Circles of Peace 2012

Circles of Peace 2012

As the New Year begins, I have been thinking about the direction Circles of Peace, an affiliate of the Fellowship of Reconciliation, needs to travel in for the upcoming year.

I feel we made some progress in 2011, but the progress was not as rapid as it could have been.

Concerning some recent positive notes, Alina Coryell wrote and published our Circles of Peace web site, which is an excellent source for education and reference into ways of peace, nonviolence, and social justice. We were blessed to be able to host Dr. Mark Johnson, the United States Director of Fellowship of Reconciliation,, in our home and host a small group where he shared developments of that organization and conducted a lively discussion. We began a book club and discussed “The Myth of a Christian Nation” by Greg Boyd and began reading “When Religion Becomes Lethal”, by Charles Kimball. In another specialized setting David Frinfrock discussed how Christians should interface with Muslims. Also, Alina wrote an article for the FOR newsletter which goes to FOR chapters throughout the United States discussing our local Circles of Peace group. Perhaps most importantly, we were accepted into official status as an Affiliate of the Fellowship of Reconciliation by the U.S. board of directors.

In other personal efforts, Alina began a “Poetry for Peace” contest, and John Cooper began his personal blog site, and has written and posted nearly 20 blogs relating to Peace, Nonviolence, and Social Justice. John has also been working on a personal basis with several individuals to discuss, teach, and share the ethics of Peace, nonviolence, and social justice. I will also mention personal prayer efforts in this regard. I am sure others have acted in personal ways to further the advancement of such goals also, and if you will share them with us, we will add your efforts to our chronicle of events. Our efforts are not only as a group, but our efforts are more importantly individually inspired as our goal to enable you is imagined.

I feel our group based efforts were interrupted, however, in many ways. It is not convenient to attempt to stop what we are already involved in and meet as a Circles of Peace group, especially since so many of us have other things going, our families, other friends, churches, sports, education, jobs, and other groups with which we interface. I for instance, have been quite busy, as many others, with responses to the April 28th tornado. I am a founder and on the Board of Directors and Executive Council of Compassion Coalition, which has served in response to the disaster. None of us can do everything, but all of us can do just a little and our combined efforts will make a difference.

Perhaps also, a book club is a little over exuberant and challenging given how busy many are and how our culture has moved from this type of education to more internet and media based venues. I am thinking, and I need your input, that we need to simplify our meetings, perhaps drop the book club idea, and meet to perhaps discuss a simpler article or watch and discuss a You Tube video, such as one by Shane Claiborne, or Walter Wink, Dr. Martin Luther King, Dorothy Day, John Howard Yoder, and others who have made a difference in Peace, Nonviolence, and Social Justice.

Please offer your input regarding these matters. We can offer our home once per month as a setting for these things if others will share in any food preparation, if any. We can also meet and just have chips and drinks if that would be better. Tuesday nights and Thursday nights are good, and

a Sunday afternoon would be good also… We need to know the best times, especially for those with children. If at night, would maybe 6:30 to 8 PM work?

Let’s also look forward to the upcoming New Year. What are your personal goals? What should our Circles of Peace group Goals be? Let’s discuss this and please offer your suggestions. How do you plan to learn more about Peace and Nonviolence and Social Justice, and share your gifts in these areas with others? I believe we need to define our Statement of Purposes or together reaffirm they are the same as FOR’s ( which our Advisory Council, consisting of John Cooper, Mirza Beg, Alina Coryell, Fran Viselli, and Patrick Coryell, have thought would be close enough to ours that we would become officially affiliated rather than going through the arduous task of creating and entirely new organization. By the way, remember that as an Affiliate of FOR, we are able to use their tax exempt 501 c 3, status and accept charitable donations.

Let us examine our individual and group goals in view of the statement of purpose linked above. You may also individually sign it and become a member of FOR individually if you wish. You will be in good company if you do. Dr. Martin Luther King was a member, Albert Einstein, Walter Wink, Dorothy Day, Thomas Merton, several Nobel Peace prize laureates’ and many others, who share(d) in the vision of Peace and Reconciliation, have been and are members. Maybe one of your goals could be to become and individual member of FOR this year. Perhaps one of your goals may be to just decide if you are personally going to be able to participate with us at all, and let us know if you would like to take a Sabbatical for a while…. There is no compulsion in this. We understand if this cannot be a priority in your life at this stage.

I do wonder if the upcoming year is going to bring even more need for those who believe and act in Peace, Nonviolence, and Social Justice. We have seen several largely nonviolent movements in the Arab world, and some not so much nonviolent that have changed our world’s political landscape. We have seen the United States withdraw from Iraq, but remain in Afghanistan. We also have an upcoming election. In some years and nations with upcoming elections we see peoples brought into wars. Perhaps knowingly or unknowingly it seems the ruling party is more likely to be reelected in times of war. I will not predict anything or say much else, except that I wonder if Iran may be the next hot spot on earth. I believe there are unseen powers and forces that influence these matters.

We, however, can attempt to influence others for Peace, if only one individual at a time. Maybe it is just your child, to teach him not to join the military, or go to war. Maybe it is your grandchildren, or the international student, or your parents. Maybe your goal is to live at Peace with God, or at Peace with yourself, or your neighbor, or those in your church. We have to start somewhere. Maybe you are in the back of your mind against the whole idea of Peace and Nonviolence and Social Justice… Well, that is a start just to admit it to yourself and make your stand. I am reminded of the atheist who does not believe in God. They are really believers… They believe there is no God. They admit it and know it, but they may not know they are “believers” in no God. We all believe something.

I want to fill you in on my personal goals for the upcoming year. I and Mirza Beg plan to speak to Crossroads at the University of Alabama and offer to join with them in teaching a class on Peace and Nonviolence based upon Coleman McCarthy’s “Class in Nonviolence” textbook. I plan to take an additional night of the month at our home to teach the same class. I would like to ask you to come to this class in addition to the Circles of Peace monthly meeting, if you can. I also hope to teach the same class in a prison setting and another class for released prisoners, perhaps at C.A. Fred Technical School at West End. I just decided while writing this I am going to offer to teach Peace at the local Catholic Church too, mainly in response to Pope Benedict XVI message today.

It is already pretty late for some prisoners, but now is a better time than never to learn about Peace, Nonviolence, and Social Justice. Prisoners should have been taught before, in their homes, in their schools, in their churches, in their workplace, but now is better than never.

Now is also better than never for you to personally decide what you are going to do this upcoming year.

I not too long ago read Coleman McCarthy’s “I’d Rather Teach Peace.” I hope you will read it too. Mr. McCarthy has been teaching peace for many years. He has influenced quite a number of students. This endeavor however is going to take more than just one man, teaching Peace. Jesus taught Peace, and he expected his followers to follow him in teaching peace. There is even such a thing as the Gospel of Peace. Ask your pastor about it. If he does not know what it is, learn what it is and tell him about it. Unfortunately, teaching Peace appears not to be a popular thing to do in our culture, not in churches, not in homes, not in schools, or anywhere. Try it sometime. Advise you pastor that you would like to teach Peace, nonviolence, and Social Justice, and see just how far that goes… Tell the school your children go to that you would like to see Peace taught around here….

Let me know what they say….

At least today, the leader of over a billion Christians, Pope Benedict XVI, came out and made a stand for teaching peace:

(Reuters) – Humanity faces a decisive challenge – educating new generations in justice and peace in order to avoid the violent tragedies of the past, Pope Benedict said in his New Year address on Sunday.

Benedict, 84, marked his seventh New Year as pope by celebrating a Mass for several thousand people in St Peter’s Basilica on the day the Roman Catholic Church calls its annual World Day of Peace.

The pope said this year’s theme, “Educating Young People in Justice and Peace,” is a task for every generation following the two world wars in the 20th century and other conflicts since.

In conclusion, hope springs Eternal…. Perhaps in 2012 something is about to actually change…. Perhaps the change can begin with you, with me, with us together, as we join, ever hopeful, that Circles of Peace replicate, that Peace is given a chance….

John Cooper

About jcooperforpeace
Spiritual Director, Spirituality of Inner Peace

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