ANOTHER HERO ...
Pierre Marchand: The Audacious Challenge - A Decade for a
Culture of Peace and Nonviolence
Pierre Marchand is an extraordinary Frenchman from Compiegne, near Paris. The founder of Partage, an IFOR affiliate helping children in areas of war and disaster around the world, Pierre has a deep and faith-driven passion to relieve suffering among society's most vulnerable. Such suffering is not an abstraction for Pierre, who as a boy experienced a great deal of violence, including being raped and being involved in a terrorist group. His life might have continued in that destructive
direction had he not had some transforming, life-changing experiences along the way.
Through his church he was able to go to the Taizé community in France where thousands of young people gather for prayer, singing and community building; there he had a deep, spirit-filled experience. Through Fr. Jean Toulat, Pierre learned about nonviolent resistance to evil practiced by Gandhi and King. He became active in Amnesty International and in the French FOR. Cao Ngoc Phuong and Thich Nhat Hanh, and Jean and Hildegard Goss-Mayr, had a strong influence on him as he struggled to overcome all the violence he had experienced and build a life of compassion.
Pierre heard Thich Nhat Hanh talk about teaching nonviolence to children in school and about the importance of each school setting aside a place for meditation and conflict resolution. About the same time he heard Marie Pierre Bovy of the Community of the Ark, then president of IFOR, call for a "Year of Nonviolence." Combining these ideas, Pierre went to Belfast, Northern Ireland, to talk with Nobel Laureate Mairead Corrigan-Maguire. She agreed to lead a Nobel Peace Laureates campaign for a Decade of Nonviolence. After writing the text of the appeal in a Children's Village in India, Pierre began visiting Nobel Peace Laureates to get their signatures. They were so taken with the idea that eventually all of them signed on-an unprecedented show of unity.
Federico Mayor, Director General of UNESCO, saw the importance of combining the Nobel Laureates Appeal with the effort of UNESCO for a Culture of Peace. IFOR was a major supporter, along with the Peace People of Northern Ireland, Serpaj of Latin America, ASSEFA in India, and other organizations. Pierre went from one UN Mission to the next, garnering support for what was now a resolution calling for a "Decade for a Culture of Peace and Nonviolence." With special help from Bangladesh, many countries lined up in support of the resolution, and when it came before the General Assembly in November, it was unanimously passed.
A special issue of Fellowship Magazine (Summer 1999) on the "Decade for a Culture of Peace and Nonviolence" is designed to help spread understanding and support for the Decade. Glen Gerschmel's article gives hands on information on the remarkable work of the Lutheran Peace Fellowship in furthering the vision and potential of the Decade. Mark Hyman recounts how Tenafly Middle School in New Jersey built a culture of peace and nonviolence among the teachers and students in a program that exceeded everyone's expectations. Articles on Iraq and Kosova are reminders of the immediate work of peacemaking, even as we plant seeds for a future harvest of peace.
If this Decade reaches its potential, it will be because enough people and groups took
it seriously and developed creative programs and initiatives all across the globe. Even
while we continue to oppose US bombings in Yugoslavia and Iraq and work for a peaceful
society at home, we need to promote this great vision of nonviolence. Our steadfast work
to uphold this ideal will surely one day bear fruit.
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Last update: 13 Jul 2000