By Christine Sheller
The Saturday afternoon Holiday Open House and Alternative Gift Fair held by Iowa Peace Network last week Dec. 3, was a success.We had good attendance of at least 25. People shopped at the various tables with different items ranging from donating a share of a sheep at Heifer International, or buying Palestinian olive oil from Catholic Peace Ministry, chocolate or coffee from Equal Exchange, various handcrafts from Guatemalan Accompaniment Project, and peace and justice items from Iowa Peace Network.
Our program started at , when (native Iowan) Mel Duncan of Nonviolent Peaceforce shared about what their organization does, and facts about “unarmed civilian protection.” It was very informative, and inspiring. He came with his coworker and colleague (also native Iowan!) Kathleen Laurila, who helped organize the speaking engagement.
Nonviolent Peaceforce is an international organization, based in
holding their board meetings around the world, and having unarmed civilian
protection presence in many countries around the world. Some of these countries include South Sudan, Myanmar, Syria, and others. They train many people native to the
countries to be the “peacekeepers.” A
couple other facts stood out to me- with Nonviolent Peaceforce 50% of their personnel are women, compared to the
UN Peacekeeping force as only 3-4%.
Also, per an audience question, no one has ever been killed in the 14
years they have been doing this. They
have had some injuries.
According to Nonviolent Peaceforce, they are non-partisan with a tri-part mission: to protect civilians in violent conflicts through unarmed strategies; to build peace side by side with local communities; and to advocate for the wider adoption of these approaches to safeguard human lives and dignity.
Another interesting facet is that there are now 12 organizations who do similar things as Nonviolent Peaceforce. Many of us know Christian Peacemaker Teams, but there are several others.
At the completion of the presentation,
Duncan took more questions and then we passed
the basket for donations to go to Nonviolent Peaceforce. There was time for finishing up some shopping
and mingle. The event closed at .
Thank you to all who helped make this event possible including vendors, presenters, and those who helped with baking treats!
Christine Sheller is coordinator and editor at Iowa Peace Network. She holds an M. Div. from Bethany Theological Seminary.