As we prepare for the 11th Friends for Peace Day in Ottawa City Hall (See blog on Community Activism at Work in Ottawa), I recall our first Day in the autumn of 2003. Our two activist speakers scratched at the last minute due to illness. As a backup I did my best to step into their shoes. In the pouring rain this is what I said:
“I want to talk to you about our children and the kind of future we create for them. Do we teach them peace? Or through neglect do we allow violence to flood their minds, hearts and consciousness so they learn war? Even worse, do they live out our own personal wars expressed through our violent attitudes, speech and actions towards them? I ask every adult here, particularly men, and in our country to deal with their internal wars so that only the best in us is passed on to our children, not the worst in terms of violence. How do we deal with our internal wars, hatreds and fears that constitute our Wild Mind? We must stop running; stop hiding behind our addictions and busyness. We come to a stop, look deeply into the eyes of our children and make a commitment to face our internal demons and transform them by stepping on to the path of compassion. Not by transmitting our wars and internal afflictions to the children of the world. We need community for this, to support us in sacred ceremony, meditation and creative spirituality so that we raise our consciousness by retraining our minds, through refining our speech, attitudes and actions. We show our children the way to peace by learning to be it. Since 9/11 the level of hate and violence globally has increased dramatically. Excessive violence has been used to suppress violence. This is not the way to proceed. There is no “them” and “us.” We either learn to live peacefully together or we all suffer and die together.
All violence is injustice and we have to teach our children the truth about war. Not about winners and losers, but about the long term suffering on both sides. It is only citizens of the world standing together for peace and saying “No to War” that will stop it. But the hatred grows and the suffering increases. What can we do as individuals to change this? We go to war – with ourselves. First of all we must uproot the violence and war within our minds. To prevent war we nurture non-violence. We practice meditation and prayer in daily life to transform the poisons within our minds and within our nation.
We enter into true peace negotiations by learning the methods of deep listening, of respectful and non-violent communication. By understanding and bringing our mindless, selfish agendas to a stop. We create peace by knowing that compassion is the antidote to violence and hatred. We must also make peace with Mother Earth. If we injure Mother Earth, we injure ourselves. Our civilization has caused such deep harm to the earth that we humans may soon become an endangered species. We have imposed so much neglect and ignorance upon the Earth. The solution is not political or economic – these are secondary. The primary solution is spiritual. Every faith and spiritual tradition must renew its ethics and responsibilities and honour the interconnected nature of humanity with Mother Earth. We must make it clear to our political and corporate leaders that the violence they commit in our name is no longer acceptable. We must hold them to account and influence them with our clarity, wisdom and courage. The actions we take now are shaping the possibilities for future generations.
So here is our challenge. Today, in the pouring rain and thunder storms we have experienced peace, a deep peace shared between many traditions, cultures and religions. This experience evaporates into nothing if we do not translate it into action. Begin the work on yourselves today, so that your attitudes, speech and actions become an example to your children, friends and communities. Take the practical steps to make peace with Mother Earth in terms of what you consume and support. Then represent your community, in coalition with other communities, to political and corporate leaders. Show clearly that we are choosing peace and harmony within ourselves, within our communities and with Mother Earth. Together we can do it.
We are Ambassadors of Peace after all.”