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Why A Summer of Peace?

By Philip M. Hellmich
The Director of Peace, the Shift Network
Author: God and Conflict: A Search for Peace in a Time of Crisis

Sanskrit has 108 words for love.
Islam has 99 names for God.
Japanese has 14 words for beauty.

We’ve got one word for Peace.... We don’t have enough words
to accurately describe all the different types of peace.
I think it was Socrates who once said if you don’t have a word to describe something,
then how can you think about it?

— Steve Killelea (PeaceWeek 2011)

The Summer of Peace is launching in the next few days and will feature a free telesummit with dozens of the world’s leading peacebuilders.  Plus, there are amazing calls to action where the Shift Network community and others can come together and a make real difference in the world.

The Summer of Peace is carefully designed to bridge the deep inner spiritual realms together with the grounded, and at times even hard-nosed, practical actions that can transform difficult situations. 

Before I outline some of the activities and opportunities to participate, I would like to answer from my heart this question: 

Why a Summer of Peace? 

The answer is simple: every day, each of us faces the same battle: the battle between hope and despair. 

And, to be honest, the fate of humanity depends on a critical mass of people embracing hope and then taking practical action guided by deep inner wisdom to create a more sustainable and peaceful world, starting right at home in ourselves and with our families, friends, neighbors, schools and communities.

Sure, this may sound overly simplistic and even grandiose, and yet I am quite serious. 

It is very easy to fall into a place of complacency, despair and cynicism about the world.  The daily news is filled with stories of endless violence in Syria, Afghanistan and inner cities across the United States and world.  The global economy is ever precariously teetering on the brink of collapse and the environment is showing increasing signs of strain from the massive onslaught of accelerated consumerism – the Western pursuit of happiness.

All of these problems can seem overwhelming and each of us can think: what’s the use?  What can I do? 

Believe me; I know this inner struggle between hope and despair all to well.  Many of you will recall that I lived in small remote bush villages in Sierra Leone for four years, serving with the Peace Corps.  These villages were later sacked during a bloody chaotic war fueled in part by the global economy, where blood diamonds, timber trade and other commodities were traded for money to purchase AK-47s and other weapons.  One of the villages I lived in, Masongbo, was sacked by a rebel unit headed by a child soldier named Colonel Rambo, trained in part by watching Rambo movies.

I got to go back on peacebuilding missions to Sierra Leone and saw firsthand the impact of deadly violence on loved ones.  Some friends were killed, some raped, and many beaten.

Witnessing the impact of these atrocities drove me deeper into a meditation practicing, seeking peace and meaning, all the while supporting concrete peacebuilding projects with Search for Common Ground, one of the world’s leading conflict transformation organizations. 

I also met incredibly courageous and even joyful peacebuilders in Sierra Leone and all across Africa and later Macedonia, Nepal, India and United States.  These peacebuilders were my teachers and inspiration, convincing me that it is possible to face the most difficult expressions of humanity and to respond with practical and even fierce compassion in action.  In fact, I could see there is a wave of peacebuilding quietly emerging around the world in multiple sectors of society.

Inner Peace is a Global Responsibility

Through these experiences, I began to see the parallels between inner and outer peacebuilding.  There was no separation between the meditation pillow and in-this-world action.  In fact, I could see how inner peace is a global responsibility – inner spiritual void and emotional unrest can lead to mindless consumption and the global economy only fuels this outward pursuit of happiness.  People around the world and the natural environment are affected by this large scale lack of inner peace.

At the same time, the most powerful peacebuilding initiatives that I have witnessed were those implemented by people with a deep sense of inner awareness.  Their outward actions and ability to sustain their efforts were inspired by an inner source that seemed to be rooted in an embodied understanding of our basic oneness. 

For these reasons, I am absolutely passionate about the Summer of Peace.

When Stephen Dinan and Emily Hine invited me to work on the Summer of Peace, I was thrilled.  It was an opportunity to say:

YES – let’s celebrate the peacebuilders around the world.
YES – let’s look at the challenges head on and shine a light on practical means of transformation
YES – let’s bridge the inner and outer peacebuilding

What we appreciate, appreciates.  So let’s appreciate peace!

Stephen, Emily, other staff members and I spent hours looking at how to create an initiative that is based on universal spiritual wisdom and that can lead to practical actions. We had amazing friends in partnering peacebuilding organizations who have helped co-create the Summer of Peace, including David Nicol (the Gaiafield Project), Matthew Albracht (The Peace Alliance), Fred Arment (International Cities of Peace), Avon Mattison (Pathways to Peace), Dot Maver (The National Peace Academy), Jennae Wallach (Peace Ambassador in Oakland), Stephen Fantl (PeaceDay TV), Jon Ramer (Compassion Games) and many more.  It is an utter joy to work in community!

Plus, the Summer of Peace is guided by a Wisdom Council of twelve highly accomplished peacebuilders, including Ambassador Chowdhury from the United Nations, Susan Collin Marks, Search for Common Ground Senior Vice President and our beloved James O’Dea, a personal friend and co-mentor for over 21 years.

The Summer of Peace has become a platform for all of us to come together, to look at the personal and global challenges, and as a community, contribute to creating a culture of peace.

In the Summer of Peace 2012 we had several milestones, including: 

  • United Nations High-Level Forum on a Culture of Peace: the Summer of Peace was featured at this first ever high-level forum.
  • Peace and the MilitaryThe Alliance for Peacebuilding held a forum on Peace and the military at the United States Institute of Peace in Washington, DC.
  • Global Telesummit: A daily telesummit featured over 120 peacebuilders, providing what may be the first comprehensive overview of peacebuilding from the inner to the international levels and across 15 sectors of society.  People from over 130 countries registered for the telesummit.
  • Declaration of Commitment to Indigenous Peoples: This commitment was drafted by James O’Dea for the Summer of Peace and presented to Indigenous Elders.  Nearly 10,000 people signed it.
  • Peace Events: Over 400 Peace events happened in communities around the world, including concerts, meditations, prayer vigils, dances, presentations, film festivals, petitions, etc….

Ways to Engage


This year the Summer of Peace is focused on Celebrating our Common Humanity and taking action. 

Our common humanity is a critical aspect of peacebuilding.  When in conflict, it is easy to become polarized and to see “the other” as the problem. The way to overcome the problem is to attack and defeat the other, even kill.  In order to attack the other, we stereotype, demonize and dehumanize.

When taken to an extreme, polarization can lead to terrible violence and political grid lock.  There is a narrow range of solutions available in this mindset.  The world’s problems are far too complex for this type of problem solving.

When we rediscover our common humanity with the other, it can awaken our innate capacity for compassion, love and forgiveness.  The goal is to have people go from attacking each other to standing side by side to address shared problems.  This approach increases creativity and range of possible solutions.  (I go into great detail about these dynamics in my book, God and Conflict: A Search for Peace in a Time of Crisis.) 

Here are a few “pre-launch” activities currently underway where you can participate: 

  • UN 100 Day Countdown to the International Day of Peace (June 13 – recording available) The International Day of Peace is the largest global peace celebration and we all can participate!  In this call, we heard from United Nations and civil society leaders.  It truly was amazing.
  • A Peace Rally call with James O'Dea, outlining many ways you can take action during the Summer of Peace.  This recording is an exceptional inspiring way to learn how to get involved.  (June 15 – recording available)
  • Global Meditation - June 20 at 9 a.m. PT - we will celebrate the Earth Treasure Vase Project's historic event in Australia that will connect a grid of spiritual centers around the world. YOU can join the meditation.
  • Live event with James O'Dea and Rev. Elouise Oliver at the East Bay Church of Religious Sciences in Oakland on June 23 - 9 a.m, 11 a.m. church services and 2-5:30 p.m. special event. YOU can attend live or watch via Summer of Peace TV.

(Click here for pre-launch details and recordings)

The telesummit will begin on June 23 at 9 a.m. PT with David Nicole leading a panel discussion about subtle activism – how prayer and meditation affects the world.  Next, we will feature an inter-generational dialogue between Nobel Laureate Jody Williams, Sister Ines and Flor Gonzales, the latter two working front lines with gangs in Los Angeles.  This will be followed by the Birth 2012 Welcoming Committee exploring a vision for 2020.

In the first week, we also will feature Stephan Said, an Iraqi-American musician who just filmed a global peace song on the streets of Baghdad.  I was in close contact with Stephan days before his trip and we talked extensively about the security risks and our mutual passion to show the world there is light and joy even in difficult conflict areas. Stephan’s video will be released on June 18 and we will highlight it throughout the Summer of Peace.

After the initial week, the telesummit will have three broad tracks: critical issues (Tuesdays), Restorative Justice on the Rise (Thursdays) and Spirituality and Peacebuilding (Sundays), all with calls to action. 

One of the most enjoyable parts of creating the telesummit is doing it in partnership.  Besides the wonderful Shift staff, and there are many who help create it, there are several partners who put their hearts into creating the summit.

For example, David Nicol did his PhD research on subtle activism.  David and I have spent hours looking at how to create the Spirituality and Peace series so it contributes to the development of subtle activism as an emerging science; and, have the sessions strengthen a network of subtle activism groups around the world to do synchronized meditations aimed at promoting peace.

Molly Rowan Leach is creating the Restorative Justice on the Rise series, and as you will read in Molly’s article, this comes from a place of deep passion and soul purpose – her mother has been in prison for over 15 years. 

Chief Phil Lane Jr and Jon Ramer are creating a day-long summit on the Reunion of Condor and Eagle, highlighting indigenous prophesies and wisdom on creating a sustainable and harmonious world. 

Plus, Jon Ramer will create a day-long summit on compassion in action which will lead to compassion games, where entire cities will compete on which one can do the most acts of kindness.

Meanwhile, each of the Tuesday sessions will feature people who are passionately addressing issues such as preventing bullying in schools, moving beyond gun violence and ending human trafficking.

The purpose of the summit sessions are to inspire and inform.  Then it’s up to all of us to get involved in ways that are meaning for us. 

This year, thanks to Catherine Douglas, we have expanded social media platforms so each of us (YOU too) can share our stories, photos, videos and actions for peace.  We can learn from or “co-mentor” one another, as James O’Dea likes to say. (Click here for a social media toolkit)

Plus, we have an extensive list of actions offered by partner organizations, including global meditations, competing in compassion games, lobbying for peace policies, creating cities of peace and many, many more.  Many of the activities are simply fun, such as attending or sponsoring Playing for Change concerts or Earthdance festivals. (Click here to see a list of actions.)

One of the wonderful gifts I learned from friends in Sierra Leone is that peace building can be joyful.

With that, my friends, I invite you to bring your heart’s desire for a more peaceful world and together let’s make the Summer of Peace a joyous celebration of our common humanity.

The Catalyst is produced by The Shift Network to feature inspiring stories and provide information to help shift consciousness and take practical action. To receive The Catalyst twice a month, sign up here.

This article appears in:
2013 Catalyst - Issue 10

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