Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Urban peace testimony -- Elaine Bishop

This item is excerpted from Vince Zelazny's blog about CYM 2011, Wish you were here.

Elaine Bishop, Co-recording Clerk at CYM sessions, with Dave Grossman of Home Mission and Advancement Committee.

Elaine Bishop's Urban Peace Testimony developed around her neighbourhood and place of work, the North Point Douglas Womens Centre in Winnipeg. I asked Elaine to elaborate on what an urban peace testimony was.  Peace testimony has been a movement to abolish war, and later, grew to incorporate a movement to create or cultivate peace. Elaine credits Meredith Egan with coining the term ‘urban peace testimony’, but found on reflection that it makes sense as a focus of inquiry.

We have a poor understanding of peace in relation to urban life. We understand land poorly in relation to urban areas and land ownership. To cultivate urban peace, people need food, water, adequate housing, safety from domestic and other forms of violence, friendship, spiritual nurture, and a whole host of things.

In Manitoba, there has been a huge influx of aboriginal people into the city of Winnipeg from the northern communities. This movement parallels depopulation of rural areas and rural influx of impoverished people happening in many countries of the global south. There are issues of safety that are emergent and pose a danger to new arrivals in the city, especially young women.

The Point Douglas Neighbourhood was recently in the news due to an unfortunate event where a person set fire to a rooming house in which four people died. This was publicised nationally by nearly all media. What was not reported was that the Womens centre immediately became involved by organizing prayers, memorials,  and smudging ceremonies on the site where the incident took place. A similar thing was done a year earlier at a nearby bus stop where a person had died in a violent attack. Spiritual nurture and healing thus are central elements of an urban peace testimony.  The centre also undertook environmental projects and a walking school bus, in an effort to promote normal, peaceful life.  CFSC collaborated with the Womens Centre to present a level 1 AVP workshop, and a level 2 workshop is also planned.  Step by step, the outlines of an urban peace testimony in north Winnipeg is emerging.

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