‘We must be peace’

Local organizations take on global issue of achieving world peace

Posted Monday, October 24, 2016 5:35 pm

Peace begins with each person.

That’s an important message, said Rev. Dr. David Goldberg at the Centers for Spiritual Living Headquarters in Golden.

“I truly believe we are the change we’re waiting for,” the Lakewood resident said. “Regardless of our age or where we are in our lives, change starts with us. If we seek peace, we must be peace.”

Obtaining world peace can seem like a concept too large for one person to take on. But across the globe, organizations are serving as platforms, providing guidance and supporting efforts. Every day, more individuals and groups join the movement.

“Sometimes, it feels so big, but one simple act at a time can make a difference,” said Brandi Brown, deputy campaign manager for PeaceJam’s 1 Billion Acts of Peace campaign. “Amazing things are happening in your community every day.”

PeaceJam is an international nonprofit organization headquartered in Arvada, with the primary mission to teach peace to youth through mentoring by Nobel Peace Prize laureates. The 1 Billion Acts of Peace campaign challenges everybody around the world to reach 1 billion acts of peace by 2019. So far, just over 12 million acts have been recorded.

Almost anything can count as an act of peace, Brown said, from the smallest gesture of reading to the elderly to big efforts such as raising money to help young women in Africa receive an education. And the campaign is not limited to youth — businesses, nonprofits, houses of worship, individuals, school groups and universities are participating.

“Getting people into the mind-frame of putting things into action inspires others to do the same,” Brown said. “Once you reach out and help other people, you see the impact, and it inspires you to do more.”

The Conflict Center believes everyone has a role to play as peacemakers in our homes, schools, congregations, workplaces and communities, said the nonprofit’s executive director Ron Ludwig.The center, which is based in Denver, works to prevent violence by equipping youth and adults with solid skills to manage conflict, solve problems and strengthen relationships. The center offers classes for youth and adults available to the general public, and works in several schools each year to teach age-appropriate conflict management skills to students. It also sponsors special events to raise awareness in the community about the impact that various forms of violence can have on individuals, communities and the world.“Conflict is a normal part of everyday life, but it doesn’t have to be negative or destructive,” Ludwig said. “It’s how we respond to it that produces positive or negative outcomes in our lives and in the lives of others.” Accomplishing peace is not viewed as being easy or comfortable, said Liz Hamel, program director for Building Bridges.But accepting that tension is a positive way to create change, she added.Building Bridges is a nonprofit organization with the mission “to equip young people with the communication and leadership skills necessary to address the root cause of hatred, discrimination and violent conflict.”Peace begins with individuals, Hamel said, but it’s important to be able to come together, work deeply to understand another’s perspective and find the root causes of conflict and hatred.“If we are going to create more understanding in the world,” she said, “it has to start with people to people.”

Bringing people to peace within their own consciousness is the idea behind the Centers for Spiritual Living’s Global Peace Initiative, says Rev. Mark Gilbert, the center’s global service manager.

“It’s a matter of shifting thoughts to believe — and know — that we each, in our own minds, can bring peace to the planet,” Gilbert said. It starts with inner awareness, he added, and cascades to others from there.

The Global Peace Initiative can be thought of as a support mechanism and a “nudge to move people to action,” he said. The centers send out materials upon request and provide support to help people get started.

The centers consist of a trans-denominational group, Gilbert said, so the materials support everyone, no matter their spiritual belief.

The initiative encourages people to come together, either as an individual or a group, to pray or meditate on peace, Gilbert said. Then they’re encouraged to share with the centers what they developed, which provides more opportunities to see what everybody else in the world is doing.

Similar activities are ongoing around the world, Gilbert said.

“They recognize the power of coming together at a common time for a certain intention,” he said. One example is the United Nations’ International Day of Peace.

The UN General Assembly established International Day of Peace in 1981 when it designated Sept. 21 as a period of non-violence and cease-fire. Today, Peace Day is celebrated around the world in various ways — its original intent, and as a day of commemoration with education and public awareness activities on issues related to peace.

“Day of Peace is really important,” said Olivia Gilchrist, 12, a student at Evergreen Montessori School. She was one of about 20 students attending the Peace Day celebration at the Centers for Spiritual Living. “We have to remember, (and) one good way to remember is to have one day dedicated to it.”

Gilbert believes peace exists in everyone’s hearts.

“We want a world where everyone has their needs met and can thrive,” Gilbert said. “And people thrive on a planet that is at peace.”

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