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Ministry for Peace –- Around the World

SECOND PEOPLE'S SUMMIT FOR MINISTRIES AND DEPARTMENTS OF PEACE Victoria, BC, Canada - 19 to 22 June, 2006
a report by OPTU Representative, Kate Smith

Attendees

They came by plane, bus, car, ferry and on foot. Sixty men and women, representing diverse cultures, nations, ages and languages, travelled to Victoria, British Columbia, Canada ….

This was the beginning of a report from the Summit and I was one of those fortunate people when I was given the opportunity to represent Operation Peace Through Unity at this event. In fact there were two events, one after the other. The first was held at Days Inn Waterway Hotel in the suburbs of Victoria. This workshop, facilitated by Kai Brand-Jacobsen of Transcend in Romania, set the scene and gave us very valuable background material. It was also a chance to meet with the other delegates who turned out to be a very committed group of people from very diverse backgrounds.

Having a singing lesson every morning was a great way to start the day, followed by a short meditation. Our singing teacher, Shivon Robinsong, was adamant that everyone was able to sing - "just listen to the person next to you" - and she was proved correct. We were able to sing a four part 16th century round. It is quite true what is said that "singing together in harmony is a vital source of energy and connection."

The purpose of the Workshop was to look at what could be learned from peacebuilding and conflict resolution which had already taken place. When considering these examples, the best practice was identified. This was followed by sessions covering the infrastructure for peacebuilding. I found this a fascinating series of explanations complete with diagrams which will be useful to others. Perhaps the most important message from this part of the workshop was that conflict is always with us, in our everyday life as well as in international disputes. How this conflict is resolved can lead to good for everyone concerned. This gives hope for the future. An additional set of material was presented on Non Violent Communication which, if put into practice from a very young age, will help us all to change our thinking to a more peaceful paradigm. This was extended into giving more thought to what we say and how we describe people. If we attach labels to people, it becomes very easy to devalue them; then, a step further is to depersonalize them and from there it is no time at all before they can be demonized. This way of thinking makes violence and war seem 'the only answer' to solving problems. In fact, people are people - human beings who live and breathe, have needs and desires, and an expectation of being treated fairly - the Golden Rule. It is interesting to note that the military are becoming involved with their 'rebel' counterparts in the Phillipines to attempt to try a different way to solve their differences. The workshop sessions were a mixture of information sharing and group discussion, the results of which have been shared with all.

I tried to summarise the steps we might all try to take to change our way of thinking:

  • Listen carefully to the other party
  • Identify your needs and communicate them clearly
  • Avoid the use of labels
  • Avoid the use of military language as this leads to violent thinking
  • Ask questions instead of using logical argument to achieve your goals

We tried to develop a road map or action plan to lead to the establishment of Ministries or Departments of Peace. While interesting and giving some ideas to work on, I did not feel this objective was achieved.

We were given a First Nations welcome with chants and explanations of some customs and history. This concluded the Workshop part of the gathering.

The second part of the programme was the Summit itself, which was held at Royal Rhodes University. The setting may have been a little ironic as this used to be the Canadian Military Academy. However, a more beautiful setting could not have been wished for - the rooms themselves, (with visitors passing by during the sessions), the magnificent grounds in which we ate our lunches, the immaculate gardens which exuded peace and serenity and the view over Puget Sound.

The Summit's purpose was to bring people up to date with progress on national campaigns, or at least current events, to establish Ministries or Departments of Peace. Each country presented a paper outlining its position and expectations for the near future. Obviously some countries were more advanced than others, with the Solomon Islands and the Philippines already having a government department in place. Although small numbers may be involved, the commitment and will to succeed was not to be doubted. Several delegates were young men and women who gave us a picture of what life was like in their countries, eg Nepal and Uganda.)

OPTU's contribution was probably slightly different from most in that it was emphasizing the need to start at grassroots level and build momentum from there. OPTU sees this process as a long term objective, based on the 1999 UN resolution and leading to the Ministry for a Culture of Peace to act as a watchdog over the government's legislation as well as promoting peaceful living. Their position was very clearly outlined in a paper presented as part of a panel discussion organized by the Wellington Branch of the UNANZ in May 2006 (full copy available on OPTU website: www.peacethroughunity.info ). Perhaps the easiest way to summarize this position is to quote OPTU's five point plan for a Ministry for a Culture of Peace:

  1. identifying root-causes of conflict, disharmony and hostility within and between peoples, cultures and nations;
  2. actively promoting the employment of conflict-resolution, mediation, negotiation and other peacebuilding/peacemaking skills, and encouraging that these skills become common practice;
  3. acting as a focal point for comprehensive, consistent and constructive cooperation and consultation between government (and its various departments) and interest groups within the various parts of society (education, health, environment, industry, unions, science, arts, culture, law, media, police, military, volunteers, local government etc.) ensuring that the legislative process of formulating any specific law takes into account the effect it may have on the community in its entirety;
  4. forming working partnerships with international institutions and co-workers for the building of a culture of peace worldwide;
  5. keeping the government and the general public aware of the UN resolutions, which our Government has committed itself and us all to implement.

This position is further explained in the brochure produced by OTPU entitled Ministry for a Culture of Peace.

The rest of the time was spent on trying to decide what to do next and where to go from here. The structure of the group and its objectives, as well as how to achieve them were discussed. Common themes emerging were:

  • the need to involve young people at all stages - many of these people are fully committed and have enormous energy
  • an emphasis on education at all levels, although perhaps for the long term nature of the goal, the message needs to be promoted from an early age
  • sharing resources and experiences with each other and learning what could work in your own country's situation
  • developing and making full use of networks.

Further work is needed on the structural nature of the Global Alliance for Ministries and Departments of Peace. To this end, several working party groups were set up to work through until the next Summit which will be held in Japan in 2007. I am representing OPTU and New Zealand on the Communications Working Party Group, and look forward to sharing the outcome of deliberations with you later in the year.

Below is the communiqué from the Second People's Summit. I am very grateful to OPTU for giving me the opportunity to work with such a wonderful group of people from all over the world. Appreciation is also given to the extensive research and background assistance provided by OPTU before I left and the support given by them since my return.

I have been given various opportunities since to promote the work of the Global Alliance and OPTU. These include, presenting a report to the UNANZ Wanganui and Wellington branches and to local Rotary clubs. These occasions are stimulating and give people the chance to consider changing their way of thinking to fit a conflict transformation style.

Kate Smith, 48 Parsons St., Wanganui, New Zealand, E-mail: k_smith@clear.net.nz

*******

Communiqué from the Second People's Summit for Ministries and Departments of Peace
Victoria, BC, Canada - June 19-22, 2006

The Global Alliance for Ministries and Departments of Peace gathered at Royal Roads University, Victoria, Canada, to advance the establishment of ministries and departments of peace in governments worldwide. Government and civil society delegates from Australia, Canada, Costa Rica, India, Italy, Japan, Liberia, Nepal, Netherlands, New Zealand, Palestine, Philippines, Romania, Solomon Islands, Spain, Uganda, United Kingdom, United States united to develop an effective global and national architecture for peace.

In plenary sessions and working groups, Summit participants established the foundations for local, national, regional, and international campaigns that will work towards conflict resolution and peace-building. "The role of governments in this initiative is crucial, in partnership with civil society," said Franklin Quijano from the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process in the Philippines. Fred Fakari'i, undersecretary in the Department of Reconciliation, Unity, and Peace in the Solomon Islands, noted that "Together we have the capacity to build the architecture that will make peacebuilding effective."

The Global Alliance calls upon governments of the world and civil society organisations everywhere to:

  • Develop necessary resources and infrastructure for resolving conflicts effectively by peaceful means
  • Establish, train and develop civil peace services and the human resources and capacities for peacebuilding and conflict transformation
  • Incorporate conflict resolution and peacebuilding into school curricula from primary schools through university
  • Actively engage youth, women, and all communities to participate as equals in peacebuilding, to ensure participation and representation of all
  • Support and encourage coordinated efforts to gather lessons learned and best practices from peacebuilding experiences around the world.

The Global Alliance is committed to partnership and cooperation with governments, organisations, and institutions nationally and internationally working for the achievement of these goals and the promotion of peace by peaceful means. Governments such as those in the Philippines and Solomon Islands who have already established secretariats and departments for peacebuilding, conflict transformation, and reconciliation are pioneers and examples to the world.

"Collectively, the youth at the Summit call for a global youth cooperative network of the diverse local movements towards establishing departments and ministries of peace. We are excited to be able to offer a 'fresh' perspective for peace," said Tara Yip-Bannicq, Youth Delegate to the Summit.

"Everyone assembled here," said Dr. Saul Arbess, Summit host and Canadian Working Group delegate, "is determined to provide the energy, skills and momentum to realise these goals, working in concert and in harmony with peace workers worldwide."

Steering Committee Contacts: Saul Arbess, sarbess@shaw.ca; Diana Basterfield, diana.basterfield@ministryforpeace.org; Stephanie Jensen, stephjc@uvic.ca; Yumi Kikuchi, yumik@fine.ocn.ne.jp; Dot Maver, dot@thepeacealliance.org; Biannca Pace, biannca@departmentofpeace-australia.org www.peoplesinitiativefordepartmentsofpeace.org o info@peoplesinitiativefordepartmentsofpeace.org

The watershed between a dying civilization based on individualism, once arrogant, now abject, and a collective civilization yet to be formed in which the free development of each will be the condition for the free development of all.
We are thus in the passage from an epoch of individual despairs to one of shared hope in an ever richer material and spiritual life.
From "Mystics & Zen Masters" by Thomas Merton

 
Anthony and Gita Brooke email : optubrookiana@xtra.co.nz