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A new story is emerging. Humanity is the storyteller. The story line is ancient and the global community is right on time as it wakes up. The global community is appalled by many of its own creations and strives to take responsibility for creating a Culture of Peace. Let us call it the Path of Beauty. Ultimately, humanity shifts from living with pain and suffering to realizing joy and achievement.
Indeed, many facets of right relationship, literally hundreds of thousands of threads in the fabric of society, are already being woven into the whole. They’re just now becoming visible as we shift from living in a culture wrought with violence and dysfunction to a culture where peace and justice, loving understanding and sharing, truth and reconciliation prevail. In the emerging culture, everyone’s needs are met, and there is true equity.
I submit that we are waking up to the fact of our essential spirituality. As the human family takes shared responsibility beyond material satisfaction, we will experience a cultural renaissance beyond our wildest dreams. Goodwill and Right Human Relations are essential components of this Culture of Peace. Elise Boulding, author of Cultures of Peace: The Hidden Side of History, defines it beautifully: “a culture that promotes peaceable diversity involving constant shaping and reshaping of understandings, situations, and behaviors to sustain well-being for all.” At the National Peace Academy, US, our definition of peace is taken from the Earth Charter: “peace is the wholeness created by right relationships with oneself, other persons, other cultures, other life, Earth, and the larger whole of which all are a part.”
As we look at the institutions, structures and policies emerging in these transitional times, perhaps Otto Scharmer says it best,
“Developing the capacity to operate from the nothingness of the now, the ability to discern and take the next step in situations where old structures have broken down and new structures haven’t yet emerged is perhaps the most important core capacity of navigating work and life in this century.”
Peace in this sense is sweeping the world right now: from Peace Committees in Kenya and a Peace Academy in Rwanda, to the Northern Region Peace Advocacy Council in Ghana, to the United Nations Peacebuilding Support Office and University for Peace in Costa Rica, to Peace Commissions emerging in cities in the USA (such as Cambridge, Massachusetts) and at the Institute for Economics and Peace in Sydney, Australia. Further, there are now five Ministries of Peace on the planet. They are located in the Solomon Islands, Papua New Guinea, Nepal, Costa Rica, and South Sudan (this office now reports directly to the President).
One of the international communities in which I participate is the Global Alliance for Ministries and Infrastructures for Peace. The Global Alliance, founded in 2005, recently broadened its scope to embrace infrastructures for peace, recognizing the necessity of governmental and civil society structures at all levels to support a culture of peace. Such structures include national peace academies and similar educational institutions and organizations involved in educating for a culture of peace. They include locations in Australia, Canada, Costa Rica, India, Nepal, Pakistan, Romania, Rwanda, Switzerland and the United States of America.
Infrastructures for peace are emerging as a new form of systems architecture that allows us to move through the all-systems breakdown we are experiencing around the globe. For example, Infrastructures for Peace (I4Pinternational.org) is a relatively new organization with a clear mission: “Peace can be planned. In most cases violent escalation of conflicts can be prevented. Countries at risk of instability and civil war need mechanisms and structures for cooperation amongst all relevant stakeholders in peacebuilding. National or local peace structures create a forum for all actors and stakeholders for dialogue, consultation, cooperation and coordination.”
Peace Systems already exist. The best example is Mother Nature and the dynamic principles of cooperation and interdependence she demonstrates. Everyone reading this is part of a peace system. That is, you are part of a synergistic effort to make the world a better place, knowing that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Each one of us has our own unique contribution to the system.
In my way of thinking, the all-systems breakdown we are experiencing is to be celebrated and dealt with wisely. It calls for a shift in the global worldview. This is a time of crisis, thus presenting both danger and opportunity. The danger is that we may remain focused on fixing what is not working and thereby miss the opportunity of building a new system that works better.
Our worldview is literally shifting. It is as if we are taking off the pair of glasses through which we have seen the world as one of competition, separation and individualization and replacing them with a new pair through which we can see the world as one of cooperation, unity, interdependence, group work and sharing on behalf of the common good.
As we experience this shift in our global worldview, we are simultaneously developing the institutions and policies that embody and reflect a culture of peace and right relationship. For example, in July 2011 humanity made history when Sudan became North and South Sudan. For the first time, a country just forming (South Sudan) included a Minister of Peace at the national government level.
We are a generation away from realizing a culture of peace, and youth are playing a major role in the culture shift. In this century, the Internet and social networking have enabled many, especially our young people, to make strong connections and achieve remarkable progress toward a culture of peace. The spirit of cooperation and intentional service on behalf of the greater good are keynotes as so many individuals and groups work together and strive to touch the hearts and minds of global citizens in order to awaken the inner knowing that humanity holds a sacred place in the scheme of things.
Examples of organizations whose focus is intentional service by youth on behalf of the greater good include Generation Waking Up, WeDay, Be More Heroic, Children of the Earth and Youth Courts International. These groups share a focus on education, empowerment, training and leadership development of and for youth in these changing times.
It really is very exciting when you think about what is happening the planet over. People under 40 years of age (most were under 30!) initiated these five organizations: Warriors Without Weapons (Brazil), Kafunda (Zimbabwe), EcoMe (Israel), Nuna Ayni (Peru), and Shikshantar (India).
Thanks to David Adams, each month I receive a Culture of Peace and Nonviolence bulletin. In the September 1, 2013 bulletin Meg Villanueva expresses in her article on the Youth Building Peace project in the Caucasus: “Youth are not just the ‘victims’ of longstanding conflicts; we are also agents and actors that can help support and sustain the development of the peace process.” Her
project is to create a strong partnership among organisations in eight countries in the EU and its neighboring South Caucasus region and to strengthen capacities of young people in the field of peacebuilding, conflict transformation and intercultural dialogue—using training and networking as principal tools.
One more example of youth making a difference comes from Nina Meyerhof, founder of Children of the Earth (COE): “Youth of today, when given the opportunity to inner reflect on their authentic views and heart passion, know for sure that our world is in great need of a system correction for volcanic positive change. Typically, as spiritual activists, they do not wish to destroy what does not work but rather wish to build what is possible. A young COE Chapter leader in Nepal built 24 schools for children that didn’t previously have schools; a Chapter leader in Australia created an organization called Bus of Books that delivers books and learn-to-read programs to poor communities; a COE youth from Uganda developed a beekeeping teaching project for women in his village, which has now become a sustainable source of income for the community; and COE leaders delivered its Teddy Bear project in Port-au-Prince, Haiti bringing teddy bears to many children living in makeshift tent villages since the devastating earthquake of 2010.”
Two groups doing groundbreaking work in peace education are the International Institute on Peace Education, now in its 30th year, and the International Peace Research Association. Both are revealing the underlying principles and processes of educating to live in right relationship at all levels from personal to ecological. They foster the development of a personal skill set that encourages our attitudes and behaviors to truly reflect such values as cooperation, sharing, empathy, mutual respect, goodwill, loving understanding, nonviolent conflict resolution and sustainable stewardship of Earth’s ecosystems.
At the university level, there are currently more than 400 peacebuilding programs around the world, and we are beginning to celebrate the emergence of individuals with doctoral degrees in peace studies and conflict transformation. Yes, we now have dotors of peacebuilding.
Imagine a world in which the focus of education is right relationship with self, others and the world around us—a world in which we educate ourselves to think, communicate, and act in accordance with principles and processes of health, sustainability, peace and justice. David Smith, with the United States Institute for Peace, just released the book Peacebuilding in Community Colleges, offering a cutting-edge look at this emerging field.
On a local level, the River Phoenix Center for Peacebuilding (RPCP) in Gainesville, Florida, US, is developing an emergent cocreative design process. It is a local grassroots collaborative effort. The center uses a comprehensive approach inclusive of all sectors of society around a common goal: Working together to build a safe community. Everyone learns to resolve conflict through healthy communication in relationships, thus breaking the cycle of violence. One of the essential ingredients is restorative practices. Programs address social-emotional intelligence for youth, communication and self-esteem, and the group is working with schools, law enforcement, university, businesses, the faith community and health providers. RPCP is working to make a translatable process model that can roll out to other communities seeking to live in a healthy culture of peace, safety and sustainability.
The year 2013 is already proving to be the turning point for us as a global family. In this moment of global connectivity and recognition of our interconnectedness, there are innumerable collaborative initiatives. Kosmos Journal tells this story well, particularly through the series on the Global Commons. A few examples follow.
Visit www.wiser.org as it “helps the global movement of people and organizations working toward social justice, indigenous rights, and environmental stewardship” or www.350.org, and you will see an ever increasing number of activities and events. Hundreds of thousands of individuals and groups are working towards a better world—a world that works for everyone, a world of dynamic peace and sustainability, a synergistic peace system.
The UN International Day of Peace (September 21st) is an encouraging example of the collaboration of groups globally around a common purpose. The 2013 theme is Education for Peace and our BHAG (big hairy audacious goal) is to reach one billion people. Not only will there be a united mass appeal for peace through a moment of silence at noon on September 21st, the Education Peace Team will also initiate an ongoing social networking effort to raise awareness. The team will provide tools for individuals and groups to take ongoing action in their areas of interest all over the globe. Resources for educators can be found at www. perc4peace.org and www.internationaldayofpeace.org and on Facebook at Education Peace Team / IDP NGO Committee.
One billion people taking action for a culture of peace could serve as a tipping point. And this is only one initiative among the hundreds around the world. Humanity longs for an end to violence and the disruption of daily life. More than that, we long for a world at peace, a world in which we are celebrated for giving our best and in which our needs are met in a loving, sustainable and equitable society.
The spirit of goodwill is alive and well in humanity, and this is the year to significantly move forward. It is time to tell the new story, the story of peace in all sectors of society, to make peace an organizing principle in life, and to intentionally offer our individual and group contributions on behalf of the greater good.
There is an important distinction between negative and positive peace. Negative peace is the absence of violence. Positive peace nurtures hope and the wisdom of joy as proactive, intentional steps are taken to create the conditions for a culture of peace and social justice—a culture of kindness. By 2025, we will be harvesting seeds of peace.
Let us sacrifice personal differences, bridge ideological cleavages, and harmonize polarized schools of thought—personally, socially and between countries. We can do this. In fact, we are doing this, all over the world. Let us live the new story, beginning with each one of us.
Former US President Franklin Delano Roosevelt said, “If civilization is to survive, we must cultivate the science of human relationship—the ability of all peoples, of all kinds, to live together and work together in the same world, at peace.”
My view of the Culture of Peace—that of an existing culture that is growing in our global society—is through one small lens of participation and recognition. May it serve to inspire all of us to look at life through eyes of probability, right relationship and goodwill as we offer our contributions on behalf of the common good. We have within us greatness and a capacity to transform our global society.
May the Spirit of Peace be spread abroad, in our hearts, through our groups, and throughout the world. So let it be, and help us to do our part.
Dorothy J. Maver, Ph.D. is an educator and peacebuilder whose keynote is inspiring cooperation on behalf of the common good. Dot is President of the National Peace Academy in the USA, a founding board member of the Global Alliance for Ministries and Infrastructures of Peace, and serves as Executive Director of The River Phoenix Center for Peacebuilding in Gainesville, Florida USA.