When you open the paper or turn on the TV and see the daily flood of tragic news about violence and its victims, it’s easy to feel discouraged, even hopeless.
While we regularly view stories showing the heart-wrenching impact of violence on its victims, the media report much less frequently about what’s being done to stem this violence and build peace. For example, a recent Nexis Uni news search (for the randomly selected date of Sept. 12, 2019) showed a greater than 4 to 1 ratio of hits for crime and violence stories than for peace and peacebuilding stories.
Yet, even though they’re frequently out of the spotlight, it’s encouraging to know on this International Day of Peace that Kansas City’s peacebuilders are ubiquitous, and actively engaged to make our community more harmonious.
The nascent Greater Kansas City Peacebuilding Coalition has compiled a list of anti-violence, peace-promoting organizations in the KC area. This list includes 113 organizations that address poverty and homelessness (Bishop Sullivan Center at bishopsullivan.org and Cherith Brook at cherithbrookcw.blogspot.com); international connectedness (Global Ties KC at globaltieskc.org and the Sister City Association of Kansas City at kcsistercities.org); and peacebuilding education (the Center for Global Peace Journalism at Park University at park.edu/peacecenter the Johnson County Community College Office of International Education at jccc.edu, the Buchanan Initiative for Peace and Non-Violence at Avila University at avila.edu/academics/avila-centers-initiatives/buchanan-peace-nonviolence and Global and Multicultural Education-GAME-kcglobalconcepts.org/game/).
Among these entities, Kansas City is fortunate to have numerous “rock star” peacebuilders and peacebuilding organizations. For example:
▪ The Center for Conflict Resolution (ccrkc.org), which does programming in area schools designed to “teach skills that prevent normal conflict from becoming verbally or physically violent.” They also provide mediation and conflict resolution training.
▪ Ad Hoc Group Against Crime (adhocgroupkc.com), which promotes healing and justice by serving as a bridge between the community and law enforcement. They also provide support to victims of violent crime, and work to prevent violence in KC.
▪ International Relations Council (irckc.org), which works with partner organizations to bring a global perspective to the community. IRC hosts international speakers, student forums, and smaller discussions about vital issues affecting our society.
▪ Rotary International (rotary.org), an international service organization, has a strong area presence. There are 21 Rotary Clubs in the KC area on the Missouri side, and 17 more in Kansas, engaged in peacebuilding projects like anti-bullying initiatives in schools and collecting shoes for South American orphans.
Volunteering with one of these organizations is a great way to contribute to peace, but if you’re not a “joiner,” don’t despair. According to the U.S. Institute for Peace (usip.org) and Mediators Without Borders (mwbdr.com), you can still build peace by:
▪ Volunteering to help those in need. There is a strong connection between poverty and violence.
▪ Attending an event like the annual Greater Kansas City Peacebuilding Conference on Oct. 31 (11:30 a.m. at Avila University), Nov. 1 (1:00 p.m. at Park University), and Nov. 2 (8:30 a.m. at Johnson County Community College). This year’s theme is Human Rights and Peacebuilding, and the keynote speaker is Sarah Margon, foreign policy director of the Open Society Foundations. For more information, see https://www.jccc.edu/conferences/peacebuilding/
▪ Spreading the word about organizations that work to help victims of violence.
▪ Sharing a meal with someone from a different community.
▪ Learning about and employing techniques to resolve conflicts non-violently.
▪ Facilitating dialogue between communities, especially those in conflict.
▪ Creating or contributing to an artistic work or video that emphasizes peace themes.
▪ Writing blogs, op-eds, and letters to the editor about peace.
▪ Attending a peace rally.
▪ Organizing a community project, especially one that builds bridges across communities .
While it’s understandable to be discouraged by the violence and discord around us, conversely, it’s easy to be encouraged by the numerous peacebuilding efforts in Kansas City, and to be empowered by the knowledge that each of us can help make our world a more peaceful place.
Steven Youngblood is the director of the Center for Global Peace Journalism at Park University, a communications and peace studies professor, and the Rotary District 6040 Peacebuilding Ambassador.