I have been musing about this topic, particularly reflecting on the annual Ottawa Friends for Peace Day – now in its 13th year. See my blog on community activism: https://ianprattis.wordpress.com/2013/07/31/community-activism-at-work-in-ottawa/
I realized 15 years ago, when I founded Friends for Peace as the engaged arm of Pine Gate, that I was making a conscious choice to focus my energy and work on the local, my home city of Ottawa. My focus was on mindfulness in schools, city environment, youth at risk and other local causes. On reflection I am astonished by the results – more true to say “blown away.” For at the local level there was continuity with great folk who helped make things happen. There is now a two week Peace Festival in Ottawa that precedes the Friends for Peace Day – which is the final bookend of the Festival. It has grown in ever increasing concentric circles. All have adopted some form of the Friends for Peace mandate – peace, planetary care and social justice. The foundation of mindfulness at Pine Gate trickles through the 50 some organizations we partner with. All spontaneously brought about – no intention to do so.
At the same time I realize why I have resisted the pull and lure to go global. There are folks who do this very well, some are good and some not so much – yet I decided to stay local so that deep powerful roots were put down that could well serve as a global example for other localities. I offered a gracious decline to the many opportunities to travel and teach globally, as I felt that was not the arena that would make the difference I wished to see. There have been people from many cities around Canada and the world who accessed the Guidelines on the website www.friendsforpeace.ca Of course the local and global inter-are, yet for me there was a conscious decision to place my energy at the local level, knowing full well that it would trickle through to the global. There is certainly a global aspect to our activities in terms of the projects actively supported elsewhere. Each year Friends for Peace presents Peace Awards to Canadian citizens who have devoted their lives to securing peace, planetary care and social justice. That’s the mandate at www.friendsforpeace.ca Past recipients include Grandfather William Commanda, Michael Monner and Tone Magazine, Marion Dewar, Max Keeping, David Smith, Irwin Cotler, Elizabeth May, Douglas Cardinal, Bruce Cockburn, Maha Rath Sam, Jack Layton and many others since our first Celebrate Peace Day in 2003.
The funds raised from the day are used to issue Peace Grants to organizations, in Ottawa and internationally, that are making a real difference. Current projects in the city supported by Friends for Peace are the Multi-Faith Housing Initiative of Ottawa’s Interfaith Council, the Dave Smith Youth Treatment Centre, Child Haven International, and Peace Camp Ottawa, which brings Palestinian and Israeli teens together. This is in addition to supporting the Physicians for Global Survival initiative to expand the mandate of the Canadian War Museum to include the creation of a culture of peace. In Africa, the Nelson Mandela Children’s Foundation, the Congo Education and Schools project plus the Morungatuny Resettlement Program in Northern Uganda are also supported. In India a school, orphanage and medical centre was supported at the Ram Yoga Centre north of New Delhi. The major planetary care project was the campaign to make the Dumoine River watershed a protected conservation park. Friends for Peace also co-operates with other groups in Ottawa for the annual Ottawa River clean-up. In particular we have supported youth organizations to burst on to the local scene.
For instance Orkidstra – www.leadingnotefoundation.org – established in September 2007 gives children from under-served communities the opportunity to learn a musical instrument and sing in a choir. They are creating a quiet social revolution in the city. The Dandelion Dance Company – www.hannahbeach.com/dandelion – an Ottawa based youth dance theatre company explores social issues through movement. Their repertoire is driven by the experiences, reflections and passion of young women who range in age from ages 13 to 19, and include children’s rights, hunger, authenticity, bullying, stereotypes and inclusiveness. Both youth organizations perform regularly at the Friends for Peace Day.
The drive is to foster a strong cadre of people in the locality of Ottawa who can make a difference. I talked about this when introducing the film “Fierce Light” to Pine Gate Mindfulness Community. The film is pretty good but somewhat lacking in that it does not make clear that activism without spiritual depth and mindfulness soon runs out of steam. The activists burn out and become overwhelmed. The place to develop such depth of mindfulness is the local community and the continuity of inter-connecting with our partners across the city. And then noticing the many changes and transformation.
I remember the sage Krishnamurti – a true globalist – being in tears in San Francisco when he realized that his audience for the nth time were still asking the same questions – not having moved an inch from where they were the first time he spoke to them. I also wonder just how much our great teachers move the global sangha from where they were ten years ago. They certainly provide impact, yet that diminishes without a local energy focus to take the experience deeper.
I will reflect further on this – just giving you a heads up.