An AFWW Report: World Peace Conference, Santa Fe, New Mexico, 16-17 May, 2007July 11, 2007
Keeping up with the movers and shakers in the peace movement! The World Peace Conference uplifted and encouraged five hundred of us from all parts of the planet (except, sadly, the Middle East) in the kind of coming together that’s essential for workers in any campaign. We refreshed our vision, absorbed energy and new ideas, and experienced critical opportunities for networking. Sponsored by the New Mexico Department of Tourism and organized by conference producer Majorie Mann and conference designer and activist Louise Diamond, this WPC offered high profile speakers and a fresh approach to group management. The rousing concert by the Indigo Girls at the beautiful outdoor Santa Fe Opera house, accompanied by lightning and rain climaxed in a perfect ending to a new beginning of the ever-growing groundswell of change.
A crucial ingredient became apparent in the view of AFWW, and should take on new focus as we create the momentum of paradigm shift. We peace-seekers do not yet share an agreed-upon, united front with specific, measurable goals toward which all of us are working. We need a plan, one that embraces all of the elements described on the AFWW website, and leaders to keep us all on track.
Ending war, in the view of AFWW, is a task equivalent in complexity and difficulty to putting a working, permanent human base on Mars: a vast challenge, but doable. It will require that we create the international equivalent of a NASA if we are to succeed. There are around this globe, many thousands of government, grassroots, and international organizations working on various aspects of this great campaign, but we do not yet have an overarching focus: we are thousands of organizations pulling separately. We need to be thousands pulling together.
When that finally happens to a critical mass of the world’s peace-seekers, nothing will be able to stop us from achieving the goal of ending war and much, much more.
The outstanding keynote speakers offered dynamic insight and challenge. Nobel Laureate Jodie Williams was awarded the prize having brought together 1400 NGOs to focus on a campaign to ban land mines. Another Nobel Laureate, Rigoberta Menchu Tum, showed that a single powerless young girl can bring powerful forces into action, such as in her crusade for indigenous people’s rights and subsequent candidacy for the President of Guatamala. Via video, the Dali Lama (spiritual leader for a nonviolent campaign to free Tibet, offered practical perspective and spiritual focus, and nonviolence exemplar and activist, Arun Gandhi, grandson of Mahatma Gandhi, gave us a role-playing task that quickly revealed the culturally transmitted attitude of aggressive thought that colors even simple transactions—unless we learn to truly think non-violently in our own corners of the world. All were inspiring in their own unique way.
For those interested in group dynamics, the program structure itself was new to us, a technique called “Open Space Technology.” Under the guidance of trained facilitators, this technique allowed the hundred of participants to self-select topics of interest to them in five general areas: Our Youth, Our Promise; Demilitarization and a Peace Economy; Knowing the Other as Ourselves; The Living Spirit of Peace; and The Politics of Peace. AFWW representatives attended the sections on Demilitarization and a Peace Economy and The Politics of Peace where they met other conference attendees with similar concerns.
At the associated Peace Fair, several dozen groups presented their wares or their cause, from Amnesty International USA, to Mediators Without Borders, to Americans for a Department of Peace and Nonviolence, to Vajra Dakini Nunnery. AFWW also had a table, featuring Judith’s books, the AFWW website, and … a novel.
A novel? Yes. AFWW gave away forty promotional copies of a novel that needs a publisher. Carl Sagan once said, and AFWW also believes, that before people embrace a huge change in their lives—in this case, the paradigm shift to peace that all the conference attendees seek—they must first experience the vision of that reality in their stories. So Judith and her colleague, Peggy Lang, have written a political suspense novel, ASSASSIN’S ROSE. It features a heroine, Claire Alden, whose philosophical commitment is to nonviolent means of conflict resolution and using aggressive nonviolence as demonstrated by Gandhi and Martin Luther King as the means to achieve social justice and a better world.
Claire is challenged to run for the U.S. Presidency, and should she be elected, she commits herself to immediately appoint a Secretary of Peace and Nonviolence, greatly expand the scope and budget of America’s Peace Institute, and appoint a parity government cabinet with equal numbers of men and women. A charismatic leader who profoundly threatens the status quo stirs us assassins. Reviewers give the story high marks as a fast-paced tale of suspense with an intriguing love story. The hope is that by sharing the book with other activists who are interested in ending war, word of mouth may help ASSASSIN’S ROSE find that necessary publisher.
The world’s peace-seekers may not yet be united by a shared vision and plan, but networking conferences like the one in Santa Fe are critical to moving us closer to the day when we do put a shared plan into action.