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Posted by Peggy Holman.
Peggy Holman works with organizations to transform their culture using a variety of approaches involving organizational learning and Total Quality Management.
I’ve never been a peace activist. In fact, despite living near Washington, DC during the October 1969 march to end the Vietnam War, I was away hiking. Yet here I was hosting a conference of 130 peace builders from 25 countries to “expand the field of possibilities for peace within organizations and communities; between nations; and within ourselves.”
My involvement began two years earlier, when four random emails, three from strangers, arrived within days…
I connected these remarkable folks by e-mail.
Fast-forward a year:
Harrison Owen offered to bring his Practice of Peace workshop to Seattle in 2003. I pictured the potential for people from different conflicts gaining insight about their situation through others. MAD as it seemed, with no background in peace activism, I invited the OS peace builders I knew, making the leap that their costs could be covered.
Then I asked for support. Bringing Arabs and Jews from Israel, people from Haiti, Colombia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Northern Ireland, Burundi, Nigeria, U.S. urban communities, Canadian First Nations, Nepal, India, and others was no small undertaking. Colleagues jumped in to help.
So began a serious experience in manifestation. Our planning meetings opened with silence, reflecting on the higher purpose we served, giving the work meaning, and keeping spirits and commitment high. Whatever obstacle we faced, our needs were met. When donations became critical, a professional fund raiser arrived. Through many challenges, trusting each other and the universe, from marketing to music, it came together.
Participants said the conference changed them. Already beyond anger, many worked through grief. Tova Averbuch, an Israeli guest, said it well:
“Gradually I realized that maybe the main point isn’t for the Israeli version to be heard but rather for something within myself to move, and the movement took me by surprise. From despair and horror, grew recognition that we are only one, small place. There are better and worse situations than the Middle East. I always knew it in my head but this time the heart understood and began translating that understanding into steps of creating strange ways to see shades of light.”
Violence in Nigeria and Burundi were averted because of practices participants brought home. Plans for conferences are underway in Nigeria (for warring tribal youth), New Mexico (where conflict bubbles beneath the surface), Kashmir, and Colombia.
What made this possible? Is it repeatable?
It is repeatable and possible for anyone. Pay attention to your inner call; speak from passion and commitment; ask for support. That will enlist others. Together we moved the practice of peace into the world, attracting remarkable people. You can do the same, whenever you are moved to act. The call for peace sounds around the world. Join us: www.practiceofpeace.com.
What calls to you?
Peggy Holman consults with organizations and communities to increase their capacity for achieving what is most important to them. Her work encourages people to take responsibility for what they care about, resulting in stronger organizations, communities, and individuals. Her book, co-edited with Tom Devane, The Change Handbook: Group Methods for Shaping the Future (Berrett-Koehler, 1999), has been warmly received by those wishing to improve their organizations and communities.