Monday, May 15, 2006

PeaceJam Empowers Teens

Dear friends,

I like the savvy that these folks are using as they connect with young people around peace & positive action.

How can you help make spiritually-based peacemaking hip and cool in your community?

Take care,

~Matt Guynn
On Earth Peace

PeaceJam Empowers Teens

Kalamazoo Gazette
By Chris Killian
May 14, 2006

(You can find PeaceJam online at

For most teenagers, a cool, damp Saturday afternoon is an invitation to head to the movies with friends, watch television or surf the Internet.

But for about 200 teens from around the Great Lakes region, Saturday was a day for action -- peaceful action.

They came from Illinois, Indiana, Ohio and Michigan to participate in an event hosted by PeaceJam, an international organization that partners with 13 Nobel Peace Prize winners who share their wisdom with youths and empower them to change their communities for the better.

The event was originally scheduled to take place in Kalamazoo's Bronson Park, but was moved to Western Michigan University's Haworth College of Business because of rain.

But that didn't dampen the sprit of the diverse group of teens who gathered there to participate in the event, as they moved from room to room engaging in a number of activities meant to educate them about the power they have to change the world.

"This fills you up like a good cup of soup,'' said Talat Mangla, a WMU senior and PeaceJam mentor. "You walk out of here exhausted but so full of energy.''

In one activity, participants read from books banned from some school districts across the United States in an expression of their right to free speech. In another activity, teens wrote messages on prayer flags and then hung them outside the building.

The green, yellow, white and red flags snapped crisply in the cool breeze. The messages on them read like a play book for nonviolence: "You can bomb the world into pieces, but you can't bomb it into Peace,'' one read. "Justice is truth in action,'' another read.

"This is a great program to teach people about peace on a worldwide level,'' Kalamazoo Central High School student Charles Gregg-Geist said.

That was no more true than when the miracle of modern technology enabled the PeaceJam crowd to listen firsthand to 1996 Nobel Peace Prize winner Jose Ramos-Horta, a man who has devoted much of his life to propagating peace.

Ramos-Horta was supposed to have spoken at the event, but had to cancel because mounting civil unrest in his country of East Timor.

A live video feed from the independent state among the islands of Indonesia enabled Ramos-Horta to speak anyway, as he told the teens to keep spreading the message of peace to their communities.

"When we are in power we need to be even more humble and be embracing of everybody,'' he said. "If you can't be humble, at least pretend. It won't do you any harm.''

PeaceJam co-founder Ivan Suvanjieff said he was impressed with the event.

"PeaceJam is a chance for kids to see greatness,'' he said of the prominence of Nobel Laureates at PeaceJam events. "We want them to realize the power each one of them has to change the world.''

Suvanjieff, along with his wife and fellow co-founder Dawn Engle, has traveled the world visiting and speaking with Nobel Peace Prize winners, asking them to support PeaceJam's mission.

He has met with the Dalai Lama, Archbishop Desmond Tutu and many other Nobel Laureates.

The addition of the winners is just one component to the success of the program, though. With all the advertisements that are directed toward teenagers -- telling them what to wear, listen to and watch -- PeaceJam has to be savvy.

"We want kids to find us hip, sexy and cool,'' Suvanjieff said. "And we want the program to make them empowered.''

During the event, a large piece of paper -- several feet long -- was taped to the dry-erase board in the business college's auditorium.

Teens were urged to write comments of encouragement on the paper, which is to be delivered to East Timor.

One teen didn't just write a few kind words.

"Give me a call sometime if you need any help,'' the note read.

More about PeaceJam.

Source for story: Kalamazoo Gazette.

Originally cited on the Pace e Bene website,


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