On November 15, over 100 people gathered at Central United Methodist Church in Traverse City for an all-day seminar, Conference for a Nation of Peacemakers. The conference grew out of two questions, posed by area peacemakers: What kind of nation and world do we want? and What can we do to help create it?
We were welcomed by one of the main organizers, Fred Linsell, a long-time peace activist and member of the United Methodists group, Swords into Plowshares. Fred helped frame the issues for us, reminding us of the importance of going beyond nationalism to the concept of planethood and how the International Court could play a pivotal role in bringing world peace. He attributes much of the conflict around the world to the growing economic gap between rich and poor. Bob Conn, another organizer and member of Swords into Plowshares, spoke next, encouraging us to develop strategies for acting locally, and thinking globally; he felt that this conference could set air currents of peace flowing out to the entire world. One of Bobs other main points was to remind us not to get stuck in several common games or negative mindsets: Aint it Awful and It Wont Work. He urged us to give ideas a chance to be born. The last main speaker, Tom Shea, outlined the days schedule along with our choices for the day. Three main workshops were offered twice: A Just Economy; A Peacemaking Foreign Policy; The Role of the Military. In addition, Tom explained a fourth option, known as Open Space, in which participants offer another topic and see if there are others who would like to gather and discuss it together.
The topics were complex issues with no simple solutions. Participants struggled with such questions as, What would a peaceful foreign policy look like?; Should the U.S. be in control of outer space?; What would a just economy look like and what steps might we take locally to make this happen?; What would you like the U.S. military to look like in terms of numbers, costs, purpose and role? and Should our military be trained as peacemakers or police? The workshops encouraged participation from attendees and many sheets of newsprint were filled with numerous ideas. The workshops were focused on solutions, and what we, as citizens, can do to promote a peaceful, just world.
One highlight of the conference was at the end when Kay Bond, local peace activist, called from the Palestinian territories to report on activities there. Tom Shea held up the cell phone to the microphone so everyone could hear her voice.
The main ideas that were generated at the conference are being compiled by the organizing committee and will be sent out to participants by mid-December. A follow-up meeting in January will look at next steps. If you are interested in being part of this ongoing dialogue and study in peace, please contact Tom Shea at (231) 946-3693 or <firstname.lastname@example.org>.