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MPT Loses a Bright Light of Peace

March 28, 2013

We are sad to announce the sudden passing of MPT former staff member, Joyce Jackson. Joyce joined us as a part of the Experience Works program, was an integral part of a number of our Domestic peace teams, joined our Core Community (MPT’s version of a Board of Directors), and was in the process of becoming one of our nonviolence skills trainers.Image

Joyce Jackson was born August 12, 1948 in Memphis, Tennessee to Bernice Berry and S. T. Jackson. She was educated in the Memphis City school system and graduated from Booker T. Washington High School. She received a Bachelor of Science degree in Interdisciplinary Studies from Wayne State University. Joyce moved to Lansing in 2007 and was a pillar of the community. Joyce was employed by the City of Detroit at the Northwest Activities Center as the Assistant Personnel Manager. Joyce was on the Core Community (Board of Directors) of the Michigan Peace Team. She gave her heart to Meals-On-Wheels through the Department of Human Services, where she was an Assistant Administrator. Joyce loved to travel, read, shop, and attend dance concerts and spend special moments with family and friends. She also loved attending church. She personally believed in education and educating others. She was preceded in death by her father, S.T. Jackson and brother, Robert Jackson. Joyce went home to be with the Lord on March 16, 2013. She leaves to cherish her memory: her children, Marcia Renee Myers, John L. (Tammie) Meyers, and Anthony Jackson; grandchildren, Amanda Meyers, Priscilla Williams, Tanisha, Lakita, LeTisha, and Marlosha Adams, Shakita, Shamika, Jeremy L., Johnny L., Terrica, Jermayned Myers, and Reginald Benton; 12 great-grandchildren; sisters, Carolyn J. (Alvin) Holifield, Elenora J Garden, Marilyn (Awing) Jackson; brothers, Nathanial (Sheila) Jackson, Darrell Jackson, Bernard Jackson, and Stanley (Ann)Jackson; step-father, Sam Calloway; partner, Jay Mitchell of Belleville, Michigan; and a host of other relatives and friends.

Joyce Jackson – beloved mother, grandmother, great-grandmother, sister, friend, wise woman and peacemaker – will indeed be greatly missed.

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Hell and Back Again

February 1, 2013
88 Mins. Documentary, Docuramafilms

88 Mins.
Documentary, Docuramafilms

Hell and Back Again is a touching film following Sergeant Nathan Harris and his regiment in Afghanistan, documented by photojournalist Danfung Dennis in 2009. As a sequel to the World War II documentary of Audie Murphy, this documentary depicts an important aspect of war that is often forgotten or under-articulated in the media. Danfung Dennis was working in Iraq and Afghanistan for several years prior, taking pictures for the media, he felt that society was becoming numb to the horrific events of the war due to the monotonous way they were shown. Dennis was determined to obtain a different perspective, one where people could actually understand what was occurring on the ground in Afghanistan, so as to bring renewed interest and a personal aspect. In achieving this goal, Danfung Dennis found Echo Company 2nd battalion 8th regiment. The documentary goes back and forth presenting scenes of Marines fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan and the post-service life of a Marine from Echo Company who was injured in battle. Sergeant Nathan Harris, with the support of his wife Ashley, works to heal a gunshot wound to his hip that left him unable to walk normally. This rare combination of first-hand live action, coupled with the opportunity to see the candid, direct effects of war on a Marine once he has returned home is both an honor and a heart-wrenching experience. Hell and Back Again has won the Grand Jury Prize and Cinematography Prize at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival and has gained praise from many critics. AMC’s filmcritic.com calls it “one of the greatest war films of this generation”, and the New York Post’s Vincent Musetto said it is “stunning… a breathlessly paced look at the realties of war”.

            The Marines of the United States are trained to be experts in the application of violence, as voiced in the documentary. Their strategy is to become the offensive player and take control of the population outside the grasp of the Taliban. In the first of the numerous battle scenes shown, shooting erupts from an unknown area and we experience the first death of the film. Lance Corporal Sharp, nicknamed “Sharpie” by his comrades, had been shot. His fellow Marines carry him out of the gunfire and tend to his wound; however, he is unable to be revived. Sergeant Nathan Harris becomes his successor, leading the platoon through the next 6 months as Dennis’s journey with them begins. The film alternately turns to the future when the Marine’s return home on a bus. Their loved ones are waiting for them while holding up signs. There is a overwhelming abundance of hugging, kissing, and tears of joy shared within the group. However, Sergeant Nathan Harris has been severely wounded just prior to his planned return home and is not able to attend the homecoming. Sergeant Harris is not brought home with his fellow men in a spectacle of celebration, but sent home from the hospital in a wheelchair with a handful of addictive prescriptions such as oxycontin and morphine.

            After his injury, Sergeant Nathan Harris is no longer able to be completely independent. He relies on his wife for many things, such as helping him change clothes or getting his medicine from the pharmacy. He has to use a machine on his leg for 8 hours each day to stretch the muscles, and the intense pain makes him physically sick. Even through this, Harris says at the Pain Management Clinic that he does not have a problem with his injury because he was prepared and knew what it would be like to come home, and later he reiterates that he is just glad it wasn’t a chest injury. From the soldiers’ perspective, the importance of defending the United States is unquestionable;  however, the methods being used to wage war are leaving a generation of men with physical and psychological hindrances. This is shown in the documentary through the course of Nathan Harris’s physical training, which makes him ill from the pain, as well as his unprovoked aggravated behavior. The physical toll is exampled after touring a potential house with a realtor; Nathan Harris finds himself in too much pain to walk and must take pain medication. In a very sobering scene, Harris goes to the funeral of thirteen fallen soldiers. There is a long line of Marines seen honoring their dead comrades. To look not only at the major physical damage, including the deaths and injuries, Mrs. Harris describes her husband’s behavior since his injury. She acknowledges that he has become a completely different person, his temper has left him as someone whom when she looks at she sees emptiness instead of her husband.

In the Bonus Feature, Invisible Wounds, a professional stresses to the soldiers the importance of seeking help instead of keeping everything inside. Stress injuries are nothing to be ashamed of. As spoken by Sergeant Harris, these men must accept the possibility of death as a real option.  No matter how well prepared, there is still the possibility that you could lose your life on a daily basis.

            Harris’s change of emotional stability is clear with his quick, aggravated mood changes. As Nathan Harris and his wife search for a parking spot at the local Walmart, a frequent action of daily life, Nathan becomes abrupt and frustrated. He says looking for a parking spot while it is crowded stresses him out and he would rather be back with his platoon in Afghanistan fighting then worrying about such stressful things. This statement is not logical to people who have not suffered such trauma. This odd behavior is brought up again when going through a drivethough and Sergeant Harris becomes unnecessarily aggravated when people talk over each other or interrupt; unable to function with his frustration he simply puts his head between his hands. Another strange habit of Sergeant Harris is his unique relationship with his gun. He constantly has it with him throughout the documentary, whether in the car or at home, and even chooses to keep it under his mattress with the handle ready for him to grab. Gun use is an extremely controversial topic in today’s society but Sergeant Harris does not shy away from displaying his weapon. This could be emulating his fear that built during his active duty and his current need to feel protected. Physical wounds are clear and there is a exact way they must be treated; however, psychological problems are equally as pressing while socially less recognized. The possibility of a stress disorder or other psychological impact is quite real when soldiers return from the war, a consequence that is brought up in the bonus features Did You Kill Anyone? Families ask how to handle their newly home soldiers; this is an excellent source for anyone who has had a loved one in the military.

            There is a significant disconnect between the goals of the United States to help Afghan villagers and how these locals perceive the militias presence that is brought up in Hell and Back Again. This can definitely be partially blamed on the cultural and language barriers that exist. The United States Marines constantly reiterate what President Obama says during a speech in the documentary. The United States does not want to occupy or rule Afghanistan, such as the Soviets or Al-Qaeda fighters did; they simply want to end the suffering and become partners. In this sense, the ultimate goal is long-term and results in peace, whereas the villagers see the short-term threat of being moved from their villages, unable to farm, and fearing the safety of their children. They see the temporary occupation as a bother that continuously brings the Taliban into their region. Each side has a valuable point. Afghanistan has long been under foreign occupation and needs encouragement to build a sustainable infrastructure; however, the use of firefights and violence is costing lives of many American soldiers as well as disrupting the lives of the innocent civilians. After his time in the Marines, Sergeant Harris explains his belief that the big picture is lost within the fighting. He supports that the Marines are rightfully dedicated to defending America but using this form of defense also has major costs, as he first-handedly experiences.

Lauren Mooradian, MPT Intern

Resources:

  • Hell and Back Again. Dir. Danfung Dennis. Perf. Sergeant Nathan Harris and Ashley Harris. Docuramafilms, 2011. DVD.
  • Willie Nelson – Hell and Back   http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IXAmeY0b52M  – Comments by Marine’s in Echo Company during this period
  • Bonus Feature– Blue Star Families PSA: The experience of war is unimaginable to those of us who have not experiences it first-hand. Your loved ones may not know what it’s like but there are people out there who do, contact them.
  • MSNBC Interview (Dylan Ratigan) with Danfung Dennis   http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/31510813/#44792225
  • Hell and Back Again Trailer   http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=luoc9UM-G40
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Statement on Israel’s Operation “Pillar of Defense”

November 19, 2012

Michigan Peace Team supports JVP’s Statement, which reads:

As Israel launches operation “Pillar of Defense” in Gaza, Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) calls for an immediate cessation of the air strikes and naval bombardment into Gaza and an end to the ongoing siege of Gaza. JVP urges Israel not to exploit its asymmetric power to exacerbate the instability in the region. We urge President Obama to  take a stand against these attacks and to use the power of the United States to insist that Israel pursue all diplomatic measures possible for the sake of life, safety and security on all sides. JVP opposes all attacks on civilians, and urges the end of rocket attacks from Gaza into civilian communities in Israel, which only serve to derail efforts for a just resolution to the conflict.

This operation is named in reference to a  biblical passage in which a pillar of cloud protects the Israelites as they wandered in the desert after leaving bondage in Egypt.

And the Lord went before them by day in a pillar of cloud, to lead them the way; and by night in a pillar of fire, to give them light; that they might go by day and by night.    – Exodus 13:21                                                                                   

It is unseemly to invoke the protection afforded the Israelites wandering in the desert when Israel is the dominant military power in the region. JVP rejects the possibility that such a military operation and escalation of violence will be of any protection for Israelis or Palestinians. As Israel continues to control Gaza by air, land and sea, Israel holds responsibility for the well-being and safety of Palestinian civilians in Gaza who will be traumatized, injured and killed through this escalation of violence. 

JVP calls on our chapters, members, and supporters to join us in redoubling our efforts to advocate for an end to the U.S.’s unconditional military aid to Israel and to intensify our calls for divestment from all companies that profit from this escalation of violence and Israel’s ongoing siege of Gaza.

You can follow live updates from Gaza here: https://twitter.com/theIMEU/watching-gaza


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Jewish Voice for Peace is a national organization dedicated to promoting a US foreign policy in the Middle East based on peace, democracy, human rights and respect for international law.
With offices in New York and California, over 100,000 supporters and 30 chapters, a Rabbinic Cabinet, and a youth wing, JVP’s board of advisors includes Tony Kushner, actor Ed Asner, writer Naomi Klein, Noam Chomsky and other respected rabbis, artists, scholars and activists.  

http://jewishvoiceforpeace.org/

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MPT’s Fall Newsletter

October 29, 2012

Click here:  MPT’s Fall 2012 Newsletter 

Knowing that active nonviolence is always our MPT focus, how do we keep on doing the good work with informed action in community, and with commitment in the face of obstacles? And secondly: What are effective ways of overcoming our own, our community’s, our world’s sense of hopelessness, paralysis, atomization, apathy and cynicism?

This Fall 2012 Newsletter offers the following answers to those questions:

  • Some Tools for the Long Haul – Peter Dougherty (pg. 1)
  • A Noble Difference – Annette Thomas (2-3)
  • Where There Is Apathy, Let Us Bring Hope – Albert F.J. Kreitz (3)
  • This is It!: Experiencing Beloved Community – Kim Redigan (4)
  • Seeing the Other  – Kristie Guerrero-Taylor (5)
  • The Outcome Is Not In Our Hands – Sandra Schneiders, IHM (6)
  • Cynicism & Community – Lydia Wylie-Kellermann (7)
  • Making a Difference, Moment by Moment – Paula Marie (8)
  • Nonviolence Training (8)
  • Peace Teams and the Fall 2012 Peace Team (9)
  • Growing Community Events – Elizabeth Walters, IHM (10-11)
  • Help Continue the Dream (12)
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The Topic: The movie “A MAN OF CONSCIENCE”

October 29, 2012
  • Directed and produced by: Jason A. SchmidtFranz Jagrstatter
  • Writer: Roberta Morris
  • Produced in 2008
  • Duration of the movie: 24 minutes

Review written by Yohannes Nega Shita (MPT Intern)

After watching “A Man of Conscience,” I have been inspired by its message. The movie, produced by the Catholic Church in 2008, is based on the true life story of a man named Franz Jagerstatter. Franz was a farmer in Austria who lived during the Second World War. The movie revolves around the issue of family disintegration during war and its effects on family members, particularly children. The other major point the movie makes is Franz’s dedication to the value of prayer and faith to make strong decisions, helping him to say no to the unjust war calls of public authorities.

During 1938, Germany invaded Austria, and Franz was called to enlist in military training service of the Nazi government. As a result of this order, Franz would be required to leave his loved ones, including his four beautiful daughters, behind. After completion of the training, he had been called to the war in Austria. Franz refused to leave, although at the time he had faced strong pressure from his family and even the Catholic priests to fulfill the calling of the Nazi government and leave for the war. Franz remained insistent on his opposition of unjust war and death.

In the 1930‘s  Franz had lived peacefully with his family supporting and taking care of his wife and daughters. But had eventually been unwillingly called to the military service training in which he stayed for eight weeks hoping to be back to his family. During the training, he tried to maintain his paternal role to his daughters from distance through writing letters back and forth with his spouse. He had disclosed his love to the family through sweet words in his consistent love letters. He also had prayed consistently to all his families’ members though he lived far away.

Franz was also unique in his strong personal decision. During 1930, Europe was led by the influence of the public majority and religious leaders. He said no to the order of the public authorities, to the unjust war, and moved forward in his personal belief of justice and peace.  Because of his strong belief in peace and justice, leading him to say no to the call for war and invasion, he was executed in public by Nazi public authorities in 1943.

I enjoyed watching this movie for the following reasons. I was very delighted to see the affectionate letters between Franz and his spouse while they were living so far apart and his consistent prayer and faith in his God. Moreover, I have been inspired by his consistent and determined decision to say no to the order of war and invasion and by his martyr-like act. Finally I recommend everyone to watch this movie, and to be part of the peace-building initiative. I would like to thank Michigan Peace Team for inviting me to watch this inspiring movie.

The film is available at this website.

 

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MPT’s Summer Newsletter: Accompanying Mexico in Peace

September 27, 2012

CLICK HERE:  17_MPT_Summer_2012_Newsletter

Featuring these articles:  

  • MPT with the Mayans of Chiapas, Mexico  By Peter Dougherty
  • MPT Accompanying the People of Juarez  By Elizabeth Walters, IHM
  • Birth of Mexico’s Peace Movement  By Amy Smetana
  • Opportunities
  • Take Action!
  • Support
  • Centro Santa Catalina
  • Be the Change You Want to Happen –
  • Get Involved in MPT
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We Have Not Heard the Last Word!

August 31, 2012

By Elizabeth Walters

MPT Staff Member & Peace Team Member for Michigan Peace Team in Gaza

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The verdict came on August 28, 2012, when the Israeli Court declared that the military is free of blame and absolved of any wrongdoing with regards to the death of twenty-three year old Rachel Corrie on March 16, 2003. The investigation concluded that Corrie’s death was an accident and that she had endangered herself by entering a combat zone. Simply stated the court believes that Rachel chose to be in the wrong place at the wrong time and that is why she died.

Days before the verdict, at a meeting at the US embassy in Tel Aviv the ambassador, Dan Shapiro, told Rachel Corrie’s parents and her sister that the government did not believe the Israeli military investigation had been “thorough, credible and transparent”, as had been promised by Israel. (The Guardian, Friday 24 August 2012, http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/aug/24/israel-rachel-corrie-us-ambassador

I join with people around the planet who are shocked and dismayed by this verdict.

Beginning of MPT’s Involvement:

My concern and commitment date back to the beginning. In early June 2003, Mary Ann Ford, Jim Noble and I arrived in Rafah, Gaza two and a half months after Rachel’s death and shortly after peace team member Tom Hurndall was shot in the head and journalist Jim Miller had been killed by Israeli military personnel. Also, Mary Ann and I returned to Rafah, Gaza during Operation Rainbow in 2004. In both instances, local people in Rafah, Gaza had invited Michigan Peace Team to come. Once in Rafah we were able to monitor and document human rights violations and carry out other aspects of our peace team work.

Also we were committed personally to investigate the circumstance surrounding Rachel’s death. We interviewed eye witnesses including members of the peace team of which Rachel was a part. We went to the site of Rachel’s death. In addition, we gathered, organized, and studied documents, photos and videos regarding Rachel’s death that were in the peace team office and at key agencies that had been involved in investigating the death of Rachel.

Here are some of our findings

1.   Rachel Corrie was in the right place at the right time. She was doing what people are called to do worldwide: to nonviolently protect people, homes and neighborhoods from unjust and illegal demolitions. The Israeli military was destroying homes and neighborhoods in spite of international condemnations, and concerns about violations of human rights and international law.

 2.   The dictates of human rights, international law, and moral code enjoin military personnel to make a distinction between civilians and the military and to ensure the safety of unarmed civilians.

 3.   Eyewitness accounts and documents confirm that the Israeli military was given every opportunity to be aware of the presence of the nonviolent peace team on the ground on March 16, 2003 because:

•        Rachel Corrie wore a reflector vest and the whole team wore bright clothing;

•        These nonviolent protesters posted signs for all to see regarding their presence and protest against home demolitions that day; and,

•        The peace team was using a bull horn to announce their presence and to urge the military to stop destroying the homes of Palestinians.

4.   Rachel Corrie and the whole peace team were unarmed and nonviolent. The military was armed, moving in armored vehicles, and guarded by tanks and gun towers. Clearly there was no threat to the soldiers.

5.   The ISM peace team’s expectation that they would not be shot or crushed by the military during their nonviolent protest was in my view a reasonable expectation at that time.

In spite of these findings and hundreds more, Rachel Corrie was crushed to death by an Israeli military bulldozer on March 16, 2003 and years later, on August 28, 2012, in response to the civil suit brought to court by the parents of Rachel Corrie, the Israeli court declared the Israeli military free of blame and absolved from any wrongdoing with regard to Rachel’s death.

Today the Haaretz Digital Edition is reporting that Corrie’s mother, Cindy, put it this way at a news conference following the court ruling:

“The state has worked extremely hard to make sure that the full truth about what happened to my daughter is not exposed, and that those responsible for her killing are not held accountable.”

(Haaretz, August 31, 2012, http://www.haaretz.com/news/features/double-take/what-the-rachel-corrie-case-reveals-about-israeli-justice.premium-1.461938)

As mentioned earlier, Mary Ann and I served on MPT peace teams in Rafah, Gaza during 2003 and 2004 and I went back to Gaza on another team in 2005 with Karen Donahue and Mary Miner. Our MPT peace teams lived and worked among the people of Gaza, and along with the people, we experienced firsthand the horror of the occupying military forces.

Here are some of our lived experiences: Sealed shut, by land, sea, and air, Gaza was and is the largest prison in the world. The Israeli military continued destroying Palestinian neighborhoods, seizing land, and declaring military zones in Palestinian neighborhoods. Throughout this process, when shooting from the gun towers, tanks, helicopters the military operated as if there was little or no distinction between civilians and military personnel. Many Palestinians died at the hands of the Israeli military and more than 2000 Palestinian homes were destroyed at the border to create the so-called Philadelphia Corridor. Also, we and Palestinians living in Gaza endured Operation Rainbow in 2004.

Then in 2007, after MPT was prevented from entering Gaza, the Israeli military invaded Gaza and conducted Operation Cast Lead.

In light of both Rachel’s death AND the on-going misery of the people of Gaza it is impossible for me to believe or accept that the Israeli military is blameless and absolved of any wrongdoing.

For years, the situation in Gaza and Rachel’s death has had a lasting effect on my life and the lives of many others. We continue to remember the commitment to active nonviolence so evident in Rachel and in many Palestinian people in Gaza. In that same spirit we continue to resist nonviolently on behalf of human rights, peace, and social justice.

In closing, I want to share with you my message to the parents of Rachel Corrie:

Thank you Mr. and Mrs. Corrie!

I am grateful beyond words that you to seek justice regarding your daughter’s death while continuing to speak on behalf of Palestinians.

Do not lose heart. Know that the truth IS breaking through and a light shines on your work. Know too that the courage and love of your daughter Rachel continues to inspire and move us to action on behalf of justice for Palestinians. Know too that we have not heard the last word! The arc of history bends toward nonviolent resistance, peace, and social justice.

Your sister, Elizabeth Walters, MPT Peace Team Member who witnessed the horror of the Israeli military in Gaza during 2003, 2004, and 2005

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Finding a Definition for Peace

July 12, 2012

What is peace? We are all familiar with the word, with the idea behind it. We use it all the time in a whole range of contexts and situations. It’s a part of common greetings during the holidays and at church. It’s seen on signs at various protests and spoken about in government debates.

You can buy it on jewelry or simply hold up two fingers to express it but if someone were to ask you what peace was, what would you say? It’s harder than it seems. Is it a feeling? A state of being? A foreign policy? Or an unattainable dream for the world? Whatever it is, dialogue between any people can expand the knowledge of it, enrich the meaning, and make the idea of it more attainable in the tangible world.

Eric Sirotkin is a human rights lawyer and peace advocate having done extensive work in South Africa, Korea, and the United States supporting peaceful movements and peace education. His time in South Africa in particular opened his eyes to the idea of “ubuntu” a philosophy of human connectedness. Ubuntu is the allegiance and relations between humans and the notion that every person belongs to a greater whole of one. Simply put by Archbishop Desmond Tutu, it is the essence of being human because “the only way we can be human is together.” Sirotkin has embraced this and created Ubuntu Works Peace Education Project. With this he travels the world educating people on peacemaking.

Some of Sirotkin’s efforts include delivering presentations on peaceful conflict resolution and peace education. At a 2004 event at the Albuquerque Center for Peace and Justice, Sirotkin engaged the attendees in conversation about what peace really was. He began by explaining that the peace movement is commonly misunderstood because there is not a coherent/cohesive idea across the board for what peace really is when it is achieved. While it’s a universal principle that everyone can relate to, is it more than just a notion of non-violence? He encouraged the participants to think of a concrete idea of what peace was so that the goal of peace would have a more direct path to take. The process of achieving “peace” and the movement as a whole would become more effective if more people understood what the common ideas of it were. He further explains the difficulty of translating universal principals such as peace because the idea of it transcends across different times and contexts. To him, it is “always evolving” but opening dialogue about it will help others get a better grasp of what it really is.

Many people began by claiming that peace is the absence of war and the absence of fear. In today’s society war is a metaphor for everything. It is taught in schools, evident in daily language, and must be waged against all things bad in the world; terrorism, drugs, poverty, and even women. Everyone is taught to be scared even if they don’t know what they are afraid of. When they don’t know who their enemy is they will buy into violence.

Many discussed though that it is more than that. This idea of war is embedded in the American culture because of its focus on competition and intimidation. Some participants in the workshop noted that the way we treat our young people builds fear because intimidation is embedded in the curriculum and teaching techniques of our education system. While students may not be scared of their teachers, they certainly are afraid to get a bad grade, sometimes ask a wrong question or stand up in front of the class. With this comes the competitive attitude because from a young age students enter into sports and academia where the attitude and mindset is to win and be the best. There are many good lessons learned from being on a sports team or being pushed to excel in school such as team work, cooperation, hard work, determination, and responsibility but with the mind-set of winning, someone always has to lose. The concepts of helping one another is dramatically overshadowed when a student is punished and accused of cheating when they try to help an opponent or fellow classmate in need. There is a “dependency to build conflict” as one participant noted and “everything of value is to beat somebody.” Many of the participants concluded that the educational system needs to be reformed in order to create a space in the future where peace is possible even if it unclear what exactly that might be.

Coming off of the discussion on education many people began to explore what peace meant in the context of conflict. It was noted by many participants that conflict is always going to be there because it will never be possible to settle and resolve everything. What needs to be taught is how to deal with that conflict in a way that is not a reaction or competition but a response. One participant noted that “it’s not what we do but how we do it.” Peace is the process of how we deal with problems individually, nationally and internationally. Peace can come by listening, learning to negotiate, and working together to try to understand each other buy finding commonalities. It’s idealistic but it’s possible. Many people agreed that there is a need for this connection and cooperation amongst people across international borders even without conflict. There is a need to live with respect and compassion for others, putting all people on a more equal common ground. More importantly, these relationships need to be valued. One woman went as far to express her opinion on how we need to get over nationalism. She explained that peace cannot come when we have the power over model to fall back on. With nationalist tendencies there it will always be a back and forth struggle to resolve conflict than an effort to ensure lasting peace or justice.

There is a deeper level to this idea of peaceful relations between and among people. Peace is very much a personal thing as well. It’s something that is acted on globally and nationally but very much so individually as well. One woman explained though that this strive for individual peace should not be for personal excellence and for yourself, you should do it for the betterment of society. We need to be virtuous in doing something constructive for your community and the world when making yourself a better person.

The question of which kind of peace comes first (individual or societal) supported Sirotkin’s initial belief that the idea of peace is always evolving. It can begin with one person. Mr. Sirotkin quoted Paul Hawkins in saying “You can blame people who knock over things in the dark, or you can begin to light the candles.” One woman said “excitement is a most contagious thing” which is true. All it can take is one person becoming at peace with themselves to inspire others to do the same. On the other hand though a societal peace individual people will be able to become inspired as well. Widespread social peace will enable peacemakers to be able to reach those who may be turned off by the idea of world peace. It’s a constant cycle, an ever changing evolution. There is no one place to start but as many participants pointed out the least they could do and the most they could work on was start with themselves. One participant in noting the importance of individual peace, nonviolent communication and conflict resolution claimed “Our privilege is being deconstructed” we are having the same problems as the rest of the world and are learning that we are not so isolated like we thought. Our problems and battles seem bigger than they are because of the globalized world we live in. Peace is not about loving your neighbor but loving yourself so find that something good in everyone, don’t fuel negativity with negativity, and focus on your own everyday behavior and we’ll be amazed at what we can accomplish.

Going back to the original focus of discussion on what peace was, participants collaborated ideas on what peace was aside from an absence of war and fear. It is equality, equilibrium, balance, and connectedness. Tranquility economically, socially, and culturally. It’s more than that though, it’s a state of being, a goal, and always a struggle to strive to maintain that state but it’s also an opportunity. It’s a commitment to resolve conflict with civility moving away from the urge to dominate and becoming comfortable with differing points of view; adding diversity and tolerance into our lives. Peace is a place in the middle of conflict where one can really hear what the other is saying. Peace and the peace movement come off soft, gentle, and passive in appearance but many participants saw it quite differently. Peace is fierce and aggressive. If you think about it Martin Luther King Jr. or even Jesus were not mild or passive men. They were radical, taking action that involved the risk of getting hurt or having consequences. It is more than signing a petition and standing in the streets. They reached out and mobilized people encouraging them to take a stand and use their daily actions to dislodge the current power structure. The current peace movement isn’t like this anymore though, many don’t want to be destructive but unfortunately that’s what is going to have to happen. One man brought up a very interesting point that peace was a negative concept in society. Not negative as a connotation of bad but negative as in it goes against the status quo, it’s an idea that is not inherent in our society. Because of this the peace movement today “demands self-examination, accountability, and responsibility” and the people involved have to be willing to make the same sacrifices as any other independent movement.

Sirotkin noted that it is easier to mobilize and organize people when you are for something than to organize people against something. There are many people around the nation and the world who want peace but one man brought up that not many excited over it. He used an example that Americans get excited over football and therefore many follow it. Peace isn’t exciting enough for many to follow it and this man suggested that we change that; make peace exciting, make people want to be involved. Many don’t realize that we don’t have to wait for a war to end to judge if there is peace. Sirotkin pointed out that peace can come to other realms of life and then can eventually make it to the conflicts of war. Simply put, you don’t have to end a war to spread peace. As many of the participants discussed, you don’t have to only focus on the big things to make a difference, start small, start with yourself and the rest will fall into place. There is violence everywhere in the world. It doesn’t just happen in poor neighborhoods or war zones. One woman pointed out that the corporate world is a much more violent place and it is their behavior that influences the everyday person. Even Mr. Siortkin, a lawyer himself, claimed that the legal profession was one of the most violent with the constant ‘us versus them’ mentality. He also said that we tend to forget the good when times are so dismal and low with current events constantly reminding the public of the horrors around the world. Another woman pointed out that the everyday injustice that occurs in our communities is a form of violence as well. As discussed peace is more than non-violence, she said it’s the strength to love and dissipate these things.

Peace is an abstraction. It is difficult to define yet easy to understand. In striving for safety and security to live one’s life it is thought that we have to make people fear us so we have the security that they will not attack us and jeopardize our safety. People utilize violence for fearful purposes but that is because they do not know the means of nonviolence. If the methods of nonviolence were known, Sirotkin and many other peacemakers are certain that they would chose to utilize those over violence. As discussed and concluded in this workshop nearly 8 years ago, the peace movement can very easily start with the individual. What needs to happen though is all these people need to come together not only to support one another in their efforts for peace but to encourage young people as well. One of the problems with the peace movement that was pointed out repeatedly was that it consists of the same group of people. What is wrong with it? Why are people so turned off by it? There are very few young people who are active in the peace movement and one of the thoughts behind why this is is because of the way young people are raised today. So think about what peace means to you. Discuss it with another, expand your knowledge, and inspire each other. Take that and share it with others, especially young people. Act together, connect with others and you’ll be amazed with what you can accomplish.

Please feel free to share your personal ideas of peace and what it means to you.

MPT Intern – Shannon Riley

Please visit Eric Sirotkin’s website to learn more about the Ubuntu Peace Education Projects at http://uwpep.org/Index/UWPEP.html

A copy of the transcript for this conference can be found at http://uwpep.org/Index/Reframing_Peace_files/Peace%20transcript-1.pdf

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I AM The Documentary | Official Site

January 10, 2012

I AM The Documentary | Official Site.

Don’t miss this!  It really could be life-changing.
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Michigan Peace Team in D.C.

October 9, 2011
Nighttime view of Capital

Nighttime view of Capital from Freedom Plaza

During last summer’s U.S. Social Forum, MPT team had the good fortune to meet and work with Elliott Adams, the current president of Veterans for Peace (VFP).  We were honored to learn that, after his having joined us on Peace Teams at that forum and his subsequent attendance at our Training for Trainers the following Fall, he had recommended us to the Veterans For Peace group organizing the October 2011 Movement events in Washington D.C.   At VFP’s invitation – and with the financial support of many of you – five of us made the drive to D.C. to come and facilitate nonviolence and peace team trainings here for VFP members and others dedicated to keeping Occupy D.C. a nonviolent, well-coordinated demonstration.

It has been an amazing experience and we have been both welcomed and very well received.  Our trainings have been witness to a wealth of diversity, with folks coming from nearly everywhere across this country….from Portland, Oregon to Portland, Maine; from Alaska to Hawaii.  We even had a young woman from Sweden!  For many in the group, this is their first political “action” ever…yet there were equally as many “movement veterans.”  Experience ranged from having had no nonviolence training before attending our workshops, to folks who can honestly profess to being professional nonviolence skills trainers and facilitators.

Participants seemed to especially appreciate the ideas of centering as part of preparing for peace team work, utilizing “I-messages”,  and the time spent mastering the CLARA technique (which was a new tool for even some of the most seasoned participants).   Afterwards, attendees expressed a new feeling of preparedness in helping defuse any potential violence.  One young constituent approached us afterward to say he found us to be “wicked knowledgeable”- – high praise in the Generation Y vernacular.  Another participant relayed, “You are clearly in love with the work you do. It shows and makes the training really engaging.”

Folks brought stories from the Occupy N.Y. and Occupy Wall Street events that they had just come from, as did other participants from the many other “occupy” events around the country:  a nation-wide movement called Occupy Together.  One of the most consistent and inspiring things was the deep dedication to nonviolence we saw in these groups, crossing all age, race, and educational boundaries.   People are emphasizing the importance of seeing the humanity in all of us: young and old; Republican, Communist, Democrat and Tea Party members; military veterans and college students;  dedicated peace activists and seasoned police officers.

While we have been here, we have connected with former MPT International peace team member Beth Wichman-Beusher (now based here in Washington D.C.) and former MPT staff member Sayrah Namaste (who flew in from Albuquerque, New Mexico).  We’ve been making new friends with each passing hour and, together, we look forward to gathering early tomorrow, Day 1 of this convergence in Freedom Plaza, to remind our politicians that – together, in one voice – we want people over profits, an end to the war machine, health care for all, the termination of corporate welfare, and sweeping environmental protections for our wounded planet.

Our deep appreciation to all who made it possible for us to be here, to train so many in the ways of nonviolence, and help empower the voice of the people to be heard.

– Peter Dougherty, Mary L. Hanna, Martha Larsen, Jasiu Milanowski, and Sheri Wander: MPT’s  NV Training Team to D.C.

Please stay posted on all that is happening in Freedom Plaza and around the nation:  This is indeed the voice of the people.

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