Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable ... Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
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PEACE Iowa Winter 2015 Newsletter
Find out more about our project Iowans and Iranians Cultivating Peace
Promoting international peace through education,
citizen involvement, and personal choices
From the Winter 2015 PEACE Iowa Newsletter ...
Nonviolence as a Way of Life
Be kind because everyone you meet is carrying a great
Aligning one's thoughts, words and actions with an ethic of nonharming
is a life-long process.
It is motivated by the desire to alleviate pain and suffering, one's
own and others, and an ongoing awareness of the countless ways we
participate, both individually and collectively, in causing harm.
The web of relationships in which each of us finds ourselves is
the place this harm occurs, ranging from a simple act of unkind
speech, to often deeply ingrained biased and prejudicial attitudes, to
complex lifestyle choices (though, for many, there may be few, if
any, choices) related to food, clothing, shelter, education, health,
leisure, employment, governance, transportation,
Awareness of the harm we cause directly and
indirectly can be heartbreaking and overwhelming and
discouraging and numbing. It can lead to resignation,
paralysis, and cynicism, and is often resisted.
Yet, it is precisely this awareness that lights up the
many places where we can make choices that lead to
less and less harm, while at the same time planting the
seeds for and/or strengthening less harmful habits.
Here are a few examples. Acknowledging feelings of
anger and speaking kindly and firmly is possible, and
requires practice. Feeling afraid and making a sincere
effort to understand and get to know those who are
different is possible, and requires practice. Choosing to
get from home to work on a bicycle or by bus instead of
driving one's own vehicle is possible. Shifting one's
investments away from corporations that exploit their
employees and the environment and avoid paying their
share of taxes, to ones that do not, is possible.
Entering into this process more and more
completely requires courage, commitment, patience
and, especially, a light and wise touch so that efforts to
bring about justice and peace don't themselves cause
harm in the short term and sow the seeds of injustice
and violence for the future; e.g., waging war to bring
Support from others who are also committed to the
path of a less violent way of living and being can be
very helpful. Here are some local and not-so-local
organizations that could be helpful: PEACE Iowa, Iowa
Veterans for Peace, Pax Christi, Living Nonviolence,
Buddhist Peace Fellowship.
Campaign for Nonviolence
Excerpts of a speech delivered on behalf of PEACE
Iowa, Iowa City pedestrian mall, International Day of
Peace, Sept 21, 2014
Campaign Nonviolence is a long-term effort to build a
culture of peace, to end war, poverty, and the climate
crisis. It's an effort to illuminate the inter-relationship
of poverty, racism, militarism & violence, greed and
environmental degradation and address them in a
I'm an old guy who has not kept up to the musical
times, though I love Adele. Some of you have heard
Leonard Cohen, and one of his songs, “Everybody
Knows.” I believe everybody knows, at some level in
their being, that the American flag can stand for liberty
and justice for all, and that forever in peace may she
wave. It must not belong to those who see it as a
symbol of the most exceptional nation in history with
the right to impose its will whenever and wherever.
Everybody knows that we, all people, have a right to
clean air and clean water and food. Everybody knows
that wars and domestic violence not only result from
people being denied these resources because we do not
respect Mother Earth, but also that military activity
accelerates environmental degradation, and that the
US military is the largest consumer of oil and the
largest emitter of CO2 in the world. We know that
saying from the Bible, Wheresoever your treasure is,
there your heart is also. As a nation, we have invested
our treasure in the tools of war, and we need to change
our investment policy.
We all have reason to be sad. Our planet's health is
deteriorating, income inequality and poverty are
soaring, racism persists in old and new forms. We are
engaged in the longest war in US history (Afghanistan)
and appear to be on the threshold of a new war in
Syria. The cloud of nuclear destruction hangs over our
heads. Injustice and oppression permeate life here and
abroad. Our heroes seem to be athletes, movie stars,
CEOs, and the military.
Everybody knows those things, even if we don't act
as if we do.
Let us summon the will to act on what we believe,
and to take advantage of the wonderful resources
around us. Let's work with the 100 Grannies, the
Center for Worker Justice, Veterans for Peace,
Physicians for Social Responsibility, The Consultation
of Religious Communities, PEACE Iowa, and countless
other organizations whose daily work is waging peace.
Let us celebrate the People's Climate March, Iowa City
as a UNESCO City of Literature, and the largest solar
farm in Iowa located right here in Johnson County.
Let's include folks like Eugene Debs, Muhammad
Ali, Martin Luther King, William McKibben, and Daniel
Ellsberg in our pantheon of heroes. Let's listen to our
heart and what we know, and do what we can do to
have this wave in peace, with liberty and justice for all.
Peace, salaam, shalom.
Reflections on the Season of Peace on Earth Goodwill Toward . . .
It is literally a Hallmark card phrase. But how does
one reconcile ubiquitous wishes for peace on earth and
goodwill during the holiday season with the reality of
endless warfare around the world, violence in the
streets of American cities, and systems and cultures
that, everywhere, seem to produce or reinforce so
much materialism, competition, greed, inequality, and
injustice? Many people in Iowa do experience a
generous portion of peace, goodwill, security, and
comfort. But it is important to reflect upon both extant
joys and the struggles faced by people of conscience.
The struggle: War seems a constant in the world.
Americans participate in many ways. American tax
money enables troops on the ground in Afghanistan
and Iraq and drones overhead in Syria, Pakistan,
Yemen, and elsewhere. American bombs destroy
schools and their “collateral damage” often includes
innocents. “Made in the USA” weapons can be found
wherever conflict exists. America spent a trillion dollars
in Afghanistan and now “leaves” much of the country
in poverty and ruins.
The joy: A courageous young girl is awarded the
Nobel Prize for Peace and earns the attention of the
world for her message about the right for “beyond basic
education,” not only girls, but for all impoverished
children in the world. Her unwavering voice was heard
admonishing the royal and the powerful even as they
honored her. Caring people around the world proclaim,
“I am Malala.”
The struggle: The American government abuses its
power. Violence of and upon police troubles American
cities. The NSA collects information on American
citizens and breaks domestic and international laws in
doing so. The CIA tortures and abuses prisoners of war
and American prisons are packed to overflowing.
Guantanamo remains open despite the President's
long-standing pledge to close it.
The joy: Heroes, like Edward Snowden, risk
everything to reveal the truth and protect civil rights
and freedoms. Fearless journalists like Gary Webb
investigate and expose abuse of power. Peace activists,
like Kathy Kelly, voluntarily go to prison to bring a
public accounting to the hidden use and abuse of
The struggle: Greed dominates local, national and
international politics. Moneyed interests control
political discourse and, ultimately, legislation and
policy. Popular culture, in film, games, and social
media are replete with violent images, bullying,
misogyny, and crass materialism. Economic prosperity
is only available to the few, the socio-economic gap is
an ever-expanding crevasse, and democracy now
seems to be, more and more, a hollow ideal.
The joy: There remains, in many, a strong spirit
toward non-violence, justice, and morality. Some of the
disenfranchised are willing to take their message to the
streets in non-violent and constructive protest. True
democracy can be heard in the voices that reject
materialism and self-interest and promote the common
So: Peace on earth, goodwill to . . . all.
Sven-William Nilsson is the pen name of a PEACE
Peace Worker of the Month
Who's Who at PEACE Iowa?
Peace maker extraordinaire, Lori Nelson's conception of a community peace center in Iowa City came to fruition when she called a meeting of local activists together, who believed enough in the idea to work with her to found PEACE Iowa. Her convictions and her leadership skills are an outgrowth of her work as a director of a multicultural understanding program while in Pennsylvania, her involvement with the Iowa City Friends meeting for many years, her membership in Iowans for Peace since 9/11/2001, and her work teaching psychology, most recently for the University of Iowa.
Benyamin "Ben" Kazemi has been an extremely valuable volunteer for PEACE Iowa, translating children's messages from English to Farsi for our Iowans and Iranians Cultivating Peace Children's Project. He also staffed our Iran booth for kids in the Global Village at Art Fest 2013. Ben came from Iran to the US to go to graduate school. After he received his master's degree in computer science, he started working in the IT department at the University of Iowa. He has been living in Iowa City since January 2011, and he says he is happy that he has ended up in such a beautiful city with beautiful people.
Though not in Vietnam, Ed Flaherty was in the Army in 1966 to 1968, and was among those veterans who threw their medals over the fence at the Capitol in 1971. He always thought that if the US had only learned the right lessons from the Vietnam fiasco we'd have had a chance of pursuing a just foreign policy. In civilian life Ed worked as a banker serving farm families and small businesses from 1981 to 2009, and now retired, welcomes the opportunity to devote time to rabble-rousing for peace as an active member of Veterans for Peace. Ed is currently on the PEACE Iowa Board of Directors.
A University of Iowa graduate, Alisa Meggitt has lived in Iowa City in recent years, working as a middle school global studies teacher, introducing her sixth graders to issues such as child labor, world hunger, ageism, and factory farming. At one point her students raised $3500, which Alisa took to her former Peace Corps village in Senegal, Africa, to coordinate draught rescue and relief efforts. Alisa is one of the main organizers of Peace Day, our annual collaboration with the Iowa Children’s Museum. In preparation for Peace Day, she leads peace literacy workshops to educate 7th-10th graders about war and peace, and then helps these middle and high school students create peace education activities for younger children.
Currently the secretary of the PEACE Iowa Board and a PEACE Iowa office volunteer, Ann Stomquist has lived in Iowa City for over 30 years, 19 of those years as a Research Scientist in the UI College of Public Health coordinating a federally-funded rural environmental health study. A lifelong Quaker and pacifist, she attends the West Branch Friends Meeting for which she is currently Co-Clerk of the meeting's Peace and Social Concerns Committee. Her past work includes two years of mentoring women and teaching Swahili literacy in Tanzania as an AFSC volunteer, and participating in the anti-Vietnam War movement as a member of the Milwaukee Catholic Worker community. Ann brings to PEACE Iowa her administative skills and a lifetime of commitment to improving lives.
Aaron Rempp grew up in Iowa City and has many years of experience in human services. He is currently employed as a social worker in Cedar Rapids. He is working with our intern Peyton on an interview project, as well as assisting us with seeking in-kind donations from local businesses and [with] staffing the Peace Literacy Workshops for Youth.
—from the PEACE Iowa Spring 2013 Newsletter
A native of Iowa City, Virginia Dreier graduated from Oberlin College in Ohio in 2008 with a focus in Buddhist philosophy and Environmental Education. After graduation she worked in outdoor education, moving seasonally around the country. Returning to Iowa City in 2010, she began work as a Montessori Preschool assistant teacher at Willowwind School. Her desire for health and inner peace lead her to train as a massage therapist and in 2013 she opened her own business, Renew Massage. She also enjoys fiddle, exercise, Taproot, and meditation, and she attends the Friends Meeting in Iowa City. Virginia is very happy to join PEACE Iowa and share her communication skills as she learns new ways of being and promoting peace.
A Mediator with a law degree, Miriam Timmer-Hackert has been a Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence Victim Advocate, having learned that
rape survivors, domestic violence victims, and soldiers often suffer similar Post Traumatic Stress Disorder because they were in life-threatening, violent, out of control situations. They all tend to be blamed and silenced by our society which wants those "unspeakable" horrors of war and family violence to stay hidden. She attends Trinity Episcopal Church.
Marcia Shaffer, one of those faithful folks who hold PEACE Iowa together, is that familiar voice who answers the office phone on Wednesdays. In addition to taking on the duties of organizational treasurer, she is the principal staff person for the office once a week, handling the backlog of E-mail, returning and answering phone calls, and taking on the considerable PEACE Iowa paperwork.
Dennis Bricker is a Professor Emeritus of Industrial Engineering for the University of Iowa, having contributed to his field with a considerable body of published research. Dennis brings an unassuming, unruffled management style to the technical and Internet office tasks required of him weekly, and is currently involved with of the PEACE Iowa website development among other duties.
A member of Veterans for Peace, Jeff Strotmann has been involved in the movement since the Viet Nam war era when he was arrested for demonstrating against US involvement in that war. As a weekly PEACE Iowa office worker, Jeff terms himself "master of the copy machine," running off everything on that recalcitrant piece of equipment from fliers to mailings to meeting notes.
Thanks to Rose & Peter Persaud for this photo of the January 1, 2007
Iowa City vigil mourning the Iraq War dead—3000 U.S. soldiers and many more Iraqi civilians.