Peace & Peacemakers in Raleigh:
The 2015 Peacemaker Award Dinner & First Annual Peace Week

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2015 Student Peacemaker Awardee, Fareed Selim

Raleigh, NC held its First Annual Peace Week September 18-26. During that time, faith communities throughout the area worked together to celebrate and support “Building a Culture of Non-Violence”. On Saturday, Sept. 19, Holy Trinity Lutheran Church hosted a Peace Festival which offered activities, workshops, and events that highlighted peace, justice, and environmental activism and activists.

On Monday, Sept. 21, Raleigh joined communities large and small, near and far, to commemorate the International Day of Peace. Throughout the world, the International Day of Peace is a day of celebration and of reflection. On Monday evening, Highland Memorial United Methodist Church was also a place to reflect on peace and to celebrate peacemakers.

NC Peace Action Chair, David Harris, gave the Call to Order Prayer. He then invited all to enjoy the excellent dinner buffet provided by Nation’s Catering. Dani Nation and crew served a feast of aromatic za’atar chicken, couscous, salads, and grilled vegetables. Dessert was a rich ricotta cheesecake with fresh pomegranate topping. It was deliciously obvious why Nation’s Catering is a favorite of area foodies.

Joe Burton, NC Peace Action Treasurer, welcomed attendees to its 2015 Peacemaker Award Dinner and Celebration of the International Day of Peace. Joe remembered Bill Towe*, former NCPA Director and longtime supporter of NC and National Peace Action. Bill observed, “Being a peacemaker requires a long-distance runner.” Treasurer Burton shared a South African proverb: “ If you travel alone you can go fast. But if you travel together you can go far. “ He concluded, “I’m glad to have so many travelers together on this occasion.” Travelers greatly missed that evening, but present in the hearts and thoughts of many, were former NCPA Director, John Heuer, and his wife, Sue Merris. There were warm wishes for John’s speedy recovery from his recent surgery.

NC Peace Action Media Coordinator Mia Austin-Scoggins presented the 2015 Student Peacemaker Award to 8-year-old Fareed Selim, a 2nd grade student at Green Elementary School in Raleigh. After much applause for Fareed’s achievements, those at the dinner watched, “No Bullies, No War”—the film was created by Fareed in response to being bullied as a 1st grader on the school bus.

Fareed wrote, directed, and co-produced with his father, Ahmed Selim the short film. The video featured local artist, activist, & Veterans for Peace Associate Member Roger Ehrlich’s “Swords to Plowshares” Bell Tower. For the 2014 Armistice Day at the State Capitol, Fareed asked people to complete the statement, “The World Would Be a Better Place If…”. “No Bullies, No War” won 1st place in the Primary Grades division in the National PTA’s “Reflections” competition at his school, 1st place in Wake County, and 1st place for Primary Grades in the state competition. “No Bullies, No War” received a national Honorable Mention award.

NC Peace Action Secretary, Anne Cassebaum, presented the 2015 Adult Peacemaker Award to the Peace Media Group. She noted that since its inception in 2012, Peace Media Group’s goal has been to have one letter a week appear in a Central North Carolina newspaper. The purpose of Peace Media Group’s letter writing campaign is to challenge prevailing attitudes that wars are inevitable, keep us safe, and preserve our prosperity. They have already surpassed that goal.

Peace Media Group’s Co-Coordinators, Betsy Crites, Vickie Ryder, and Curt Torell, accepted the Award on behalf of all the group’s volunteer letter writers. Betsy Crites helped form Witness for Peace in 1983, and Peace Media Group in 2012. Ms. Crites is a former Director of the Metta Center and also North Carolina Peace Action.

Vicki Ryder retired from a career as a mediator and conflict management/training specialist. At present she devotes her energy and talents to Veterans for Peace, NAACP’s Moral Monday Movement, Peace Media Group, and Triangle Raging Grannies.
Curt Torell is a specialist in educational and organizational development. Dr. Torell’s contributions include work with Fayetteville’s Quaker House, at Fort Bragg, NC Choices for Youth, which informs young people about alternatives to the military, and Peace Media Group.

In 2012, said Ms. Crites, members of Durham Peace Action initiated a letter writing campaign as the Peace Media Group. Their goal was to have one letter a week printed in a local newspaper. Peace Media Group has achieved and surpassed that goal. In the last year, 88 letters on peace topics were published. 90% of those were from members of Peace Media Group. Letters have appeared in the Durham Herald Sun, the N&O, the Fayetteville Observer, the Greensboro News and Record, and Burlington’s Times News. Peace Media Group welcomes new writers for peace. Their meeting on the second Thursday of each month is an opportunity to share ideas and support. Peace Media Group has developed a workshop on writing for print media. Workshops are available for those who want to write on other issues.

Upon receiving the award, Ms. Crites concluded, “Our hope is to open minds and promote peace. It may be like water dripping on a stone of militarism, but perhaps gradually a crack will form from which flowers of peace can take root.”

Sandy Irving, NC Peace Action Vice-Chair, introduced the 2015 Peacemaker Award Dinner’s featured speaker, Mark Siljander. Mr. Siljander is a former Republican congressperson, Deputy Ambassador to the UN, and author of A Deadly Misunderstanding: A Quest to Bridge the Muslim-Christian Divide. Engaging and energetic, the author recounted life as an Evangelical Christian on his quest to be an instrument of peace in the Middle East. Respect and understanding between the two religions can bridge the Muslim-Christian divide. Otherwise, cautioned Mr. Siljander, “No matter which side of an armed conflict one supports, both sides are ultimately sponsors of the same end: destruction.” Mr. Siljander’s remarks received an enthusiastic response.

NCPA Chair David Harris facilitated a Q&A for the Speaker and Awardees. Attendees posed several questions and responded with a hearty round of applause for Mark Siljander, Fareed Selim, and Peace Media Group.

Chair David Harris offered final words of congratulations and appreciation on behalf of NC Peace Action. Mr. Harris especially thanked all those who contributed to make the evening memorable. Linda Burton’s placemats were themselves decorations. Crystalline notes graced and closed the evening as Peacemaker Vicki Ryder sang Ed McCurdy’s classic song of hope and peace,

“Last night I had the strangest dream I’ve ever dreamed before.
I dreamed the world had all agreed to put an end to war.”

Peace Week in Raleigh. A Peace Festival. The International Day of Peace. 2015’s Peacemaker Award Dinner. Images and words, youth and adults. Brick and mortar to build a culture of peace.

 

* Proceeds from the Dinner are dedicated to the Bill and Betsy Jean Towe Peace Legacy Fund.

Account written by Mia Austin-Scoggins