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The B.C. Southern Interior Peace Coalition (BCSIPC) met in Grand Forks on Oct. 27 with delegates, supporters and guests attending from Kelowna, Nelson, Castlegar, Grand Forks and Slocan. Delegates represented the Kootenay Region United Nations Association, (KRUNA), the Union of Spiritual Communities of Christ Working Groups (USCC), the Kelowna Peace Group, Kelowna KAIROS, Voice of Women for Peace (VOW) and the Boundary Peace Initiative (BPI) Grand Forks.
The Boundary Peace Initiative represents people of diverse backgrounds officially brought together in 2002 because of mutual concern for the rise in world conflict.
Their mandate is to participate in multilateral non-violent conflict resolution in support of global human rights, ecological and environmental sustainability and international law through education, sharing of information, dialogue and activism locally and globally.
The well-attended meeting received greetings from recently elected Grand Forks Mayor Brian Taylor and re-elected Councilor Christine Thompson. Responding to the greetings BCSIPC Coordinator said that BPI and BCSIPC looks forward to working with Mayor and Council to reinstate Grand Forks as a member of Mayors 4 Peace and maintain its status as a Nuclear Free Zone.
A message of greetings from NDP MP Richard Cannings (South Okanagan West Kootenay) was received with applause. Canning wrote: “To be among people who live and breathe the work of peace (oh yes, it is work) is uplifting, and I’m sorry to miss it. Your work matters. It is important work, even though at times I’m sure you feel you are banging your collective heads against a brick wall. Believe me, if people like yourselves did not work to advocate, educate and inform your community and your elected representatives, who would? You are passionate about the need for peace, and willing to do the hard work required for peace, and for that, I thank you. I thank you on behalf of myself, and on behalf of those who don’t know of you and your work.
The next conference of the coalition will take place in the West Kootenays in April 2019.
Youth and teens in Indianapolis came together to fight violence on Aug 11. The WE LIVE peace walk on Saturday was the second annual Peace Walk. It was in honor of Dijon Anderson, their classmate at Warren Central High School, who was killed in a shooting last spring. His friends didn’t want him to die in vain, so they started their anti-violence movement.
Brandon Warren who created to We LIVE said the walk is about raising awareness and showing that whether or not you are the shooter or the person being shot, both outcomes are tragic. “We want to persuade more teens to get involved and spread the word to other teens that they may be going down the wrong path and show them that there are other options.” Warren said.
The group walked about a mile from Washington Park to the juvenile center on the east side. That’s because they want to let the people there know that there are people who care about them. They prayed for the youth and the city, and families who have lost children and teens to gun violence.
Now We LIVE plans to expand to more cities, continue the annual Peace Walk and add other related events throughout the year.
Teens who are Jews, Muslims and Christians get together for peace.
The group Hands of Peace, based in Chicago, had a farewell celebration on July 29. They wanted the young minds to help overcome the divisive political history in the Middle East in a conflict that has been bubbling over for more than 70 years and bring ideas for peace.
Now in its fifth year, the Hands of Peace program brings together 46 Israeli, Palestinian and American teens for a summer leadership conference that centers on daily conversations and team-building exercises to break down the walls of hate, prejudice and misunderstanding.
Sunday’s celebration was the first time the participants had an opportunity to share their experiences with an audience, which was made up of several hundred donors, host families, volunteers, parents, alumni and community members.
With the help of skilled facilitators, the high schoolers spent their mornings involved in deep dialogues about their feuding nations. Their afternoons were spent doing activities like rope climbing, cultural exchanges in the kitchen and visiting churches, mosques and synagogues together. At night, they stay with their American host families.
Near the end of the program, all of the participants gathered on stage to sing songs of peace. As they sang and swayed together, each teen held up a piece of paper on which they wrote the one word that described their experience in Hands of Peace. The words, some written in Hebrew and Arabic, included: New, change, love, proud, friends, growth, empathy, acceptance, powerful and peace.
There was time for the kids to be kids but they also worked on learning, listening and growing as empathetic human beings. It’s the next generation deciding how to end a decades old war with their futures on the line.
The stakes for these teens are high. It could be dangerous back home for some of the Middle Eastern teens if word got back that they were engaged in peace-making activities with the “enemy.” To protect their privacy at Hands of Peace, most used only first names and could not be photographed. Most group activities and all of their often-heated group dialogues were off-limits to everyone but the teens and a few adult facilitators.
Sunday’s keynote speaker was Gretchen Grad, who founded Hands of Peace 15 years ago in Chicago. San Diego is the only other city where Hands of Peace takes place but she hopes to expand the program to other U.S. cities.
Grad said the participants learn to listen to other ideas and ultimately realize that behind their religions, ethnicities, nationalities and political beliefs they’re all alike and want the same thing: peace and prosperity for their families.
Second-year participant Marwan, a 17-year-old Christian Palestinian from the West Bank, said “Every day that passes someone will get killed and his family will have the same terrible feeling that I do.” And he said “We should put an end to the bloodshed because with peace comes freedom.”
*Hands of peace : https://www.facebook.com/HandsOfPeace/