This section of the Community Tool Box is about peace – a most fundamental asset to community building, to personal growth, and to the very survival of our planet. At the heart of many faiths, practices, and cultures, advancing peaceful co-existence is essential to ensuring productive, meaningful lives and sustainable societies.
After providing a working definition of peace, our main focus will be on practical steps one can take to advance peace, so that we can strengthen ourselves and our communities. We’ll supplement this guidance with examples throughout. These come from initiatives stimulated by the Charter for Compassion, its partner organizations, and many others who offer practical models that individuals, groups, and/or governments can employ for peace-building. We will also consider how we, as individuals, can be enriched by establishing peace within our individual lives, even in the most challenging of circumstances.
Throughout this section we draw from actual events and emphasize personal experiences. Assisting in authoring is September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows, whose members have connected with others from over 25 countries – from Rwanda and South Africa to Japanese survivors of atomic bombs; these individuals have lost loved ones, or themselves been injured by mass violence through war, terror, or other incidents, but they have joined together to work toward a more peaceful future.
To get us started on the topic of promoting peace, let us look to what may seem at first to be an unlikely source for leadership and inspiration – the mountains of Afghanistan. There live a group of young people who have been surrounded by war from birth, from Soviet invasions to warlords, Taliban fighting, and more recently the American invasion. As a result, several of them have been severely injured and/or lost family and friends due to conflicts that have nothing to do with their interests.
Yet they have not responded with a violent thirst for revenge, but rather by forming the Afghan Peace Volunteers. This group has held peace marches and vigils in areas across the Middle East and has worked to support other youth and victims of war, while strengthening education and justice within their own communities. They challenge you and me, and the entire world, with their simple question: "Why not friendship?" Perhaps you would like to respond to their heartfelt plea. They welcome everyone to join in their conversations toward mutual understanding, called Global Days of Listening.
Youth and adults across the U.S. and the world have joined in these calls to discuss ways to make our communities safer and to live together in peace. Later in this section, we will discuss how a student group in Groton, MA participated, sharing dreams and strategies. If these young people can embrace peace and see a way forward through mutual support with those who have been enemies, we can all find that path, whether in our home communities or across the globe.
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ANNOUNCING THE ACCLAIMED FILM: IN OUR SON’S NAME
Campaigns and Projects
September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows Rule of Law campaign mobilizes and amplifies the voices of 9/11 family members who support closing the prison at Guantanamo Bay, restoring the rule of law, and ending indefinite detention and other violations of human rights that have become an enduring legacy of the U.S. “War on Terror.” Our goal for this initiative has been to strengthen the reasonable voices of 9/11 family members who support the rule of law in all aspects of dealing with the perpetrators and accused perpetrators of the 9/11 attacks. This includes the decision to conduct federal versus military trials, to close Guantanamo, to end indefinite detention, to end the military commissions, and related issues.
When the U.S. Kills an American Citizen
(This letter was published in the New York Times)
To the Editor:
Re “A U.S. Citizen, in America’s Cross Hairs” (front page, March 10), about the targeted killing of Anwar al-Awlaki in Yemen:
I am a United States citizen; I was born here and have lived here all of my 81 years. If I were a threat to this country’s safety, I would expect to be caught and brought to justice.
The idea that any president can kill an American citizen without a trial is abhorrent and frankly scares me more than any act of any “terrorist.”
Senator Rand Paul’s politics are not mine by any stretch of the imagination, but I applaud him for trying to make the American public aware of what those we elected are doing.
It is a disgrace.
New York, March 10, 2013
The writer, whose brother died in the World Trade Center, is a co-founder of September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows.
Starting in 2002, September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows helped lead opposition to the war in Iraq. After the U.S. invaded Iraq, we looked for ways to remain supportive of the Iraqi people. As part of our solidarity efforts, we have helped to publicize the campaigns of the Iraqi nonviolence network, La’Onf, to let people know that Iraqi citizens have a vision for their country that includes peaceful relations among different religious and ethnic groups, equal rights for women, and human rights and freedom for all. We are also a member of the Iraqi Civil Society Solidarity Initiative, a collaboration between Iraqi and international NGOs to effect change that supports justice and democracy in Iraq.
In January 2002 four people who would soon become founding members of Peaceful Tomorrows traveled to Afghanistan to witness the consequences of U.S. military intervention, to express concern about the devastation of civilian casualties and to draw attention to the prospect that this war would increase terrorist recruitment. Peaceful Tomorrows members have continued to travel to Afghanistan, to speak out against war and violence in Afghanistan, and to build friendship and collaboration with civil society organizations in Afghanistan and elsewhere in support of peace for the women, men and children of Afghanistan. Peaceful Tomorrows works for an end to foreign military action and foreign military funding in Afghanistan, for a ceasefire and negotiated path forward, and for nonviolent and inclusive rebuilding and healing for Afghan society.
On Monday June 24, twenty-five members and religious leaders of the Metrowest interfaith community met with Wilnelia Rivera, the External Affairs Director for the Patrick administration to discuss the slight that the Islamic community felt from the governor’s office after the Boston Marathon Bombing. Other leaders present included Susan Thel of the Framingham Quakers, Michael Furstberg of the Workmen’s Circle, Dr. Asif Razvi of the ICB in Wayland, Mr. Anwar Kasmi, a board member of the I.S.B.C.C., and Shaheen Akhtar, leader of the Wayland interfaith book group. The issue was that the Muslim religious community felt slighted when a secular Muslim leader was selected to participate in the interfaith memorial service attended by President and Mrs. Obama, shortly after the Boston Marathon bombing. Their understanding was that an invitation had originally been extended to Imam Suhaib Webb, and was then rescinded the evening before. Read more
9/11 Stories: Our Voices, Our Choices