Read an Excerpt From "Sacred America, Sacred World"

The number of elements required to shift to a culture of peace is long, but virtually every step has noble-minded groups, dedicated individuals, and well-developed programs addressing the need. For example, Aqeela Sherrills is a renowned peacemaker from Watts who helped broker the ceasefire between two rival LA gangs, the Crips and the Bloods, in 1992. That ceasefire is credited with creating a dramatic drop in violence in the area. He developed the Community Passage to Peace Initiative (CPP) with the Unity One Foundation to address the state of youth gang relations in strategic communities and to catalyze a movement for peace in urban communities across the country. The goal of the CPP is to create a national model for how peace is created and sustained in urban war zones, turning it into a movement for social change and prosperity in our communities.

Their approach focuses on the root cause of problems that face young people, coupled with hiring community leaders who have long-term relationships with the communities they serve. Aqeela's program is sophisticated, powerful, and integrated. It includes the need for community grieving and healing, mentoring, use of the arts, and more. And it is born from facing the worst suffering head on: Aqeela lost thirteen friends and his own son Terrell to gang violence. Instead of retaliating with violence for this killing, Aqeela turned his son's death into a call for compassion, understanding, and peacebuilding.

In each sector of society, there are remarkable programs like Aqeela's that are emerging, often led by the people who were once on the front lines of violence. Most, though, are underfunded and not adequately visible. And there is neither adequate coordination among the programs nor a systematic way for the rest of the society to become part of the solution.

Our Summer of Peace vision is to create an experimental platform to address this need—to weave together many effective programs and make them more impactful and visible, as well as enroll citizens to be part of the solution themselves. The most likely first location to ground this vision is Oakland, California, a place undergoing much creative change and evolution that also has a history of violence. This city would become our pilot project for demonstrating what is possible with a truly comprehensive approach. Interestingly enough, when we started moving this work forward, we discovered that there were already two other cities, Milwaukee and Philadelphia, with their own Summer of Peace initiatives that are moving in this direction. I always take that as a positive sign when the same idea emerges in parallel.

Once we are able to make a stronger local demonstration of a real cultural shift, our vision is that the Summer of Peace will move to other cities and countries to replicate successes, incorporate new programs and ideas, and foster best practices for creating a cultural shift to peace. It would leave behind a Department of Peace in each city that coordinates and supports the programs that worked and communicates with other cities that are experimenting with such a whole-systems approach as well. With each successive summer, there will be a growing sophistication about which programs are most effective. A scientific team could help advance the scientific study while a consultative group will advise governments about how to implement some of the best programs long term.

As part of building toward this vision, we've activated a Peace Ambassador Training that has trained over a thousand peace ambassadors around the world, with a special focus on Oakland and Detroit in America. Former director of Amnesty International in Washington, DC, James O'Dea designed the initial curriculum and has detailed his practical, scientific, and spiritual synthesis to peacebuilding in his book Cultivating Peace, which is highly recommended. It has since evolved under the leadership of Philip Hellmich and Emily Hine to a 2.0 version that incorporates the work on the science of mindfulness and compassion.

The work of building a culture of peace has a long history, with millions working tirelessly on all the key elements. Peacebuilding was a foundational motive for the very creation of the United Nations, as well as numerous UN treaties. Breaking humanity's addiction to violence as a means to resolve conflict has not been an easy process. However, I think it is now time for this work to go to the next level of sophistication. Creating a culture of peace is not just about fixing wars between nation-states but about building the principles and practices of peace into the foundation of our families, schools, and communities.

In this way, a successful, locally templated Summer of Peace can demonstrate how we can shift to a culture of peace in one place by combining best-in-class innovations and thus lay the groundwork for the eventual creation of a truly peaceful America and a planetary culture of peace


7/16/2016 4:00:00 AM
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