Counteracting the “Aloneness” of Peacebuilding Work

From Joyce Dubensky, our Executive Vice President and CEO:

Last week I had one of those experiences that showed – yet again – how important our work is.  I was invited to Rome as an inaugural Council member of Ara Pacis, a group from across the globe made up of activists who are dedicated to peace. 

Together, we established the Council for Dignity, Forgiveness, Justice and Reconciliation and began to define ways in which we can collaborate across borders.  There was much that happened during our days together that made me hopeful that we have added a global force for a large, shared vision.  But what really struck me were the people.  Over 40 showed, while another 45 or so were unable to make it, mostly because of the volcano. 

I met Donna Wilson, who created the Dignity Project at Harvard.  We talked about how respect put into practice and treating others with dignity are so closely related.  I met Marta Benaides.  She worked with Archbishop Romero and pursues the creation of a culture of peace in El Salvador, which requires a culture that honors “Mother Earth.”  Her efforts are powerful and reinforced my conviction that any vision for peace must be holistic and involve true equity, just treatment of people and care for the earth and all the resources it provides. 
 
I met Rev. Brian Cox, who works with Tanenbaum’s Peacemaker Azi Hussain at ICRD, and Robi Damelin, who lost her son when he was killed by a sniper in Israel; Robi now works with other parents, both Israeli and Palestinian, on reconciliation.  Over a lunch, Robi read aloud the letter she had written to the mother of the man who killed her son.  She reached out – trying to engage and encourage reconciliation.  She wept quietly as she read.  And I realized that I was witnessing the power of really loving your child and knowing how to honor his life.
 
All of these committed activists work furiously in their spheres.  But the sum is greater than its parts.  And it was powerful to be with them.  It was also a reminder of something that I first learned from the Tanenbaum Peacemakers in Action: The aloneness of standing against violence, of trying to create cultures of peace, and the value in finding a like community of fellow-actors.