Press Clip Source: Post Bulletin
Date: September 28, 2016
Written by: Rich Van Dellen
Read original article: Here.


Sept. 21 was the International Day of Peace. In 1981, the United Nations designated the third Tuesday of September as an International Day of Peace, then in 2001 changed the day to Sept. 21 every year.

Several groups sponsored two events in Rochester to celebrate this day. While the Post Bulletin listed these events in Faith Focus in the Sept. 17, weekend edition and the community calendar, I could find no other coverage. Given the urgent need for peace, they warrant more coverage.

Current wars are causing untold numbers of deaths, millions of refugees and diverting trillions of dollars from addressing the climate crisis and urgent human needs.

On Sept. 17, the first of the events, Mel Duncan, one of the co-founders of the Nonviolent Peaceforce, spoke at the Unitarian Universalist Church. He provided examples of the work done by Nonviolent Peaceforce, which is an unarmed, paid civilian protection force that fosters dialogue during conflict, provides a protective presence for threatened civilians and seeks to strengthen civil society.

Protecting unarmed civilians nonviolently has proven effective worldwide. In Sri Lanka, a group of children were abducted to become child soldiers and these peacekeepers went with the mothers of the children and negotiated their release. Eventually they were able to stop the use of children for soldiers. In the South Sudan, women gathering firewood were often raped but when accompanied Nonviolent Peaceforce members, the rapes stopped.

Nonviolent Peaceforce teams are international, evenly divided by gender and include members from the host country. They are in South Sudan, the Philippines, the Middle East, Myanmar and Ukraine, and they worked in Sri Lanka for eight years.

According to a 2015 U.N. report, "Unarmed civilian protection is a method for direct protection of civilians and violence reduction that has grown in practice and recognition. In the last few years, it has especially proven its effectiveness to protect women and girls."

The American Friends Service Committee nominated Nonviolent Peaceforce for the 2016 Nobel Peace Prize. AFSC wrote: "Awarding the Nobel Peace Prize to Nonviolent Peaceforce would highlight and strengthen their work and the work of other similar organizations, at a time when worldwide tensions seem to be at a boiling point, and their work is vital and relevant."

Duncan was one of 80 people from 25 nations invited to Rome by the Vatican last April to help the Catholic Church consider it's Just War Doctrine. The group urged an emphasis on nonviolence. Duncan ended his presentation here with the thought that our choice is between nonviolence or no survival.

On Sept. 21, an event in Lourdes Chapel at Assisi Heights had a theme of "The Sustainable Development Goals: Building Blocks of Peace." Of the 17 U.N. sustainable development goals, four were emphasized: compassion, restorative and racial justice, care of the Earth and nonviolence, with several area residents providing personal insights on those core topics.

The events led me to recall the words of Nobel Peace Laureate Mariread Maguire from Northern Ireland, who said after the Rome conference: "I believe we are at an important and hopeful turning point in human history, a turning from violence to nonviolence, from war to peace."

Let us so hope and work for that turning.

Rich Van Dellen of Rochester is a retired physician and member of Southeast Minnesota Alliance of Peacemakers.

You can protect civilians who are living in or fleeing violent conflict. Your contribution will transform the world's response to conflict.