Learning to Make Peace

On Wednesday, February 2, the dynamic and innovative mayor of Newark, New Jersey, Cory Booker, announced the Newark Peace Education Summit: The Power of Nonviolence. The Dalai Lama will join Mayor Booker and other activists and experts on May 13-15 to share stories of challenge and success in the inner city.

I think this may end up being more than just another conference. It could be a watershed event. The Dalai Lama headlined an event in 1997 in the San Francisco Bay Area with the same purposes: to explore ways in which the quality of peace found in meditation could be extended to the world at large. A lot has happened in 14 years. Traditional forms of activism and community organizing have been melding with approaches that foster mindfulness, awareness, compassion, and contemplation. Mindfulness is mainstream. And the Great Recession has hit the inner cities hard. They need more attention than ever.

The gathering–which is being produced by Tibet House US and co-convened by The Drew A. Katz Foundation–will bring together over thirty people who have worked to promote peace and non-violence in many different spheres, including South Bronx green jobs activist Majora Carter; Ismael Beah, whose account of his life has a child soldier is a groundbreaking work on trauma and recovery; cultural anthropologist Wade Davis; Anthony MacMillan, director of Newark’s downtown district; Zainab Salbi, founder of Women for Women International; prisoner advocate and reformer Wilbert Rideau; and Jeffrey Sachs, director of the Earth Institute.

The Dalai Lama has been on a long campaign to redefine the peace found in meditation as something that is more than personal. When we pause and leave space, we can discover natural warmth and openness that helps us see how to cultivate peace in the world. Such an effort helps to redefine “world peace” as something tangible and immediate, applicable to our immediate surroundings. When we reach out, we find that we are doing something more profound than giving a helping hand. We find we are interconnected, and we wonder just who is helping whom?

How can we cultivate peace in the front lines of America—the hard neighborhoods that are only miles or blocks from the most affluent addresses on the planet—where lack of opportunity goes hand in hand with violence? I’m hoping that many people will go to Newark to have something to say about that—and to learn something about that. We’ll be keeping our eyes and ears open.

Barry Boyce, Editor