Ambassadors of Peace Ian Prattis
Published in Tone Magazine, Ottawa, November 1, 2012
The 10th Anniversary of Friends for Peace Day was awesome, uplifting, mindful, and packed with people seeking pathways and bridges to build a better world. The onstage performers were outstanding, highlighted by the world premiere of “To Young Canadians.” A tribute to Jack Layton performed by Orkidstra. Olivia Chow received a posthumous Peace Award on behalf of her late husband Jack Layton. June Girvan and Koozma Tarasoff were also honoured in 2012. Our mandate for peace, planetary care and social justice was solid throughout the day – at the Welcome and Community Tables, the Silent Auction, Connection Centre and Servery. Reflected onstage by the Dandelion Dance Company, Big Soul Project, Orkidstra, Peace Awards Ceremony, Bhakti Connection, Samba Ottawa and the rock/blues band SLYDE who closed out the day. People left at the end of the day feeling uplifted, confident and connected.
It all started on a bitterly cold winter evening ten years ago, as the Iraq war loomed. I received notice that a Peace Song Circle was happening on Parliament Hill. So I went, accompanied by my wife Carolyn and our dog. No-one else turned up. I remarked to Carolyn, “This is a good idea – it just needs to be organized.” She replied, “Let’s do it.” And so we did. It was Pine Gate Sangha that created the nucleus for Friends for Peace Canada. It quickly grew to a loose coalition of 50 organizations. Our mandate evolved so that we gave annual Peace Grants to local and international organizations making a real difference, as well as working in concert with other coalitions in the city for environmental and social justice issues. We organized 5,000 participants at the Peace Song Circle held on a miserably wet, cold spring day in 2003. A sea of multi-coloured umbrellas on a rain swept morning welcomed all those gathered. The crowd covered the grounds of Canada’s seat of government, all meditating at the end in total silence as the rain poured down on our heads. The pouring rain was strangely welcome, for it symbolized the tears of Iraqi children, my tears, your tears – transformed into hope through singing for peace with one another and experiencing deep peace. There was a transformation of anger, anguish and violence into a determined clarity to be peace and to oppose war. From there we know the wise actions to take. It is our developed consciousness, which allows us to know better. It is the meditative work we do on ourselves every day of our lives to come to terms with the inner struggle, turmoil and trauma – the inner war which we must learn to identify as our own; to find ways to transform our often raging thoughts.
What comes to me after my busy mind becomes quiet is that now more than ever we must go deeper into our spiritual processes, become more disciplined in our mindfulness practices, AND be more active in our social and political structures. The tools are everywhere to be found: meditations to balance the hemispheres of the brain, to develop the skills of deep listening, for grounding and centering, for strengthening the nervous system, for coming to terms with what is truest in our heart. Non-dualistic approaches emphasize that we are in the twenty-first century. Old forms of protest created in the previous century no longer work. Furthermore, this preference welcomes many citizens who choose not to participate in violent protest rallies. The inclusiveness of our efforts is to provide the example from within ourselves for what we hope to see replicated on the national and international stage.
The intent is to create a different form of peaceful expression that appeals to a wide cross section of Canadian citizens who support a major role for Canada as a peacekeeping nation. To create infrastructure in our social and political institutions that value and legitimize peace and planetary processes is the goal. In a speech at Ottawa City Hall in 2011 Mayor Jim Watson had this to say: “Friends for Peace is an outstanding organization that does very important work, promoting, strengthening and maintaining peace, planetary care and social justice within our communities and the environment.”
Ian is the founder of Friends for Peace. www.friendsforpeace.ca