Empowering civic activism toward a culture of peace.
Livonia was the destination of choice as Peace emissaries from five
Midwestern states and throughout Michigan attended the Midwest Regional
Department of Peace Conference hosted by The Citizens for Peace. The May 14 –
16 weekend event, held at Madonna University, attracted more than 100 advocates
of Peace and non-violence from all walks of life.
With the conference theme being “Making Peace a Priority: Vision;
Experience; Practice,” conference organizer Colleen Mills created a weekend
program that exuded passion and humor with several presentations evoking tears
from more than one member of the enthusiastic audience. “We wanted a balanced program with hands on
activities and useful ideas that they can return home with” said retired
Detroit teacher Colleen Mills, President of the Citizens for Peace.
Highlight of the conference was auxiliary Bishop Thomas Gumbleton’s
thought provoking and comprehensive analysis of the consequences of war and the
history of peaceful overtures in the
A surprise guest was Congressman John Conyers, head of the House
Judiciary Committee, who came unannounced Sunday, and heard Bishop Gumbleton. Colleen Mills reminded the Congressman of the
Citizens for Peace request that he work to get a “Peace and Non-violence”
category added to the Library of Congress.
He brought the house down when he promised to have Bishop Gumbleton meet
with President Obama.
Focus of the opening Friday night activities was the need for legislation
to prevent youth violence – The Youth Promise Act. Polly Anna Burnette-Egan, president of the
Schoolcraft College Peace Alliance, recognized as the most active group in the
nation, reported on the National Student Peace Alliance Conference in Austin,
Texas. Hers as well as that of two other
club officers’ transportation was funded by Citizens for Peace.
Colleen Mills opened Saturday’s program with the overview of the
Department of Peace legislation. Other activities and topics ranged from “Students
Empowering Students” by Northville’s Kevin Szawala to “Sharing - Idea Exchange”
led by attorney Dennis Mazurek of Redford, who was responsible for initiating
the first City Council endorsements for the Department of Peace, now numbering
more that 38 nationwide.
A special video from Congressman Dennis Kucinich, author of the Department of Peace Bill, was viewed.
Restorative Practices, a technique of using peer influence in “Conferencing
Circles” with adult facilitators, as a means of combating bullying behavior,
was graphically demonstrated by Livonia resident Rosemary Doyle and a group of
volunteers who played the roles of involved sixth graders and school personnel.
Chicago based journalist and Tribune Media Service Editor Robert Koehler
led the group in putting their passion for peace into words. Another Chicagoan,
Antony Adolf, author of the book “Peace: A World History”, discussed how we can
prepare for a “Department of Peace.”
Illinois State Coordinator of the Department of Peace Campaign, Karen
Johnson, explained the Peace Alliance’s Strategic Plan.
Popular meditation teacher, Kathy Henning of Livonia, closed the main part of the day with a meditative experience.
The presentation of the Upper Penninsula’s Sue Belanger was by definition a unique “hands on” activity. She supplied all those attending with a 108
piece “Global Peace(s)” Puzzle, a depiction of earth from outer space. Then, working in teams of 6-8 members, the
audience completed the puzzle as Sue narrated techniques for peaceful teamwork.
Westland participant Jeanette Scott described the
conference as “awesome!” A Missouri PHD
who attended with two of her students vowed to put into practice immediately
her newly learned peace methods. One student said “This was a transformative
experience for me. My life will never be the same!”
Another Livonia resident observed people from Kansas, Indiana, Illinois,
Missouri and all over Michigan will be talking about the wonderful hospitality
shown here, as well as peace.