Calgary area trail blazing initiatives for International Year for Culture of Peace

By Cindy Ballance
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'This is not a quick-fix type of thing or the flavor of the year. In Canada the national culture of peace is ongoing.' --Bob Stewart

The year 2000 has not only been earmarked as the commencement of a new millennium, it has also been acclaimed as the International Year for a Culture of Peace and the Calgary area is trail blazing initiatives with that theme.

Across Canada and the world the United Nations Association has recommended that a program of activities be focused on respect for cultural diversity and the promotion of tolerance, solidarity, cooperation, dialogue and reconciliation.

The Calgary branch of the United Nations Association has designated the theme of Culture of Peace as its focal point for the year 2000 and is acting as the coordinating body to organize various programs embodied to create safe and caring communities.

Recently, the Southern Alberta Culture of Peace working group was established as a province pilot to initiate various projects across the southern portion of the province.

'Alberta is the first off the mark,' said Bob Stewart, a member of the national working group for a Culture of Peace. Stewart is also a member of the Alberta working group, the Healthy Okotoks Coalition and director of the Canadian Centre for Teaching Peace.

'In Canada and in Calgary we think we are trail blazing.'

Stewart explained that four working groups have been established to handle and promote the various aspects of safe and caring communities.

' Group 1 will seek community participation to sign the Manifesto 2000. The Manifesto asks individuals, organizations, businesses, schools and councils to pledge to respect all life, reject violence, share with others, listen to understand, preserve the planet and rediscover solidarity.

'We feel that the pledge is a very powerful one,' said Stewart.

' Group 2 will initiate a safe and caring communities program.

Stewart explained that already various schools have adopted the safe and caring schools program, however, the program needs to be recognized at the community level as well.

With the safe and caring communities program, Stewart explained that various organizations have a mandate for peace and non-violence, however, many are not aware of what the other organizations are doing.

Through the working group it is expected that a network will be created to share what each organization is doing.

'So each one can use what each other is doing and make the best of limited resources,' said Stewart, adding that various dialogue needs to be opened.

' Group 3 will focus on the safe and caring communities program at the school level.

The goal, Stewart explained, is to have every child from kindergarten to Grade 12 receive the appropriate level of teaching in regards to the various aspects which make up a culture of peace.

It is hoped that through these initiatives, gaps between schools and their safe and caring schools program will be filled.

' Group 4 will focus on the business community and not only encourage them to sign the manifesto, but to share resources.

Stewart explained that the year 2000 will mostly be an organizational year for this global movement.

'Most people want a safe and caring community. What do we have to do to ensure that happens?' he said.

The various groups will be concentrating on raising awareness, signing the manifesto, creating networks, establishing activities and coming up with an action plan.

'This is not a quick-fix type of thing or the flavor of the year,' said Stewart. 'In Canada the national culture of peace is ongoing.'

The year 2000 will serve as a kick-start to a decade from 2001-2010 as International Decade for a Culture of Peace and non-violence for the children of the world.

'The year 2000 is kind of a turning point with the new millennium and we are taking advantage of this world-wide movement and bringing it back home,' Stewart added.

Stewart made a presentation at the Healthy Okotoks Coalition Tuesday to discuss the year for a Culture of Peace and the initiatives which have been sparked so far.

It is hoped that a community meeting will be held in the next month in Okotoks for those interested in becoming a part of this global movement.

If you require more information on the Manifesto 2000 or the Culture of Peace visit 'Canadian Centre for Teaching Peace at www. peace. ca.