2012 Lake Junaluska Peace Conference Report

“Love in Action:

The Transformative Power of Nonviolence”

The 2012 Lake Junaluska Peace Conference

November 8th-11th  Report

North Carolina Peace Action was well represented at the 5th annual peace conference held at the Lake Junaluska Conference Center in western NC, November 8–11.  NC Peace Action leaders were an integral part of planning this year’s program which included:
·        Rev. Dr. Bernard LaFayette Jr., Distinguished Scholar in residence at Candler School of Theology
·        Dr. Michael Nagler, founder and president of the Metta Center for Nonviolence in Petaluma, CA
·        Rev. Alan Storey, Central Methodist Mission, Cape town, Africa
·        Ms. Leymah Gbowee, Liberian peace activist and Nobel Prize winner.
Each of these speakers provided riveting presentations describing events where otherwise ordinary people joined together to overcome seemingly insurmountable forces of violence and oppression.
Conference workshops were an opportunity to delve in to case studies of the use of nonviolence.  “How to Start a Revolution” featured a screening of the film “From Dictatorship to Democracy” about the work of Gene Sharpe, with discussion led by Doug Wingeier; and “Civilian Diplomacy,” led by Fellowship of Reconciliation Director Mark Johnson.  Following Mark’s description of FOR’s world-wide witness, our group engaged in a round table expression of personal experiences as “citizen diplomats.”
One unforgettable presentation was provided by a young Congolese student who overcame extraordinary odds to organize soccer games between warring factions in the Congo and Rwanda.
Another highlight of the conference was a Saturday afternoon workshop moderated by NCPA’s Betsy Crites and Michael Nagler, featuring an opening, interactive exercise conducted by Clare Hanrahan and Coleman Smith of the New South Network of War Resisters.  The workshop was designed as “An Activists’ Dialogue” with the following description: “Pacifism, Nonviolence, Diversity of Tactics;  How can we engage these concepts in ways that build toward a broader, deeper justice movement?
“Join Peace Conference speaker Michael Nagler, NC Peace Action, Veterans For Peace, the New South Network of War Resisters, Katuah Earth First! & Occupy Asheville’s Nonviolent Direct Action Trainers Group in an interactive dialogue on effective strategies and tactics for fundamental social, economic, and political change.”

Fifty people attended the two-hour discussion, which then led to another hour long conversation about how to continue this dialogue.

NC Peace Action board member Rachael Bliss described her impressions of the Saturday events:
“I’m so pleased that NC Peace Action made it possible for a van load of us peace activists from Asheville to attend some of Saturday’s events.  An extra benefit was to meet new people in our region who have devoted years of their lives to cultivating peace and putting their bodies and minds on the line.
“Although I was familiar with Gene Sharpe’s list of nonviolent strategies to promote change, I particularly liked material provided by Michael Nagler.  He was able to summarize degrees of risk along a timeline.  In most instances, promoters of change increase their personal risks (up to even death) when other less risky strategies fail to bring about desired changes.  His insights were useful for our struggles.
“Lastly, the featured speaker Nobel Peace Prize Winner from Liberia Leymah Gbowee challenged us to not let rage cause us to exchange violence with more violence, but instead to “pour our rage” into nonviolent containers, so true and lasting improvements can be realized even in the most dire circumstances.
“This was truly a good day for the Spirit of Peace to bring hope into my life.”
NCPA Director John Heuer is a member of the Lake Junaluska Peace Conference planning committee, and welcomes your suggestions for future conference themes and events.