Let’s Build a Culture of Peace in Baltimore. What would it take? We’ll need to start with a better understanding of what we mean when we talk about Peace. We need to move beyond thinking about Peace only in reaction to war and violence. Peace is much more than the absence of conflict; it is the presence and pursuit of wholeness and happiness. Imagine life at its fullest…and now we’re getting to a richer notion of peace.
The project of Building a Culture of Peace is no simple undertaking. Peace is not pie-in-the-sky idealism; Peace requires skills, knowledge, commitment, courage, and hope…for starters. Our Baltimore Peace project would include at least the following components:
Making Peace: We can all acquire the basic skills and understanding needed to face and resolve many conflicts in our lives. While it is true that we need professional mediators, counselors, and facilitators; it is even more fundamental to realize that each of us can enhance our ability to approach conflicts thoughtfully within our own lives and relationships. We can step back and seek assistance when we need it, and we can support our friends and family members as active listeners and peer mediators. Our city has many resources that can help make everyone a peacemaker.
Building Peace: We can all become civically engaged in ways that improve our collective quality of life and strengthen our communities. There are many meaningful ways to get involved in building a better Baltimore. For example; we can help meet community needs through community service and service-learning; we can pursue social justice through advocacy and community organizing; and we can cultivate strong relationships, especially relationships that bridge human differences of race, class, culture, etc. Service, advocacy, and intercultural communication all play a key roll in creating the positive conditions for peace. So, pick an issue, activity, or organization that is meaningful to you and get involved. Everyone can be a peacebuilder, because anyone can serve.
Being Peace: While there may be as many definitions of peace as there are residents in Baltimore, we can each pursue our own personal pathway to peace. Whatever challenges or threats we are facing: economic, physical, mental, relational, or other, we can ask ourselves what we steps we can take to begin taking better care of ourselves. What skills, knowledge, or supports can we acquire that will give us more and better choices? How can we equip ourselves to meet those needs we can control? How can we help ourselves maintain a sense of hope and happiness within life’s challenging circumstances? I believe that however we define it, inner peace is fundamental to Baltimore city peace and world peace. Everyone can take small steps to be peace.
Teaching Peace: We need to find structured and sure ways of passing along what we are learning about making, building, and being peace. Some of our city’s universities now teach peace in formal programs. One of our new public charter schools is grounded in the peace education vision of Maria Montessori. I believe that if we approached peace with the same urgency that we do math and reading, we could take a new pride in our education system. And we can teach peace not only in our schools, but in our homes, in our houses of worship, in our civic and community organizations, and in our workplaces. Everyone can be a peace learner and educator because our lives are filled with real needs and countless teachable moments.
Building a Culture of Peace in today’s complex and conflicted world sounds audacious, but I believe the opportunities are all around us. By getting interested and involved everyone in Baltimore can be a Peaceworker.