Baha'i News -- Peace-builders study reasons for violence

Peace-builders study reasons for violence

By Jeannine F. Hunter, News-Sentinel staff writer
June 9, 2002

World leaders sign treaties

Armies retreat

But sustaining peace also requires supporting efforts to change people's hearts and minds, said Hamidullah Natiq of Afghanistan.

Natiq, 43, is with the Corporation for Peace and Unity, a group that works with social, religious and health agencies in seven provinces in Afghanistan. He is one of a dozen international participants in the Summer Peacebuilding Institute, a four-day program on promoting world peace and studying conflict-resolution tactics.

"You can't guarantee political peace if cultural violence and structural violence, such as poverty, poor irrigation systems, etc., reigns," said Natiq.

The program that brings Natiq and other participants to the United States is a summer course of study on peace-building and conflict resolution at Eastern Mennonite University in Harrisonburg, Va.

During a break between sessions, a group of students and instructors came to East Tennessee under the sponsorship of local churches and organizations to share their messages in workshops, from pulpits and one-on-one with hosting families.

The Summertime Peacebuilding Institute began Thursday and ends today.

During the opening session Thursday at Wesley Foundation on the campus of the University of Tennessee, participants introduced themselves by walking up to a large world map and placing a blue star atop their homelands. Then each described their work.

"I think peace is a lifestyle," said Nour Emam, a lawyer active in the human rights movement in Jordan, who will address worshippers attending the Baha'i service at the downtown YWCA at 10 a.m. today.

After providing a history of the issues between Israelis and Palestinians, Zahida Abu Aisheh said sessions at EMU and in Knoxville allow her to "see a good day and a vision of hope that should be present around the world."

For the past three years, the institute has been brought to the greater Knoxville area through sponsorship from Concord Mennonite Church, Concord United Methodist Church, Oak Ridge's First Presbyterian Church, Highland Presbyterian Church in Maryville, the greater Knoxville Baha'i community, the Wesley Foundation at the University of Tennessee, the presbytery of East Tennessee's peace-building committee and World Citizenship Institute USA.

"The reality that the world's becoming a village that is adopting violence as a way of life is the greatest challenge to me," said Paulo Baleinakorodawa of Fiji, a former teacher who now works with a mission organization working with the nation's 773,000 inhabitants.

A coup in 2000 in Fiji changed the island nation, and for the first time in the country's history, guns were used to kill people, said Baleinakorodawa.

"We begin with peace-building in the family," he said. "We believe if we are to build peace in the world, that's where you start."

Jeannine F. Hunter may be reached at 865-342-6324 or

©Copyright 2002, The Knoxville News-Sentinel

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