Tag Archives: Circle of All Nations

Rant From The Future

I am bringing together a series of essays for a new book project “Our World is Burning.” Essay Two: Rant From The Future sets the tone.

Essay Two: Rant from the Future 

New Planet, New World (Manor House 2016) is the final book of the Chronicles of Awakening trilogy. I take characters from Book One: Redemption and Book Two: Trailing Sky Six Feathers, placing them on a new planet in the near future. The adventure allows me to look back on the factors that compromised life on Earth. Here is the opening of Chapter Three.

Dr. Tom Hagen’s blistering speech to an elite forum of political and corporate leaders at the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland in 2080 changed the future of humanity. Gathered before him were the power brokers from around the world. He was an astrophysicist, engineer and prolific author. He wrote searing plays about human fragility and books for children to inspire them to care for the Earth. His endeavors, however, did not turn the tide of willful ignorance about drastic climate change. This was despite his creation of detailed scenarios for adapting to climate change and reforming business ethics, both of which imperiled life on Earth. He was also the chef-de-mission of the International Space Agency’s PRIME 3 project to locate a suitable planet, as habitation on Earth became increasingly compromised. The project was outlined in Space Agency folders that each member of the audience had before them.

The International Space Agency had established research stations orbiting Mars and on Jupiter’s largest satellite. Radical advances in space technology made this possible mid-century, through the invention of space elevator nanotubes and revolutionary advances in nuclear fusion engines for spaceships. Station One at Jupiter was the key construction. From there a probe, PRIME 1, was launched into the heliosphere through a wormhole into interstellar space. In a neighboring galaxy it located a planet with two moons in an ecliptic plane with a dozen planets orbiting around a massive sequence star, the sun for this system. The planet had a liquid hydrosphere similar to Earth. A more sophisticated probe, PRIME 2, sent back information identifying distinct zones from tropics to polar with evidence of oceans, forests and mountains. No sign of habitation was revealed. Both probes identified a dense particle field in the upper stratosphere of the planet, similar to a Van Allen belt. The long term plan was for Jupiter One to serve as a way station to ferry pioneers to the new planet. This project required massive financial support that Tom was trying to elicit.

He was standing quietly at the podium in Geneva, readying to speak.  He had both good and bad news for his powerful and wealthy audience, deeply hoping that some of them would finance this late opportunity for survival of the human species. Tom looked at his carefully researched notes then put them to one side. This speech, the most significant of his life, had to come directly from his insight and heart. He composed himself, standing still and silent at the podium, six foot three inches of intense focus, dignified and alert. He took his glasses off and placed them on top of his notes. Sian, his wife, sitting off to one side of the podium smiled in relief. His fifteen year old daughter, Catriona, was sitting in the front row, dressed in a fashionable grey pant suit to offset her lustrous red hair tied up in a bun. Her mother had fetched her from her boarding school in Switzerland. She knew Catriona would love to hear her father speak. Tom looked around at his audience, one he did not particularly like, but one he had to convince. He saw Catriona in the front row beaming her smile to him and he relaxed a little. He breathed deeply and waited for that icy steel of reason and vision to ignite his insight.

He began to speak in a calm, clear baritone voice.

“In this very moment what is left of the population in Australia is being evacuated. The sand storms and volcanic eruptions in the interior plus successive coastal tsunamis have brought an end to human occupation there. The inundation of Bangladesh, the Netherlands and coastal regions round the world are a direct consequence of the collapse of the Polar Ice Sheets, which increased sea levels by seven meters. These cryogenic events have dislocated half the global population, ushering in plagues and pestilence that eliminated ninety per cent of other species and directly threaten human survival. These are facts that cannot be refuted. Furthermore we cannot turn away from the reality that our entire planet is overwhelmed with refugee camps and utter desolation.”

Tom paused for several silent moments and made eye contact with the few individuals there who could support him. He glanced towards Catriona who adored him. This helped him to gather his wits. The facts he had just delivered set the tone for what was to come. He knew many of his listeners would be offended. He slowly took a drink of water from the glass in front of him.

“In the early part of the twenty first century it was possible to make the leap to a zero-net-carbon world. Yet the opposite trajectory was chosen with a rapid increase in greenhouse gases because wealthy nations and economic enterprises like yours doubled their production of fossil fuels.”

He then glared at his audience and raised his voice, “Did you not notice that degradation of the Earth’s ecology was the catalyst for radical Climate Change? Did you not see that food crops were destroyed by horrendous heat waves? Did you not realize that food riots and world panic trace back to one cause, the economic agenda of your energy extraction? I know where your collective power was invested. It was in political, social and economic structures that centered on the carbon combustion complex. Did you not discern that this collective agenda was destabilizing world order?”

Several members of the industrial elite stood up and left. There was another pregnant pause, as Tom waited for them to walk out without comment.

“This focus on economic wealth at all costs was stupid. With blindfolds towards the devastation caused, you directly went in the wrong direction. Your brand was, and is, a dysfunctional global financial system lurching from one disaster to another throughout the century, ignoring the welfare of populations and the ecological breakdowns caused by the consequences of your actions. May I remind you that the economy is a mere sub-set of the mother lode of ecology and you have successfully destroyed most ecosystems on Planet Earth. On your watch not only did financial collapses signal dangerous global watersheds, the world food system crashed along with the chaos brought in by climate change. Nobody moved to ask different questions and find different answers, as the anger of the populace turned on the powerful masters of capital and politics. At the extreme end of the violence spectrum this anger boiled over into lynching corporate and political leaders held responsible by eco-militias, the false defenders of the Earth who are basically criminals. The heinous actions of these black clad anarchists are certainly an extreme response to your control, lies and doublespeak. But none of you are safe from their reach.”

That dangerous reality registered like a punch in the stomach with the rich and powerful still present.

Tom said, “Look back over this century and see why such violence emerged. Millions of people have died from thirst, starvation and disease.  Death arrived from every pestilence available, some of it created in your counter-intelligence labs. The countless millions who have died do not include the many wars waged over scarce resources, particularly water. The reason for such wars have their origins in your greed for money, control and power leading directly to the cascade of disintegrating eco-systems. Government, industry, banks and financiers grew wealthy while they permitted a systematic breakdown of failing ecosystems on Planet Earth.  I have spoken before to gatherings of this nature and provide a warning to all about the course we are headed on. I will try one more time.”

Tom felt exasperation arising within him yet calmly continued along the same track.

“Your willful ignorance of dire warnings served to discredit climate change scientists and oceanographers screaming that eco-systems were disintegrating. You silenced and jailed citizens with the integrity to save the Earth. But it was never about the unanimity of science or free speech. It was about the brand of economics favored by your fossil fuel complex, a collective cabal of extraordinary power that extended its reach to encompass all powerful corporate ventures. You know who you are.”

Tom paused to sternly stare at his audience. “You single mindedly created a powerful culture of denial about climate change and how it has impacted the cryosphere to such deadly effect.”  There was an angry tone in Tom’s voice as he stepped away from complicity with diplomacy.

“Social order broke down in mid-century ushering in the overthrow of governments, the establishment of martial law and Nazism. All of which increased the desperation of populations worldwide who took to the streets in mass riots. In the vacuum of social order, opportunist and vicious warlords and militias took over many parts of the world. You have all suffered from the violence of so called eco-militias, which hunt down and string up in the streets those politicians and corporate leaders they hold responsible for the collapse of Earth’s eco-systems. Let me be clear. These eco-militias do not serve the Earth. They are pathological criminals on the loose, yet in many parts of the world they constitute an ever present danger. You and I have lost many friends and colleagues to the murders they have carried out. They are extreme, but you are just as extreme. Somehow you inherited the Nero gene, fiddling with indifference while Rome burned. The entire planet has been allowed to burn on your watch. Perhaps at this late stage you can learn something from Rumi, the Sufi saint. He said, ‘Sit down and be quiet. You are drunk and this is the edge of the roof.’

Tom allowed an entire minute for that to sink in before continuing.

“Your policies and brand of economics have forced humanity off the edge of the roof and you can now see the consequences worldwide. Big Oil and government created incredible propaganda campaigns to promote oil and gas extraction, irrespective of the damage caused to ecosystems and populations. They produced false images of reforestation, utmost safety, deep concern for wildlife, populations and clean water. This played to receptive audiences yet decades later we find rivers and lakes occupying a wasteland. Oil derivatives swiftly poured through interconnected waterways and aboriginal populations world-wide that once augmented their households with fish, game and forest products are no more. They either relocated or died. This effectively torpedoed any form of transition to a sustainable, renewable economy.”

His explosive words were like shards of broken glass and secured the exit of more power holders, though his next words caused a few of them to stop in their tracks.

“The billionaires amongst you have well equipped and tightly defended underground bunkers to escape to, but I have bad news for you. The deep core drilling for oil and gas all over the world, particularly in fragile ocean beds, has compromised the tectonic plates at the center of the Earth. The tectonic plates are now rising closer to the outer crust of Planet Earth. Where they collide precipitates world-wide volcanic eruptions and earthquakes that will first of all destroy your underground bunkers. It is estimated that millions will die from the volcanic explosions and many of those surviving will likely die from poisonous gases and the inevitable tsunamis in every ocean. Seventy years ago seismologists provided the critical evidence that deep core drilling and fracking were directly associated with the rapid increase in global earthquake and volcanic epicenters. Tectonic plates ride on a fluid like core, known as the asthenosphere. The collision of these tectonic plates are now triggering massive earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. Repeated warnings from scientists to ban deep core drilling were ignored, bringing the unspeakable into reality.”

Tom paused and took a deep breath before looking around at his depleted audience.

“I ask you at this late stage to do one last noble thing. Take a good luck at the dossier provided by the International Space Agency. Support the PRIME 3 space project to the tune of fifteen billion dollars. That is what it will cost to build a new spaceship and create a viable outpost at Jupiter Station One. The very future of our species is at grave risk and presently lies in your hands. PRIME 3 is the last Hail Mary to begin anew without replicating the structures and policies that have led to the inevitable demise of Planet Earth.”

Tom stopped talking.  He was greeted by a cold silence. There was no applause. No-one acknowledged him. He walked steadily to the side of the stage where Sian was standing. A look of sheer admiration lit up her face at his bravery. She embraced him lightly and sweetly. She held his hand as they left the podium. Catriona stood up and took her father’s arm and joined him and her mother as they walked up the center of the UN forum. She was so proud of her father but noticed that no-one would meet his eye. He strode purposefully as the rich, powerful and greedy studiously ignored him, or so he thought. Still, Sian sent a smile to everyone who appeared to be in some kind of shock, stasis or agreement. They passed through the security of the UN building and started to walk down the graceful stone steps. Tom let out a long slow breath, as he glanced at Lac Geneva sparkling in the distance. “I sure blew that one Sian and Catriona. Hardly any one of those bastards allowed what I said to sink into their mind. I have no idea where I can turn to ensure the PRIME 3 project gets funded.”

“Perhaps you may be wrong my dear Tom,” Sian softly replied. “Look over there.”

An armored limousine had drawn up in front of them. Heavily armed guards quickly fanned out in a defensive format. One guard opened the side door of the armored vehicle. Out stepped Seymour Hansen, the president of the biggest bank in America. He was a tall, commanding figure. His greying hair was offset by deep flinty blue eyes that he now fixed upon Tom.

“Dr. Hagen, you do know who I am?”

Tom nodded.

“I listened to your powerful speech. You may be surprised to learn that it impacted me deeply. I have sent a line of credit to the International Space Agency for the fifteen billion dollars required for your project. I am not buying a seat for myself on your space craft, as I doubt that I possess the necessary credentials. I have lined up a consortium of technologically sophisticated corporations. They will provide whatever technology and systems you need. They will deliver, as they are in my thrall.”

Tom was stunned, yet asked, “Why are you doing this?”

Seymour Hansen replied with a wry smile, choosing his words carefully, “Your speech stung everyone, some more deeply than you realize. I admired your courage as well as your vision and precision. As far as I am concerned I would not trust anyone else with this space project. I may not be alive to see its fruition and neither will those who just listened to you. There are no strings to my offer. Just get it done.”

Tom stood dumbfounded at hearing this from the most powerful oligarch in the world. He had no words or grace in that moment. Thankfully, Sian was endowed with both. She gracefully stepped forward to their benefactor and gently kissed him on the cheek, simply expressing their gratitude.

Hansen smiled, his flinty eyes softening, “It’s good he has you Mrs. Hagen for the necessary graces.” He held his hand out to Tom, who shook it firmly and gratefully, “Dr. Hagen, get it done.”

Tom nodded, as his heart expanded with relief and determination.

Sian was delighted that Tom’s vision had been supported. Catriona was jumping up and down with glee, laughing at the bewildered look in her father’s face. Sian had to shake him by the shoulders to ensure it had sunk in.

THE LAST FRIENDS FOR PEACE DAY www.friendsforpeace.ca

This year the event was held in Jean Pigott Place, inside Ottawa City Hall, on Saturday September 26 from 11am to 3.30pm.  And what an event took place. Onstage the mellow harmonies from The Valley Men choir set the scene, followed by Romy Mounzer – Ottawa’s answer to Whitney Houston. Lalith Gunaratne spoke eloquently about reconciliation in Sri Lanka, a model to break down barriers and cross bridges of hatred and separation. The string ensemble from OrKidstra dazzled, as did the Awards and Peace Grant ceremony that honored the work of Jurme Wangda for Tibetan Resettlement and to Coleen Scott for providing education and opportunity for the Karen people in Thailand.

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The Circle of All Nations was a reality – represented by cultures, faiths, languages from across the planet. Kirtan from the Bhakti Connection, exquisite harp from Lucille Hildesheim and the Diversity of Color Miramba band brought the music and dance of Zimbabwe to close this year’s event at Ottawa City Hall. It was a fabulous day with the best ever performances. Everything excelled. We honored our elders, the many communities and the terrific volunteers who make it all possible. The support that poured in was unbelievable – donations to the Servery and Silent Auction by the diversity of Ottawa was heartfelt. Folk left full – not just with great food and bargains – but with a feeling that “YES” we can do it.

Thai Dancers

Friends for Peace is moving into a different focus, rather than the Friends for Peace Day, which takes up a lot of time and energy. We have decided to focus on specific projects with other organizations. For instance our first collaboration is with two church groups who are organizing events and awareness to bring Syrian refugee families to Ottawa. This is specific and the organizers are committed to making change. While the Friends for Peace Day provided great entertainment and brought community together – I would like to see more of a knock on effect. That – yes – folk are moving into action.  So we are entering a new phase, which I think will be exciting and more effective. Stay tuned.

Ian congratulating Orkidstra (2)

13th ANNUAL FRIENDS FOR PEACE DAY, OTTAWA, SAT SEPT 26

13th ANNUAL FRIENDS FOR PEACE DAY

Saturday, September 26, 2015, 12 noon – 4.00pm,

Jean Pigott Place, Ottawa City Hall                         

www.friendsforpeace.ca

Friends for Peace Day  is an awesome, diverse, unique Ottawa experience.  A day to celebrate the consciousness of peace, social justice and planetary care. Mayor Jim Watson said: “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.”  Friends of Peace has been an integral part of the Annual Ottawa Peace Festivals.

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2015 Peace Awards Ceremony honors Jurme Wangda, founder of Ottawa Friends of Tibet and Coleen Scott, founder of Karen Learning and Education Opportunity.  These organizations receive a 2015 Peace Grant for the incredible work they do. There are tables for community groups, treasures at the Silent Auction, fabulous food and a chance to connect with like-minded people. It’s a day for young and old as the diversity of Ottawa turns up for a great time. Friends for Peace Canada is a registered non-profit organisation. Entrance is by donation. All funds raised enable Peace Grants to be presented to organizations making a difference. The intent is to create a different form of peaceful expression to create infrastructure in our institutions that value peace and planetary processes.  Doors Open at 11.00am – browse the Silent Auction and Servery. Onstage program with music, speeches, and other talent starts at noon with The Valley Men Choir, Roumy Mounzer, Orkidstra, Dialog of Friendship, Lucille Hildesheim and others.

Ian congratulating Orkidstra (2)

The day builds confidence, hope, connections and fellowship. Come out and support this noble adventure. Building Community to Heal the World. Keeping Vision Alive. Taking Action. Celebrating.

Please join us for this important 13th anniversary.

Local and Global

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.

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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.

Jack Layton with Dalai Lama

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.

Two Lives

Don Butler, senior writer at The Ottawa Citizen interviewed me about my recent book, Trailing Sky Six Feathers: One Man’s Journey with His Muse. Here are some excerpts that appeared in Don’s article, September 22, 2014 – ‘How the two lives of Ian Prattis could help us all survive.’

“Prattis, a 71 year-old retired professor of anthropology and religion, writes about two of his lives in a new book, Trailing Sky Six Feathers, described on the jacket blurb as ‘Indiana Jones meets the Buddha with a dash of Celestine Prophecy.’ In this life, Prattis, who calls himself a Spiritual Warrior for Planetary Care, Peace and Social Justice, taught at Carleton University for 37 years, was ordained in India as a guru, leads weekly Buddhist meditation classes in the basement of his west-end bungalow, and founded Friends for Peace Canada at the outbreak of the Iraq war. Oh, yes – he also lived in a hermitage in Gatineau Park with his pet wolf for four years. In the other life, he was the chief of an Indian band in 18th-century Arizona, fending off Apache attacks, married to Trailing Sky Six Feathers, a powerful medicine woman in whose arms he died in 1777. As his life ebbed away, she vowed: “I will find you my husband, I will find you.”

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”In his book, a mix of memoir, mysticism and manifesto, the British-born Prattis describes both lives and pivotal training he received from four North American sages that ultimately allowed him to reunite spiritually with his ‘muse,’ Trailing Sky.  He issues a call for ‘spiritual awakening,’ necessary to ensure the survival of a world pushed to the edge of a dangerous precipice by climate change, ecosystem and financial collapse, corruption, terrorism and anarchy. It’s hard to predict how people will receive his book, Prattis acknowledges. For the longest time, his own logical, intellectually trained mind resisted accepting the fantastical tale.

“His journey started about 35 years ago, when he began decades of spiritual training with White Eagle Woman, an Ojibwa shaman from a reserve near Sault Ste. Marie. When they first met, White Eagle Woman “looked me straight in the eye and said ‘I don’t like you at all’ Prattis recalls. “But she said, ‘I’ve been instructed by my ancestors to train you.’” It was during that training that Prattis started remembering things about his past life. “It was a very slow process of remembering. I had to let the logic go and let the intuition speak more loudly.” In the early 1990s, Prattis retreated to a hermitage, a small cottage near parking Lot 7 in Kingsmere. His constant companion was a timber wolf he had encountered in the wilds of British Columbia who “made it clear that he was to come back with me to Quebec,” Prattis says. He dubbed the animal Wolfie, a name he dryly describes as “Highly original.”

Wolfie in Kingsmere

“Trailing Sky, Prattis says, “represents the feminine aspect of Earth wisdom, the feminine face of the Buddha to which he has surrendered. …Given the existential threats facing us, spiritual awakening is essential, Prattis says. Without it, “all you can rely on is politics and economics. We need something more formidable than that.

“We seem to be waiting for a Gandhi, a Mandela or a Martin Luther King to step up and lead. They’re gone. It’s ordinary people that have to step up and make a difference. Spiritual awakening takes hard work and discipline, Prattis says. Living simply is important. So is mindfulness and developing community. One key strategy, says Prattis, is to respond, rather than react, when others say or do things that upset you.

Despite the threat of approaching disaster, Prattis says his book is fundamentally optimistic. “It really does have a message of empowerment. No matter how dire the situation is or how perilous, we can always come through.”

To order this and other books go to www.ianprattis.com

2013 Friends for Peace Day

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2013 Friends for Peace Day                                                             

 Koozma Tarasoff wrote this article as part of his report on the two week Peace Festival that preceded the Friends for Peace Day. He received a Peace Award in 2012 for his long term activism for peace issues.

 

The 11th Anniversary of Friends of Peace under the leadership of Ian Prattis and his team from Pine Gate Mindfulness Community, was an outstanding event. With a coalition of 50 organizations in the Ottawa area, Friends of Peace has been an integral part of the Annual Ottawa Peace Festivals.  There were peace and environment booths along the periphery of the hall, a food court at the back, a long set of tables on which were items for the Silent Auction, and the stage at the north end. Mony Dojeiji and Alberto Agraso had a booth publicizing their European-Asian Walking for Peace: An Inner Journey, about their 5000-kilometer, 13-country, 13-month walk for peace from Rome to Jerusalem in 2001.

The OrKidstra Kidplayers, in the photo above under the direction of Tina Fedeski, and Kidsingers directed by Margaret Tobolowska, Jeannie Hunter, and Jennifer Martinez, were excellent. Among the songs in the half-hour presentation was ‘Ode to Joy’, with some 35 instrumentalists and 20 young children.             

 

Dandelion Dance Company, directed by Hannah Beach, brought forth some 11 young lady actors, dressed in black, up to the age of 18. With their passion for nonviolence and the basic rights for people, the Company presented four themes designed to build a better peaceful world: (1) We have a right not to be bullied and harassed; (2) We have a right not to be hungry; (3) We need to deal sensibly with a ‘cash, credit, and debit’ society; and (4) A poem on our hope and dreams that we want for our society.

The Big Soul Project (some 50 people as singers and a 4-piece band), headed by Roxanne Goodman, Music Director, has appeared at the Friends for Peace every year, on this day for the 11th time. They were excellent in fulfilling such numbers as ‘What are we going to leave behind when we leave?’ Its message: ‘Now is the time, will you be able to say I was here?’ ‘When I leave this world, will I make a mark that I was here?’ The implication is that what we do today will affect the quality of life tomorrow.

 

The Metis storyteller Robert Lavigne titled his talk ‘Idle More More’ to highlight the urgency of dealing with the misdeeds of the Canadian government with the Native population in the country. ’Enough is enough. It is time to act now!…This is a movement of awareness. Remember 99 to 1 percent? This formula does not work. The rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer. And the environment is being destroyed….This is part of our Spring.’

Ian Prattis presented the annual Peace Awards. The first went to Douglas Cardinal, ‘a visionary world master’ who was the architect for the Canadian Museum of Civilization. Born to a German – Native family, Cardinal said that all of Nature including human beings are interconnected. ‘Life springs through every being and rock in this life. This is a symbiotic relationship of life and nature. Each person has divine creation in them….Each person is a God….We are Gods on this land. That is our legacy. We have the capacity to create as well as destroy….Elders trained me to honour culture as the peacemaker. We come from a society where everyone is noble, unique and responsible.’ Ian Prattis then turned to the second recipient of the 2013 Peace Awards. This was to Amber Lloydlangston, historian at the Canadian War Museum and the key person who developed the Peace Exhibit there. Ian praised Amber for her excellence in producing such a unique exhibit, beginning with the Aboriginal Six Nations story. The exhibit officially ends in January 2014. Ian remarked: ‘Let’s help to make this a permanent exhibit, so that peace remains as an integral part of the war museum.’ After receiving her Award, Amber Lloydlangston said that she was humbled in being present with such a candidate as the renowned Douglas Cardinal. In the Peace Exhibit, she said that she and her colleagues wanted to show to Canadians what peace means in the form of diplomats, soldiers, peacekeepers and humanitarians.  

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Lucille Hildesheim’s performance on the Celtic Harp was outstanding.   The closing Friends of Peace Band from Montreal, led by Sonja Ball and friends, was very lively, with a focus on how lucky we are to be alive. ‘This is about being happy and our right to be happy.’ That was certainly the feeling at the end of this magnificent day. The diversity of citizens who came to the Friends for Peace Day laughed, danced, cried and went home with confidence and solidarity.

Peace, Planetary Care and Social Justice are alive and well in our northern city. A Circle of Nations no less.

 

 

 

Community Activism at Work in Ottawa

Community Activism at Work in Ottawa

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My full time job this summer is organizing a big event in Ottawa City Hall – the 11th annual Friends for Peace Day. This has been my job for over a decade. This year the event is held in Jean Pigott Place, inside City Hall, on Saturday September 28 from 11am to 5pm.  https://www.facebook.com/events/518359988213050/

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 and we asked them to begin the peace process first of all with themselves, then to the community and the world.  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.  I also decided at that time to concentrate my energy and efforts locally, feeling that these efforts could infuse global networks from the epicentre created there. I had received many invitations to be a global speaker and teacher, yet felt that a concentration on my home city of Ottawa was the primary focus. I responded to the many international invitations with a gracious decline. Though my ego was certainly miffed by the prospect of lost opportunities, I was inspired to devote my time and energy to moving things just a little bit in my city, so that more good things could begin to happen spontaneously. As I soon discovered, there were many good friends across the city more than happy to make this possible.

We organized 5,000 participants at the Peace Song Circle on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, 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.  As other peace protests joined us and sang “All Within Me Peaceful,” 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.  Those who are waging war would do better if they knew better; but they don’t know better.  We, however, do know better and must take the steps to communicate our understandings to political decision makers.  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.

Every year since the relentless rain on Parliament Hill, the annual Friends for Peace Days have been memorable. We got rained and snowed on for several years on Parliament Hill, thunder and lightning at Alumni Park of Carleton University – before we moved inside to Jean Pigott Place in Ottawa City Hall. The response to this community activism has blown everyone away, as it went beyond any of our expectations!! Some Highlights:

*Peace Award recipients Bonnie Cappachino (2004) and Bruce Cockburn (2006) in their Vision Speeches ripped into government foreign policy. Dr. Peter Stockdale (2010) held City Council to account for inter-ethnic violence and neglect in Ottawa.

* In 2010 Clive Doucet, candidate for Mayor, not only danced a great number with Big Soul Project, he gave a stirring speech on Cities of Peace – a vision for Ottawa. I asked the crowd if their light was fierce and were they ready for tomorrow’s child, not yet born. This child has difficult questions – “What did you do when there was still time to create a sustainable world?” “On your watch, was there intelligent life in humanity’s leaders and decision makers?” A resounding affirmative was delivered by the diversity gathered on this day.

* Mayor Jim Watson had this to say in 2011: “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.”

award winners 500

*On the 10th anniversary in 2012, MP Olivia Chow received a posthumous Peace Award on behalf of her late husband Jack Layton. The onstage performers were outstanding, highlighted by the world premiere of “To Young Canadians.” A tribute to Jack Layton performed by Orkidstra, who commissioned composer James Wright to create a song from Jack Layton’s letter to the nation. They enjoyed a prolonged standing ovation.  Watch this glorious song by Orkidstra at the 10th Friends for Peace Day in Ottawa: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7NsVb2a2cbE&feature=youtu.be

Paul Dewar and Ian at FfP Day 2012

Peace Awards are given annually to outstanding citizens. Grandfather William Commanda, Max Keeping, Bruce Cockburn, Dave Smith, and Elizabeth May to mention only a few. 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. People left at the end of the day feeling uplifted, confident and connected.

* This year 2013 – there will be music, speeches, dancing, fabulous food at the Servery, and a chance to learn and connect. The day opens with Orkidstra followed by the Dandelion Dance Company. These young people signal that we have a future. Peggy Taillon will talk about the Hera Mission in Kenya. And all-time favorites, Big Soul Project, close the morning program by raising the roof with their exuberance and joie.

The Lunch Break is an opportunity to browse the Silent Auction, visit the community tables, check out the Connection Centre and enjoy the country bazaar nature of the event. The afternoon program begins with a First Nations theme – Asinabika Drum Circle and Idle No More. The 2013 Peace Awards will be presented to architect and visionary Douglas Cardinal and to curator Dr Amber Lloydlangten and her team at the War Museum for their magnificent Peace Exhibition. From Montreal – a great band with Sonja Ball and Friends, followed by Lucille Hildesheim on Celtic Harp. Samba Ottawa close the day with their rhythmic magic. Get there early for the opening with Orkidstra. Doors open at 10.30am.

Ian congratulating Orkidstra

Entrance is by donation. All funds raised enable Peace Grants to be presented every year to organizations making a difference in our city and internationally. The intent is to create a different form of peaceful expression that appeals to a wide cross section of Canadian citizens who want to create infrastructure in our institutions that value peace and planetary processes.

The Friends for Peace Day is an awesome, diverse, unique Ottawa experience.  It is made possible by the generosity of volunteers and supporters and the diversity of Ottawa who show up to have a good time, be educated and inspired. The Friends for Peace Day creates an epicentre of intent and action – intense at times as people are moved to both tears and laughter.  It is fun, poignant and direct. The intensity and joy ripples through the diversity – all generations, faiths and cultures in our northern city. The force of the epicentre roars through the community and activist tables, Muslim families, Asian groups, elders, young folk and the volunteers. The diversity of Ottawa gathers, listens, dances, laughs, cries – and takes home an unforgettable experience of hope and confidence. The family grows bigger each year. All Nations, All Traditions – A Circle of Friendship www.friendsforpeace.ca

I love my summer job. It is such a rewarding experience.