Mediators Beyond Borders

March 27, 2009

You have probably heard of Doctors Without Borders (Medecins Sans Frontieres), and possibly have heard of Engineers Without Borders, but you most likely have not heard of Mediators Beyond Borders. It is a relatively new non-profit, established in 2006, with the following mission:

Mediators Beyond Borders brings together experienced mediators to volunteer their skills world-wide, in collaboration with local, indigenous and global partners, to improve conflict resolution capacity and support alternative approaches to expressing, negotiating and resolving interpersonal, political, economic, social, ethnic and religious differences.

I am excited to discover that there is an organization doing this type of work! Conflict resolution, mediation, and alternative dispute resolution are critical to building a more peaceful world, and it is wonderful that there is an organization through which people interested in this work can volunteer and donate their time to the parts of the country and world where conflict is rampant. They have projects going on in several locations, including Liberia, New Orleans, and Zimbabwe. When I contemplate whether I would be interested in doing international, humanitarian work, this is the type of work that most draws my interest (however, my immediate goal is to do such work within my local community rather than internationally).

An important piece of building peace is making it sustainable in the local communities. Although first-responder work is important in crisis situations, for long-term peace it is crucial that the communities take control and are not dependent on outsiders to sustain their peace. Mediators Beyond Borders definitely seems to have this focus, with a goal of partnering with local communities:

Mediators Beyond Borders – Partnering for Peace & Reconciliation is a non-profit, humanitarian organization established to partner with communities worldwide to build their conflict resolution capacity for preventing, resolving and healing from conflict. This partnership involves the design and implementation of sustainable peace building initiatives responsive to the needs and culture of the communities, and to the history of each conflict. MBB is not a first responder, and is not prepared to intervene in the midst of violent crises.

I love the concept of “Without Borders” or “Beyond Borders” in all three organizations. It highlights that we all have a shared humanity which transcends political and geographical borders, and taking care of each other is more important than our differences.

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Peace Pilgrim

March 17, 2009

Note: I cross-posted this at my other blog, Books and Other Miscellany.

Peace Pilgrim: Her Life and Work in Her Own Words is a compilation of writings and transcripts of speeches by a woman who called herself Peace Pilgrim. She was an amazing and inspiring woman who walked back and forth across the country for almost 30 years bearing a message of peace. In 1953 she rid herself of all possessions other than the clothes she wore, a toothbrush, a comb, a pen, and some paper, and embarked on her pilgrimage for peace. She slept outdoors or at truck stops unless someone offered her a bed, and ate only when someone offered her a meal. Her message was simple:

This is the way of peace — overcome evil with good, and falsehood with truth, and hatred with love.

She gradually became well-known and spoke at colleges and churches across the country as she walked for peace. She was still on her pilgrimage in 1981 when she died in a car accident (being driven by a friend to a speaking engagement), because she had vowed that “I shall remain a wanderer until mankind has learned the way of peace, walking until I am given shelter and fasting until I am given food.” (Wo)mankind unfortunately did not learn the way of peace before her death, and still hasn’t.

Many of her words rang true with me and echoed things I have thought about before. These include the ideas that inner peace requires living in the present, not owning more than we need, and being kind and compassionate and giving towards all, that evil can only be overcome by goodness, and that people who do evil things are hurt in some way. Peace Pilgrim emphasized that if someone does something unkind towards us, we can choose whether to respond with hurt and anger or with compassion, and that it is harmful to ourselves to respond with anger. She talked about how fear is almost always of the unknown, and that thus getting familiar with something or someone helps you overcome fear. She said that the way of peace is the philosophy that the means determine the end, and that peace cannot be reached through non-peaceful means such as war. I agree with all these aspects of her message.

However, her words were too spiritual and religious for me. Her inner peace was based in a spiritual connection and a belief in God (she did not call herself Christian or any other particular religion, but simply religious), and besides all the things I mentioned in the previous paragraph, she also emphasized a distinction between the higher self and the self-centered self, and between the body and the soul. She said that there were divine laws guiding us towards peace that we could choose to follow or not, and also that each person has a preordained calling. I do not want to go into my own religious beliefs here, but suffice it to say that these views do not ring true with me, and that my belief in peace, both inner and outer, is not based in any sort of spiritual or religious belief. It was therefore difficult for me to get through parts of the book that were focused on these spiritual and religious aspects.

For me, her message therefore comes through in spite of the spiritual aspects, but I think it is a very important one. I admire her inner strength, her ability to rid herself of all possessions and walk for so many years, and her ability to be kind and compassionate towards every single human being. I think she was in many ways a modern-day prophet.

The book itself is well put together; her friends were clearly dedicated and spent a good bit of time organizing her writings and speeches into a coherent flow. Most of it consists of writings in Peace Pilgrim’s words, but there are several appendices containing her answers to questions she received through correspondence, newspaper articles, and other peoples’ impressions of her.

If you are interested in peace, the life of a modern pilgrim, living simply, or living compassionately, I think it is worth reading at least parts of this book (it is somewhat repetitive since the writings are taken from many different times). You can read the entire thing online here, and learn more about her in general here.


Women for Women International and International Women’s Day

March 4, 2009

I received an email from the organization Women for Women International asking me to post information about their International Women’s Day activities. I had never heard of this organization, but glancing through their website the work they do sounds wonderful and very important to peace. In their About Us section, they say:

Women for Women International mobilizes women to change their lives through a holistic approach that addresses the unique needs of women in conflict and post-conflict environments.

We begin by working with women who may have lost everything in conflict and often have nowhere else to turn. Participation in our one-year program launches women on a journey from victim to survivor to active citizen. We identify services to support graduates of the program as they continue to strive for greater social, economic and political participation in their communities.

They are holding a conference call on March 5 in relation to International Women’s Day (which is March 8). This is a little bit last minute, but here is the information they asked me to post:

On International Women’s Day, women around the world join together in celebration of the intelligence, strength, courage and beauty of women. Since 1908 this has been a day to celebrate the achievements of women around the world without regard to their national, ethnic, linguistic, cultural, economic or political differences.

This year, join Women for Women International to celebrate the economic and social achievements of women. Honor the women who work to overcome the food crisis in their communities and put food on the table for their families. These women are not waiting for a bailout but are instead learning the skills and techniques of sustainable organic farming to feed their families and support themselves.

Wondering how you can participate in International Women’s Day?

JOIN WOMEN FOR WOMEN INTERNATIONAL FOR A GLOBAL TELECONFERENCE ON MARCH 5th.

Global Program Executive Director Karen Sherman and Dr. Grace Fisiy, Agribusiness Specialist, will talk about what women in our program are doing to eradicate hunger in their countries. Click here for more details.

HOST AN EVENT. There are plenty of ways to celebrate International Women’s Day and to help empower women across the globe. Past events include house parties, book club meetings, art exhibits, and craft shows. Browse the Get Involved! Blog for more creative ideas on how to raise awareness about the global food crisis or download our Event Kit to get started!

For more information on International Women’s Day and Women for Women International, visit Women for Women International’s Website or the Get Involved! Blog.