Tuesday, 22 November, 2011

international, YMCA Peace Week

Mary Anne Roche asks: what can you do to promote peace?

Throughout the Fall, I am pleased to bring you a series of information, insights and ideas presented by guest bloggers. Today I am pleased to welcome Mary Anne Roche, Vice President, International Development and Relations at YMCA Canada.
– Scott



I live in a Toronto high-rise filled with renters of all ages leading busy lives. There are 17 apartments on my floor but last year, my first in the building, I didn’t meet anyone. Our comings and goings were on different schedules. As Christmas approached, I decided to host an Open House for my floor. Although a little worried about potential outcomes (maybe someone was a felon on the run? what if no one came?), I slipped an invite under each door and, with food and drink ready, waited one Sunday afternoon. With the first knock on the door, I breathed a sigh of relief and passed a pleasant afternoon, getting to know a variety of people. In the end, I met or heard from neighbours in 14 apartments. And the only surprise was the genuine curiosity of several of them who after expressing appreciation, then asked: why are you doing this?

November 19 to 26 is YMCA Peace Week and sometimes I hear the same question: why does the YMCA do this?  A couple of weeks ago, 80 Canadians experienced some of the reasons. Under the banner of Building Global Community Together, we talked, laughed, and learned with volunteers and staff from 34 countries at the YMCA International Conference organized by YMCA Canada, YMCA Mexico and the YMCA of the USA.

The conference highlighted the deepening recognition of our power, as a global social movement for change, to truly make a difference in our communities, locally and globally. Although we may sometimes struggle to define this difference, our collective values, actions and programs demonstrate that a wish for peace is at the core. A peace that’s not just the absence of war but the true peace that comes when there is respect for human rights and the presence of adequate food, shelter, education, employment, health, and environmental sustainability.

This year, world events again remind us that making true peace is not for the faint-hearted. We see young people everywhere raising their voices in support of a world of greater equality, greater opportunity, greater environmental integrity. Their voices remind us that peacemakers are the people and organizations able to imagine creating the presence of something that wasn’t there before. Their actions remind us that peace includes struggle and to be a peacemaker is to take up the struggle, however big or small.

YMCA Peace Week offers the time and a place to be genuinely curious about our world and to talk, laugh and learn with each other. What does peace mean? What’s going on in our community that promotes peace? How are young people leading the way? In what ways is our community struggling? How do we strengthen our community, our city, our world? What can I-you-we do to promote peace?

YMCA Canada has produced a short video to start the conversation. We suggest peace is something we create together. You may have other ideas and are invited to contribute your perspective on the YMCA Peace Week Facebook page.

My neighbours wanted to contribute and to be part of my Open House in some way, even if they couldn’t attend. All YMCA leaders can tell similar stories, stories of people ready to reach out and connect, wanting to contribute however they can, eager to talk about the issues that give their lives meaning.

Why does the YMCA highlight peace and peacemakers during November? I know how I would answer this question – how about you?