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.