Peace building is a phrase used for efforts that help establish the foundations for peace. As with our many projects dedicated to raising environmental awareness, our work in peace building occurs in a world predisposed to confrontation and war.
We recognize that peace building efforts are like seeds sown in rocky terrain. Nevertheless, we feel privileged to join with millions of others—our ancestors and contemporaries—who are committed to building a more peaceful and just world. The following are some of the many projects we have been, and continue to be, engaged in. Our primary focus is to help overcome the distrust and sense of separation that divides one people from another.
Our Work in Central Asia and the Middle East
Our work in Afghanistan is focused on enhancing the role and status of women. We raise money through our Flow Fund and give micro grants to individuals or organizations working at the grass roots level. We conduct interviews and convene meetings to listen to the women and report on what they need to insure security and stability in their country. We now are working on a Women’s Regional Summit to bring together women from Afghanistan, Pakistan and India with women leaders from the West.
Iraq Peace Team
In November 2002 we joined the 40-member Iraq Peace Team in Baghdad, Iraq. For the next four months we organized nonviolent actions, participated in humanitarian work, citizen monitoring and reporting, and communicated our experiences to a world-wide audience. A record of our experiences can be found in the Letters from the Road, archive, #1-17. These letters from Iraq reached tens of thousands of people around the world.
Interfaith Pilgrimages of Peace to Syria
In 2001, Elias traveled throughout Syria meeting Sufis and other remarkable men and women. In 2002, the seeds of this journey blossomed into an Interfaith Pilgrimage of Peace to Syria in which we brought 22 Westerners from eight countries to meet with, and listen to, Christian and Muslim leaders and students. In 2003 and 2004 we led two more Pilgrimages of Peace to Syria. Records of these pilgrimages can be found in the Letters from the Road archive. Future trips will be posted on this site.
Middle East Nonviolence Network, Israel/Palestine
As part of our work with the Nonviolent Peaceforce, we helped establish a Middle East network of peace activists, developing contacts with the office of Prince Hassan bin Talal of Jordan, representatives of the American Friends Service Committee in Amman, Search for Common Ground in Jerusalem, and a number of regional activists. We organized several meetings in Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon to help identify members of the network. Colleagues in the Peaceforce followed up on this groundwork.
Nonviolence Training and Strategies for Israel/Palestine
For two years we helped support an initiative to convene a series of trainings in nonviolence for Palestinians. The trainings, facilitated by the Holy Land Trust in association with the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), were conducted in six Palestinian cities in the West Bank. We help fund these trainings through our Spirit in Action Flow Fund program.
Our Work in Southeast Asia
Alternatives to Consumerism Conference, Southeast Asia
For two years we participated on the design committee, and then helped facilitate, the first international Alternatives to Consumerism Conference held near Bangkok in 1997. We organized a delegation of 25 North Americans to join with 250 people from Southeast Asia, India and Europe to discuss sustainable “alternatives to consumerism” through a variety of workshops and events lasting four weeks. As part of this conference we organized and led three simultaneous Interfaith Solidarity Walks for 75 people to live and work with indigenous tribes of northern and western Thailand.
The Kalayanamitra Council
In partnership with the eminent Thai activist and Buddhist scholar Achaan Sulak Sivaraksa, we helped create this interfaith organization to bring an international moral witness to oppression by the Burmese junta. As part of this effort we initiated and facilitated an international letter-writing campaign from over 300 prominent moral leaders from around the world to the Thai Prime Minister, urging him to pressure the Burmese leadership for reforms.
Spirit of Bandung Movement, Indonesia
In 2001, along with Achaan Sulak Sivaraksa, we met for four days with the President of Indonesia, Abdurrahman Wahid. This meeting with the President and his ministers led to our involvement in planning for a series of regional meetings in honor of the 50th anniversary of the first global conference of Non-Aligned Nations that was held in the city of Bandung, Java, in 1955. The “Spirit of Bandung” focused on how countries in Southeast Asia can be “good neighbors” in a context of terrorism, violence and injustice in the region.
As part of the Spirit of Bandung process, we coordinated and facilitated a conference of Southeast Asian peace workers and NGO leaders—a “Conference on Peace and Insecurity in Southeast Asia” held in Bangkok in 2002. This effort resulted in follow-up activities as well as the creation of an ongoing committee working to establish a regional Nonviolent Peaceforce in Southeast Asia.
Our Work in the West
Witness for Peace, Nicaragua
In 1986, during the height of the U.S.-funded Contra War in Nicaragua, we joined the interfaith group Witness for Peace to take testimony from Nicaraguans about the suffering they were enduring at the hands of American taxpayers. We brought reports of this testimony to the U.S. Embassy in Managua, as well as publications in the U.S. Our experiences with Witness for Peace were formative for us and led to the kind of bearing witness work we later developed in Southeast Asia, Central Asia and the Middle East.
The Nonviolent Peaceforce is an unarmed, professional civilian peacekeeping force that is invited to work in conflict zones worldwide. The Peaceforce works with local groups to foster dialogue among parties in conflict, provide a proactive presence and safe spaces for civilians, and develop local capacity to prevent violence. (www.nonviolentpeaceforce.org)
In 2002, when the Nonviolent Peaceforce was in its start-up phase, we were members of and helped facilitate a five-day meeting of its Interim Steering Committee in Ottawa, Canada, and the subsequent 150 person Convening Event in Surajkund, India. This work led to our deepening involvement with the Peaceforce as it established itself over the coming years. Elizabeth was elected to the Peaceforce’s International Governing Council (representing North America).
Community Conversations, U.S.
Prior to the 2004 U.S. Presidential elections, we sponsored a series of Community Conversations in Boulder to address the increasing cultural and political split between progressive and conservative forces in the U.S. These Conversations were attended by more than 250 people and served to re-kindle positive intentions and perseverance following the defeat of the progressives in that election.
The Path of the Friend is a project of the Boulder Institute for Nature and the Human Spirit,
a non-profit 501(c)3 organization. 1644 Pearl Street, Boulder, Colorado 80302 USA.