By Kelsey Grace Butler and Kirin Taylor
Within the current post-election climate, it seems to be a natural tendency for most people to simply underline their own perspective and choose a side. Whether it is a political party, group, or figure, it cannot be refuted—we are a nation that likes picking teams. And, in many cases, this might be the easier option than standing alone and crusading for a cause; however, this very idea of choosing a side only divides our country even further, perpetuating hate and fear. It also makes the struggle to combat violence with peace in world at war that much more difficult.
So the question remains: how can we choose to be peaceful every day in a country where animosity seems to fester?
At the non-profit organization, Little Friends for Peace, we are a community fully confident in the successful implementation of peace. We firmly believe that the only answer to violence is peace and see peace practice as the best medicine for a world that is truly hurting. Little Friends for Peace desires to create an environment of acceptance and understanding, where peace can become every person’s instinctual reaction to anything. At LFFP, we offer peace summer camps, after-school programs for youth, prison outreach, and peace educational courses where these exact ideals are at the epicenter.
What exactly does this look like? Peace Camp, for example, is not like other camps for many reasons. The camp itself stresses its educational purpose by utilizing a rather underutilized educational approach: socio-emotional learning. It teaches skills that are crucial for children to understand themselves, navigate relationships, and ultimately become productive citizens. These ideals are woven into the art projects created, the cooperative win-win games played, the placement of children and staff into intimate and engaging small groups, and the lessons and tools they are taught. Much of the Peace Camp curriculum is taken from the books “Live Peace, Teach Peace” and “Creating a Peace Experience” by MJ and Jerry Park, Co-Founders and Directors of LFFP. The whole camp is brought together in the morning and end of the day to learn together what peace is, and that peace begins with [each and every one] you. Socio emotional learning, in the case of peace camp, is synonymous with peace education; the camps and other programs held by LFFP promote awareness, communication, and participation, all while helping form a hopeful and peaceful perspective on the world and one’s role within it. This is clear in our theme for summer 2017: “Peace In Myself, Peace in the World”.
When specifically looking at the lives of MJ and Jerry Park, the peace heroes they teach about and draw inspiration from are clearly reflected in their actions, ideologies, and character. MJ and Jerry stress the importance of having visible peace heroes and inspirational figures who motivate us and remind us that political awareness and pacifism are both possible. Without these peaceful public servants, we would not only be less we would be much less compassionate and peaceful individuals, the realities of our world would seem unchangeable and far different from what they are now. Peacemakers such as Dr. King, Dorothy Day, Father Gregory Boyle, and Father Oscar Romero inspire generations of peace believers and politically engaged pacifists like MJ and Jerry Park, desire to make a positive change in society through the values and practices they demonstrate, teach, and spread.
Following the 2016 election, MJ Park remarked, “We need each other to keep the truth out there, to act on our values and to not let fear hold us back. We can be the change and we must keep moving forward with faith, with care, and with LOVE”. If only everyone could react with such hope and peace…
Peace be with you all!
Kirin Taylor is the Little Friends for Peace’s Summer Camp Coordinator. More information regarding LFFP can be found at www.lffp.org.