Memorial Day Weekend in the MotorCity:
The Shanti Sena Network brought together a group of peacemakers and educators from around the United States over the the 2013 Memorial Day weekend to expand their nonviolent intervention skills as well as to broaden and promote domestic peacekeeping networks. The Shanti Sena Network (SSN) is a coalition of nonviolence skills trainers from across North America, working to train and place short-term peace teams where needed.
Saturday's Nonviolence Skills Training was open to the public and attracted people from both coasts as well as several from the metropolitan Detroit area. Held at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church, which houses the new offices of Meta Peace Team - Detroit, Saturday’s skills training was well received by participants and helped begin the establishment of a standardized SSN curriculum.
“I've been verbally threatened by someone who didn’t know me more than once in my life,” stated Alycia Hutchisson, President of A Mission of Hope, Inc. One of the most practical tools I learned at this training was to look the aggressive person in the eye, extend my hand and introduce myself before continuing a conversation. This technique has been proven to de-escalate a potentially violent situation and I am delighted to have this tool should I need it in the future.”
On Sunday, Dr. Michael Nagler, professor emeritus of Classics and Comparative Literature at the University of California-Berkeley, presented ways to strategize for peace. Nagler co-founded the Peace and Conflict Studies Program at UC, Berkeley and founded the Metta Center for Nonviolence. The group also discussed the benefits of outreach to other groups in helping to diversify the membership.
Jacob Bauer of Dayton, OH found the weekend “useful in developing a set of tools to de-escalate violence on a very practical level.” He believes this practice gives hope for creating a nonviolent future. Everyone in the group has been active with peace-building in one way or another, from involvement with the U.S. Peace Corps to Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT). Michigan groups in addition to Meta Peace Team who attended included Michigan Coalition for Human Rights, Pax Christi Michigan, and the Detroit Area Peace with Justice Network (DAPJN), among others based on a national level.
All involved found common ground in working to change the national conversation from one based on aggression and retaliation to one based on nonviolence and justice. They're actively confronting the illusion of separateness from one another, offering strong, viable, effective alternatives to violence by deploying trained, peace teams as fast as the police can deploy their officers to a crime scene or the military can deploy their troops to the front lines. MPT works with other peace and justice organizations and only gets involved upon specific request from organizations. The teams make their presence known by wearing yellow “Peace Team” vests, placing themselves between conflicting parties to help de-escalate potentially violent situations.
Meta Peace team has been instrumental in direct nonviolent intervention at both the local and international levels, from the annual Pride Day Parade in Lansing to long-term presence in Palestine/Israel.
The Shanti Sena Network members maintain ongoing communication via the Metta Center for Nonviolence. Regional meetings are being discussed for the future, with national face-to-face gatherings occurring at least annually.