponsoring At Least One Syrian Refugee Family”, gave an inspiring overview of how her congregation has moved forward with determination on the project in the months since then; including raising more than $60,000 and filing papers to bring at least two Syrian families to Montreal in coordination with relatives already here, and beginning the process of helping to find employment for members of the soon-to-arrive families.
In the general discussion that followed the presentation by Rabbi Grushcow and Ms. Ashraf, members of the two communities agreed to explore ways to cooperate on facilitating the integration of Syrian and other refugees, making a contribution to the fight against obstacles to immigrant integration and standing together against Islamophobia, anti-Semitism and other forms of bigotry. Follow-up plans are to convene the planning committee of the Montreal Muslim-Jewish Forum next month to develop a concrete agenda for ongoing Muslim-Jewish cooperation in Montreal in both the Anglophone and Francophone sectors.
Interreligious Initiatives that Bring Leaders
and Citizens Together to Create
a More Harmonious and Equitable World
Muslim Passengers Shield Christians in Kenya Bus Attack
In a suspected Al Shabab attack that has left two dead, some Muslims stood up in support of their fellow Christian riders, daring attackers to kill them too.
Two people were killed in an attack on a passenger bus in northeast Kenya Monday when suspected Al Shabab militants tried to separate Christian passengers from Muslims aboard, Kenyan officials said.
Three people, including the bus driver were seriously injured in the early morning attack when the bus was heading from the Kenyan capital Nairobi to Mandera town.
The casualty figure could have been much higher in the incident; however, some Muslim passengers reportedly stood up in support of their fellow Christian riders, daring the attackers to kill them too.
“The Muslims stood with the Christians and dared the attackers to kill them all or leave,” Mandera Governor Ali Roba told Anadolu Agency.
Overlapping Jewish, Muslim Holidays Prompt Cooperation In Jerusalem
JERUSALEM (RNS) An interfaith group gathered in a private home Monday (Sept. 21) to head off potential tensions over how Jews and Muslims celebrate Yom Kippur and Eid al-Adha, two holidays that overlap this year.
Two dozen people of various faiths heard a rabbi explain the laws and traditions of Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement, and a Muslim sheikh explain the laws and traditions of Eid al-Adha, the Muslim holiday that honors the willingness of Ibrahim (the biblical Abraham) to heed God’s order to sacrifice his son.
The day culminated with an interfaith peace walk between the eastern and western parts of the city. Israel captured East Jerusalem in 1967 and considers it part of its capital. The Palestinians say East Jerusalem must be the capital of a future Palestinian state.
John Dabis, an American-born Palestinian peace activist who attended the Abrahamic Reunion meeting, said hating Israelis will not bring either people closer to peace.
“If Jews and Arabs don’t get to know each other on a grass-roots level, nothing will change,” said Dabis, who recently co-founded “Home,” a Jewish-Arab outreach organization. He lives in the Palestinian city of Ramallah. His Jewish co-founder, Inon Dan Kahati, lives in Jerusalem.
Dabis has suffered from a progressive neurological condition since 2001, when, he said, Israeli soldiers fired gas at his car when he inadvertently entered a closed military zone. He uses a wheelchair.
Putting aside bitterness and engaging in coexistence work, he said, helped him emerge from the two-year depression he endured immediately after being injured.
A terrorist attack prompted Elana Rozenman, Abrahamic Reunion co-founder and founder of TRUST-Emun, a multifaith peace organization for women, to engage in coexistence work.
In 1997, her son, Noam, was badly injured in a bombing in downtown Jerusalem. At the hospital, she was whisked into the emergency room.
“I was approached by this doctor, who told me his name was Dr. Khoury. I said: ‘That’s an Arab name. One Arab tried to kill my son and you’re trying to save him.’ I realized that I could go in the direction of ‘All Arabs want to kill us,’ but instead I saw that every person is a human being and some are good and some are bad.”
All too often, Rozenman said,
“we see religion being used as a pretext for violent acts and violent words. Religions are not in conflict. People use religion to create conflict.”
Rozenman said the 15 years she has spent working with like-minded Muslims, Christians, Jews and Druze is her way of “strengthening the forces of sanity and nonviolence so other mothers do not have to suffer what I suffered.”
Combating Religious Prejudice
Tanenbaum offers real world solutions to a real world problem: religious discrimination and hate.
Tanenbaum’s vision is a safe world in which religious differences are respected and daily life reflects the highest values of our shared religious and ethical traditions.
Tanenbaum designs trainings and educational resources to change the way people treat one another and to celebrate the richness of our country’s diversity.
In every conflict, you can find men and women driven by their religious beliefs and ready to risk their lives to end death and destruction. From every different religion, Tanenbaum seeks these heroes out. They name them Peacemakers in Action and invite them to join their Peacemakers in Action Network. Each Peacemaker has a unique personal history and approach to making the world safe.
Tanenbaum facilitates their Network, enabling the Peacemakers to support one another and share knowledge and skills.
Imam, Rabbi And Pastor Join Hands
In Powerful Display Of Unity
The November 13 terrorist attacks in Paris has left the world reeling. Once again, religion is at the crux of a tragedy that has threatened to tear the global community apart.
But in Bethesda, Maryland, Muslim, Jewish and Christian leaders stood together over the weekend to share a message of solidarity. Bradley Hills Presbyterian Church hosted an interfaith service on Sunday joined by members of the Bethesda Jewish Congregation and the Islamic Community Center of Potomac.
Dr. Tarek Elgawhary of the ICCP, Rabbi Schnitzer of BJC and Pastor David Gray of BHPC lead the congregation through a conversation entitled, “The Pitfalls and Promise of Fear in Our Traditions and World.”
Religions for Peace – International
Religions for Peace advances common action among the world’s religious communities for peace.
Multi-religious cooperation for peace is the hallmark of Religions for Peace. This cooperation includes but also goes beyond dialogue and bears fruit in common concrete action. Through Religions for Peace, diverse religious communities discern “deeply held and widely shared” moral concerns, such as transforming violent conflict, promoting just and harmonious societies, advancing human development and protecting the earth. Religions for Peace translate these shared moral concerns into concrete multi-religious action and public statements.
http://www.religionsforpeaceinternational.org/ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Religions_for_Peace /
The Vienna Declaration Welcoming the Other —A Multi-Religious Vision of Peace (2013)
Global Actions to Create a Peaceful World
The state-of-the-art peace innovation that could finally resolve a 50-year war
After five decades of fighting, Colombia and its guerrillas may be the closest they’ve ever been to peace. The parties signed an agreement on Dec. 15 to resolve the thorniest issue of ongoing peace talks: how to provide restitution to the millions of war-crime victims.
Negotiators still have to reach a final peace deal, which is expected in spring. But experts say the victims’ arrangement is a key step in ending the war, and a model for other nations with entrenched internal fighting.
The “Comprehensive System for Truth, Justice, Reparation, and Non-Repetition,” as the setup is dubbed, is an ingenious balance between the interests of all the involved parties. It takes elements from reconciliation and justice processes used to settle other conflicts around the world, and improves upon them.
PEACE ROAD 2015 Project
The Peace Road Project is a global peace initiative aimed at bringing world peace and prosperity and putting an end to various problems which cause international disputes and conflicts, such as, race and religion.
The International Peace Highway is the transportation network created by Rev. Moon and Mrs. Hak Ja Han Moon on the 10th International Conference on the Unity of the Sciences in 1981 as a way to implement world peace.
An important objective is the peaceful re-unification of the only divided country in the world, the Korean peninsula. The creation of the DMZ World Peace Park will encourage the support and cooperation of the international community. The International Peace Highway is a way to connect the world into one.
Together to Create a More Harmonious and Equitable World
Gitmo Survivor Calls for Amnesty
So Officials May Confess Their War Crimes
Despite being held for 14 years without charge at Guantanamo Bay; despite the torture, beatings, and psychological trauma he says he endured there; and despite signs that British intelligence agents knew of the abuse, 48-year-old Shaker Aamer says top UK officials should be granted legal immunity if it will encourage them to tell the truth about their government’s complicity in such atrocities.
“They should be guaranteed that they are not going to go behind bars, so they can tell their part of the story,” Aamer said in an interview with ITV News, his first since returning to the UK in October.
Comparing the U.S. military prison to Harry Potter’s Azkaban—where creatures suck the happiness from criminals—the father of two said Guantánamo Bay is designed to “destroy a human being totally”—mentally, physically, and spiritually.
Local Initiatives that Support Human Dignity
on a Daily Basis
How to turn strangers into dinner companions
United Invitations is about food, language and social interaction. It’s about making memorable meals and new dinner constellations happen.
The meal is a dinner, free of charge, and in someone’s home. The meal takes place with no strings attached, and signing up includes no obligations, apart from serving food at the agreed time.
Host and guests participate out of their own free will and with responsibility for themselves.
At least one of the participants should be a person who has moved to this country from a different country. The guest is always welcomed to bring one person along to the dinner.
Peace and the City
The Union of Dutch Cities and the cities of Barcelona and Bogotá have initiated a new peace prize. The UCLG City of Bogotá Peace Prize is a triennial award for (a coalition of) local governments that have implemented innovative initiatives in conflict prevention, conflict resolution or peace building, that are proven to have had a significant positive impact.
Terrorists Want To Divide Us. This Muslim-Jewish Service Project Is Celebrating Unity Instead
Volunteers from both faiths will join to feed homeless people in New York City.
Zamir Hassan, founder of Muslims Against Hunger, was feeding homeless people in Boston’s central public park with a group of volunteers when he first learned of the attacks in Paris the previous night.
As the group made their rounds, a homeless man asked one of the volunteers what church she belonged to. Upon learning that she was Muslim, the man asked if she had poisoned the food. Five minutes later, Hassan told The Huffington Post, another man bit into a hummus sandwich handed to him by a volunteer and said, “This is delicious!”
The irony of those two very different exchanges, within minutes of one another, struck Hassan.
On Sunday, Muslims Against Hunger is partnering with the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding and The Brotherhood Synagogue in New York City for a Muslim-Jewish rally and community service project. The event has taken place annually for five years, Hassan said, but this year’s gathering will take on new importance in the wake of Friday’s attacks.
A Vision Of Peace As Muslims, Jews
‘Spread Hummus Not Hate’
Hummus is a signature dish of Middle Eastern cuisine — a delicious spread made from mashed chickpeas, tahini, olive oil and seasonings.
On Thursday, hummus will become a symbol of peace as 15 Muslim and Jewish activists break bread together and participate in an all-day bus tour of Maryland, Washington D.C. and Virginia with a message of reconciliation. Bearing trays of homemade hummus and pita bread, the activists hope to spread the message that Muslims and Jews refuse to be enemies.
The activists will share hummus and pita with people they meet during the day and invite members of the public to sign a “Stand Up for the Other Pledge” created by Dr. Ali Chaudry, President of the Islamic Society of Basking Ridge, New Jersey.
They Decided to Use Their Respective Positions
to Reach Out to Each Other
When violence broke out in the Galilee in October 2000, the ensuing destruction deepened tensions between the Jewish town of Karmiel and the neighboring Arab community of Majd Al Kurum. In the wake of the unrest, Osnat Aram-Daphna, principal of the Kalanit school in Karmiel, and Najeeba Sirhan, principal of Al Salaam school in Majd Al Kurum, decided to use their respective positions to reach out to each other.
Together, Osnat and Najeeba promoted open dialogue and understanding between their communities through education. They participated in a program organized by the mayor of Karmiel, leadership of the Arab villages in the Galilee, and the Ministry of Education to promote partnerships among Arab and Israeli educators.
The beginning was difficult and many people were skeptical. Osnat and Najeeba went from one educator to another, attempting to persuade them to become involved. Eventually, they each found 10 teachers who were willing to take the necessary risk, beginning a process of reconciliation for these two small towns.
After one year of meeting regularly, the group of 20 educators found that they had established a network of mutual understanding and trust. Osnat and Najeeba considered how to expand the process beyond the walls of their schools. Their vision was to create a forum for transforming patterns of prejudice and intolerance on a grander scale throughout their two communities.
Because of the transformative power of education, residents of Karmiel and Majd Al Kurum are able to interact as neighbors.
Homeboy Industries, an alternative to violence
Much violent conflict takes place outside of war zones, often in urban areas. In Los Angeles, Father Greg Boyle, a Jesuit priest, offers youth an alternative to the dangerous streets through job training and employment at his organization, Homeboy Industries. He said, “We have to stand against the idea that some lives are worth more than others.” In his Peace Talk, he described how youth learn to work alongside former enemies, a transformation many did not believe possible.
One of San Francisco’s toughest schools transformed
by the power of meditation
There was a time when Visitacion Valley middle school in San Francisco could have featured in a gritty US crime drama. Surrounded by drugs and gang violence, the kids were stressed out and agitated. One day children came in to find three dead bodies dumped in the schoolyard. “In 2006 there were 38 killings in our neighbourhood,” says Barry O’Driscoll, the school’s head of physical education (PE). He says the lives of students were infected by violence in the community, and several fights would break out every day.
In 2007 a meditation programme called Quiet Time was brought in to meet some of these challenges. “When I first heard about it I thought it probably wasn’t going to work,” says O’Driscoll. “We get thrown a new thing every couple of years so I didn’t put too much faith in it.” But in April, just a month after meditation began, teachers noticed changes in behaviour. “Students seemed happy,” says O’Driscoll. “They worked harder, paid more attention, were easier to teach and the number of fights fell dramatically.”
The programme, introduced to all ages, sees students sit for 15 minutes of meditation twice a day. Classes take place at students’ desks after the qualified TM teacher rings a bell. Students then repeat a personal mantra (a word from Sanskrit, the ancient Indian language) in their heads until they reach a deep feeling of relaxation. Sometimes the whole school meets to meditate in assemblies.
Before the students learn to meditate, the Quiet Time programme requires all staff to be trained in TM. O’Driscoll was sceptical at first about mediating himself, but since giving it a try he can concentrate better and feels less stressed.
Altruism, Citizen’s Involvement
Mark Zuckerberg to give 99% of Facebook stock
Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan announced to the world in a Facebook post the birth of their first child, a daughter named Max Chan Zuckerberg. They also announced another gift to the world: pledged to donate 99 per cent of their Facebook shares — currently valued at $45 billion (U.S.) — to charity, starting the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative to make the world a better place.
In the post, written as a letter to their new baby, Zuckerberg and Chan began: “Your mother and I don’t yet have the words to describe the hope you give us for the future. Your new life is full of promise, and we hope you will be happy and healthy so you can explore it fully. You’ve already given us a reason to reflect on the world we hope you live in. Like all parents, we want you to grow up in a world better than ours today.”
The co-founder doesn’t plan to give away more than $1 billion a year for at least the next three years, the company said in a separate filing, meaning Zuckerberg will still maintain voting control of Facebook for the foreseeable future.
More details will be released in the months ahead as how the organization and the donations will be doled out, but already some are speculating that it might be the largest donation pledged in history.
Youth and Training in Action for a Peaceful Future
House of Peace
Melodic calls to prayer rise upward, echoing across Yemen’s capital city of Sana’a. Children gleefully run down a flooded street in Old City, past buildings with striking geometric patterns made from burnt red brick and white gypsum. Then a whistling noise cuts through the air, followed by explosions.
Hope lies at the edge of the city – at the Dar Al-Salaam Organisation (DASO) which means “House of Peace”. Founded in 1997 by Sheikh Abdulrahman Al-Marwani, DASO is a Yemeni NGO working in conflict resolution, negotiation and countering violent extremism through engagement of tribal and religious leaders and by working with youth. Fiercely driven by his devout Sufi beliefs and a vision of a peaceful Yemen, Sheikh Al-Marwani travels throughout his country tackling volatile and seemingly intractable conflicts.
It is there, within Yemen’s remote villages and towns, that Al-Marwani and DASO work hard for stability by negotiating peace between tribal leaders. This work is not without risk. At least 15 members of DASO have been killed in crossfire between warring tribes as a result of their peacemaking work.[v] The Sheikh, himself, has been targeted for murder. Yet he fearlessly continues his work, despite the risks and the toll it takes:
“Sometimes I can’t sleep…sometimes I feel my head is going to explode but let me tell you: I would give my life if only the world could live in peace.” – Sheikh Abdulrahman Al-Marwani
Arab-Jewish School An Island Of Unity Amid Violence
“This is the only place where we feel that my children, and my neighbor’s children, are secure.”
JAFFA, Israel — Amid ongoing violence between Palestinians and Israelis, a school in this city seems more determined than ever to teach Arab and Jewish children about coexistence.
In a sunny playground here just 3 miles south of Tel Aviv, children paint recycled tires in vibrant colors and refurbish wooden furniture to beautify a place that many in the community say is their best chance at a peaceful future.
This is the Jaffa branch of “Yad b’Yad” — or “Hand in Hand” in both Hebrew and Arabic — a school made up of four kindergarten and two first-grade classes that aims to respond to growing Jewish-Arab segregation and violence with mutual respect and open dialogue.
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7 thoughts on “24 hours-days for World Peace!”
Impossible to choose one of these initiatives. They are all wonderful acts of human beings being human. Thanks for this inspiring hopeful website.
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I especially admire the president on Uraquay for how he LIVED PEACE BY HIS LIFESTYLE! He made a difference in his own “neighborhood ” which is something we all can do. If enough of us did this it would change the world. BRAVO AND THANK YOU!
Inspiring reading, creates a sense of hope which main stream media lacks. The “culture of fear” can freeze me to hide, reading these stories mobilizes my hope. I offer prayers to all peace makers and especially for all the new refugee families in Canada
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