By Elizabeth Howard
The moment we cease to hold each other, the moment we break faith with one another, the sea engulfs us and the light goes out.
— James Baldwin
Diana Wege is an artist, environmentalist and philanthropist dedicated to making the world a more peaceful place. In 2014 she founded WOVEN, We Oppose Violence Everywhere Now, a global network designed to end conflict across the globe and provide the appropriate resources, support and platform to identify peaceful resolutions to conflict. WOVEN's goal is to end violence in our lifetime. (www.woven.org)
I work with Diana on WOVEN and last Thursday, just one week ago, we hosted a luncheon at her studio in Chelsea. Gathered around the table were people who are involved with organizations who share our goal of creating a more peaceful world.
The executive director of Abby Disney's Peace is Loud was there, as well as representatives from Gloria Steinem's Donor Direct. There were people from organizations that serve the international community through the United Nations and a member of the Board of Dining for Women. Timothy Bellavia, author of We Are All The Same Inside (www.weareallthesameinside.com), brought the dolls he helps children create as part of his educational work to demonstrate that we are all the same on the inside. There was a Korean filmmaker and artist who is using the theater and film to bring people together and Jamila Raqib who collaborated in 2009 with Dr. Gene Sharp to create a curriculum titled Self-Liberation: A Guide to Strategic Planning for Action to End a Dictatorship or Other Oppression. The book provides an understanding of nonviolent struggle to individuals in order to enable them to develop effective strategies for their struggles. She has been nominated to receive the Nobel Peace prize.
When you are sitting around a table with this group of people who are committed to peace and justice, to identifying the root causes of violence – poverty, hunger, inequality, anger, religious differences, politics, governments – you cannot help but feel a sense of hope. Working together, why can't we stop some of the senseless violence that confronts us on a daily basis? Why can't we work to find solutions through dialogue and collaboration? Why does hate prevail?
For two years, Diana Wege has mounted a campaign in Manhattan to direct attention to her idea to either reject or oppose violence. She purchases advertising space on the top of taxicabs and in bus shelters to display the poster she has created that just repeats the words: REJECT VIOLENCE or OPPOSE VIOLENCE. This year the campaign will expand to the growing list of cities that have experienced violence, such as San Bernardino, Charleston, Sandy Hook and, now, Orlando.
What can we do? Fight for gun legislation so military-style assault weapons are not easily available. Insist on education within our schools to teach conflict resolution skills at all levels. Try to understand our anger and direct it in a positive way through lessons we learned from Nelson Mandela. Host a screening of Abby Disney's Armor of Light (www.armoroflightfilm.com/host). Read books in book groups that relate to understanding violence.
This week I am in Washington, D.C., attending a conference where The Institute for Economics and Peace will release the 10th edition of the Global Peace Index, the world's leading measure of country peacefulness. The Global Peace Index ranks 162 countries on their peacefulness using 23 different indicators, and has helped shift the world's conversation about peace to a positive, achievable and tangible measure of human well-being and progress.
One of the goals of WOVEN is to move the United States up on the Global Peace Index. The United States is 94th on the 2015 list. There is much work to be done.
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