Peaceforum plans future

Published on Thu, Nov 15, 2007 by Richard Clark

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Peace forum plans future

By Richard Clark

My 14-year-old sociology student and I walked to Peace Arch Park a few weeks ago for a meeting. We were attending an assembly of the World Peace Forum Society and Peace Without Borders that convened that morning.

Chairman Jef Keighley, who has been promoting peace for many years, opened the meeting. Present were seven people who represented Canada, and five who represented the United States.

Three were elderly women from Bellingham. My student and I represented Blaine. Although 16 empty chairs were in the audience that gathered at the American kitchen, Jef addressed his dozen attendees with optimism. And while he spoke, a woman quietly stepped inside to stretch our attendance to 13. I don’t know if she represented Canada or the United States.

The Bellingham women, who must have been septuagenarians or older, said their contingency was already laying a strategy just in case Iran receives a bombing before long. I shuddered at the thought. Their roots are traceable to the 1960s, when Professor Howard Harris and his friends were openly opposing the Vietnam conflict.

We discussed our experiences in community peace activities. Mine entailed writing the history of the Peace Arch, and successfully convincing Blaine City Council to adopt “promoting peace” as its official theme. I revealed the Blaine Peace Alliance’s failure to receive council approval for inviting Pugwash to become our sister city.

One gentleman said the Pugwash movement, with its activities limited to worldwide scientists who wish to eliminate nuclear weaponry, is an elitist organization. He said we must “reach the bottom” and attract the involvement of ordinary citizens.

By means of letters to the editor of The Northern Light, I described my invitation for people to discuss ways of implementing the city theme. I revealed the two responses I received. One individual was concerned about my spiritual shortcomings – I’ve heard it so often, that I’m driven to boredom.

But a second respondent has ordered a banner that bears the statement, “Blessed are the peacemakers.” It was such a breath of fresh air, that I’m ordering a plaque bearing the same words. I’ll mount it at the entry of my house.

I raised the question of clergy noninvolvement, a problem that puzzles me. Then there’s the problem of absent young people. I imagine all but four attendees were less than 70-years-old. There was no immediate answer. But my student and I have discussed it and we are beginning to believe we’d be best advised to make ourselves known as “anti-war people” rather than “peace people.” The latter label revives too many memories of flower children feeling groovy.

Jef said a large proliferation of peace organizations exists in Vancouver. With the association’s help, he hopes to draw representatives together for future networking goals. The association will meet again next spring. Considerable discussion was given toward the location. Should the meeting be held in Blaine, Bellingham or Seattle? “Wouldn’t it be wonderful,” I suggested, “that because of growing interest, we’d have to hold meetings simultaneously in all three locations?”