I'd rather teach peace
Angela Crothers & Benzi Kluger
January 2007

The Gainesville Interfaith Peace Center who recently completed their second successful Solutions to Violence Mini-Courses. The series was inspired by Colman McCarthy, the founder of the Center for Teaching Peace in Washington, D.C. In 1982 Coleman was asked to teach a course on writing at Washington's School without Walls. He replied, "I'd rather teach peace". His course, Peace and World Order, was born out of this simple statement. His book Solutions to Violence is a thoughtful compilation of writings on peace and served as the starting point for the group's discussions.

The Interfaith Peace Center in Gainesville is an initiative of local Quakers, Mennonites and Episcopalians who have held fast to the ideal of bringing people together across religious boundaries to promote peace. Amidst discussions ranging from civil disobedience to feminism, to the death penalty and war tax resistance there remained one underlying message. The need to not just learn about peace, but to talk about peace. And not just to sympathetic ears. We can all learn and grow through open and respectful dialogue.

The group itself is quite diverse. On any given Saturday you may find yourself sitting next to a Quaker, Buddhist, Unitarian, Catholic, atheist, agnostic... (you get the picture). The emphasis is on Interfaith (not faith) and the common denomination is an interest in peace. While novices to the peace movement discovered principles of non-violence, long-standing activists had the opportunity to reflect on many of their ideals with a larger group. Profoundly unique to these meetings was not only the diversity in age, background and politics but the foundation of respect and courtesy for all.

No doubt the group owes much of its success to the admirable leadership and organizational abilities of Don Smith. His background as a Senior Trainer and Discussion Leader for the Great Books Foundation and former Clerk of the Gainesville Friends Meeting served him well. Don Smith artfully balanced tolerance and open communication with focus and purpose. However, as the humble Smith readily admits, he sees his role as a facilitator. It takes a strong person to lead a group, but a wise person to allow a group to discover its own power.

It is somewhat misleading to call this a course. What was billed as a lecture series really began as a discussion group and eventually evolved into the embodiment of the Gainesville Interfaith Peace Center.

Meetings are always free and open to the public. The next meeting will be held on Saturday Feb. 10th at 10:00 AM at the Westminster Presbyterian Church located at 1521 NW 34th Street in Gainesville. Hope to see you there.

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