Peace by Paces

By Beacon Staff

“I think there are other ways to fight than with weapons,” says Debi Strong, Montana’s state coordinator for the Department of Peace.

About a year ago, Strong saw a friend wearing a pin reading “Peace is Patriotic”. When she asked about it, the friend directed her to the Peace Alliance website.

“I was just so impressed by everything that it said,” Strong recalls, “and the fact that it was hopeful.” HR 808 before Congress calls for the establishment of a Department of Peace. The Peace Alliance website describes the DOP as working alongside the Departments of Defense and State, providing nonviolent options to conflict, and working with international and domestic organizations to root out the causes of violence. The website describes: While certain applications of brute force – from prisons to war – are arguably necessary, as a nation we should still be actively involved in a search for their ultimate end.
Internationally a DOP would coordinate with other, similar organizations, and in areas where all the CIA predictors of violence exist; poverty, high infant mortality, hopelessness, and powerlessness.
“If you look around the world,” Strong says, “where they have all these things is where the wars break out.” In a post military strike situation, the DOP would work with the people left behind to rebuild the society.
“Kids left vulnerable in situations of violence – war, natural disaster, anything – are vulnerable to whoever comes along and offers them food, shelter, and safety,” says Strong, “whoever says ‘come, I’ll take care of you,’ they’ll go to, and they’ll spend their lives in gratitude to those people, and they’ll pick up and learn whatever they’ll teach them.”
Domestically, the DOP would be involved in efforts to combat gang, domestic, and school violence as well as prison recidivism by finding existing programs that work, and expanding them.

Whether this would add just another layer of bureaucracy, or be a redundant addition to the State Department and the efforts of existing humanitarian organizations are the questions Strong most frequently encounters. The website says the DOP will augment the efforts of the Department of State, as well as the Department of Defense. Its work will go beyond “intelligence-gathering,” to a pro-active search for non-violent solutions. 2-percent of the 400-million dollar defense budget would fund the DOP, and it intends to act as an umbrella group for existing humanitarian aid groups.

“If you put a different word on it; if you put ‘safety,’ or ‘security,’ everybody wants that,” Strong says. “There’s always going to be conflict, that’s human nature, but it doesn’t have to be violent all the time.”

This is the fourth time a proposed DOP has gone before Congress. Strong says this effort is the only one sparked by grassroots organization, and not by a politician. She hopes a cabinet level position focused on rooting out the causes of violence can help existing peaceful operations go further and reach more people.
“I’ve got kids and grand kids, and I don’t want to see them grow up in a world so trashed and violent that it’s a miserable existence,” Strong explains, “I’d like to hope that things can change.”

Saturday, September 15th is the second annual “Walk for Peace” in Bigfork. Registration starts at 9:30 in the morning at the Bigfork Elementary upper parking lot. The walk is about 2 hours around the back of the schools, and through downtown Bigfork. Money raised will support the Department of Peace campaign. For sponsor sheets, contact Debi Strong at bfbear@aboutmontana.net.
On the web: www.peacealliance.org

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