(Speech by Sophia La Toa, Ministry of Peace Forum, Wellington 25 May 2006)

Pax Cultura

Too many wars
Blood of our kin
Harrowed in soil
Year out year in

Past present future
Ringed in eternity
Religion science art
Liberty equality fraternity

Daughters of feeling
Sons of mind
We cry freedom
For all humankind

India's symbol Chintamani
Temple of Heaven Peking
Three Treasures of Tibet
Breast of Christ by Memling

White crosses to bear
Red roses to die
Tiny blue flags
Black cemetery fly

Madonna of Strasbourg
Caucasian sword Gurdas
Knights Templars in arms
Shields of Crusaders

Wars for religion
Wars for greed
Legacies sown
In bloody creed

Mongolian rocks Himalayan skies
Samarkand Ethiopian antiquities
Rigden Djapo Tamga of Timurlane
St Sergius and the Holy Trinity

Banner of Peace
Banner of Love
Time for Peace
Time for Love

© 2003 Sophia La Toa

Can we imagine a world without war? Can we imagine a Planet of Peace?
How can we hasten that great day where peace can become a normal part of everyday life? In asking such questions, allow our imaginations to challenge us to dream of a new world. To unleash within us a collective spirit of change that can so transform our violent history forever.

Let us seek to become abolitionists of violence; envisioning a world without war, without poverty, without injustice and without nuclear weapons! Let us give wings to that vision by creating movements for disarmament and demanding social justice. Let us trust that one day, our vision of global peace will become a living reality.

The issues we face are many and complex. But we must begin to dream of new possibilities - to envision a brave new world, without fear and terrorism, without war and nuclear weapons. Peace is inevitable. Together we must work to make it happen!

Our violent world history is a known fact, and as we begin the 21 st Century, the peoples of the world are experiencing an intolerable level of insecurity and violence. At the same time, there has been a reenergizing of the peace movement and citizen initiatives in seeking innovative, non-violent and enduring resolutions of conflict through peace building activities of many kinds. One of those initiatives is a growing international movement for the creation of Departments and Ministries of Peace in all nations. Citizens in 11 countries, including the USA, UK, Canada, Japan, Australia and parts of Europe, are now taking action for Departments of Peace initiatives. The USA, UK and Canada have also made significant progress in citizen lobbying for grassroots support of these initiatives and developed comprehensive Models of Legislative Bills for the establishment of Departments of Peace, incorporating principles of the United Nations treaties and conventions for a culture of peace.

The culmination of these international peace efforts resulted in the First People's Summit for Departments of Peace, held in London on 18-19 October 2005, where the International People's Initiative for Departments of Peace was launched. The intention is to support national-level campaigns to establish departments/ministries of peace in governments throughout the world. The People's Initiative has a steering committee of 5 members from the UK, Japan, Canada, USA and Australia with a Secretariat based at the Romanian Peace Institute.

The Second People's Summit - Building on Strengths - will take place in Victoria, Canada in June 2006, following the model of the First People's Summit. The objective will be to share experiences and move forward the agenda for creating departments and ministries of peace. It will capitalize on opportunities presented by the World Peace Forum in Vancouver immediately following the Summit, by convening there an international panel of parliamentarians, supportive of departments of peace. They will review and discuss progress and engage others in the quest for departments of peace in all nations.

The main goals for the International People's Initiative for Departments of Peace
are as follows:

* To create peace as a primary organizational principle in society both domestically
and globally;

* To direct government policy towards non-violent resolution of conflict and to seek peace by peaceful means in all conflict areas;

* To promote justice and democratic principles to expand human rights and the
security of persons and their communities, consistent with the Universal
Declaration of Human Rights, other related UN treaties, conventions and the
Declaration and Programme Action on a Culture of Peace (1999);

* To promote disarmament and strengthen non-military means of peacemaking and

* To develop new approaches to non-violent intervention, and utilize constructive
dialogue, mediation and the peaceful resolution of conflict at home and abroad;

* To address matters of concern both domestic and international in scope;

* To encourage the development of peace initiatives from local communities, faith
groups, NGOs and the formation of civilian nonviolent peace forces;

* To facilitate the development of peace and reconciliation summits to promote nonviolent communication and mutually-beneficial solutions;

* To act as a resource for the creation and the gathering of best practices
documents, lessons learned, and peace impact assessments;

* To provide for the training of all military and civilian personnel who administer
post-war reconstruction and demobilization in war-torn societies; and

* To fund the development of curriculum materials for use at all educational levels
and to support university-level peace studies.

How can we at the grassroots help to further this vision of peace? To become visionaries of peace, we must first become contemplatives of non-violence. Non-violence affirms a vision of unity in diversity, an interconnected humanity who live the truth that all life is sacred, that all are equal, emanating from the One Divine Source. This is a vision of the heart, once accepted, we know we can never hurt or kill another human being, nor remain silent in the face of gross injustice.

Active non-violence is more than tactics or strategies, it is a way of life. It demands active love and active truth. It seeks justice and peace for all humanity. It actively resists systemic violence and evil. It never sleeps in the face of gross injustice. It seeks equality for all people.

The great peace reformer, Mahatma Gandhi, once said that non-violence is a life force, that when harnessed becomes contagious and can disarm nations and change the world. It begins in our hearts, where we renounce the violence inside us, then it moves outwards with active, persistent truth and love towards our families, towards our communities, towards our nation and out into the world.

We must rediscover our shared humanity, and reclaim the higher principles of love, compassion, equality and justice. Through the divine principle of sharing and fair distribution of the earth's bounty, we must demand basic human rights for every person on this planet, to live in health and dignity. We can achieve this through working for global peace. Let us give our lives for a future of peace. Let us begin to work for it right now in our beautiful land of Aotearoa, the first country to see the Light each new day. A nation of daring pioneers who can lead the world towards a new vision! Let us build an active Ministry of Peace and experience the first light of peace in the world in the heart of the Pacific Ocean - the Peaceful Ocean!

How can we in Aotearoa/New Zealand lend support to this growing world movement for departments and ministries of peace? In a speech entitled "The Push for Peace" Labour MP, Marian Hobbs stated that New Zealand, to her knowledge, was the only nation, currently, who has a Minister for Disarmament and Arms Control.

New Zealand has a proud record of its stand for world peace, but as Prime Minister, Helen Clark acknowledges, without the leadership, the community education, the films, speeches and debates of the peacemakers in New Zealand, politicians would not have a mandate to work for global peace. The government has reaffirmed it's commitment to working for a more peaceful world, through it's humanitarian efforts to support UN peacekeeping missions, foreign aid programmes and long term work for nuclear disarmament.

It is appropriate then, that in this International Decade for a Culture of Peace and Non-Violence for the Children of the World , we can begin the initiative to create a NZ Ministry of Peace. We clearly showed in 2003, when we marched in our thousands across NZ, against preemptive war in Iraq, that we are a nation who upholds a vision of peace and justice for all.

How then do we envision this Ministry of Peace? What will be it's purpose?

The creation of a Ministry of Peace within government and an independent Commission for Peace , will have a joint purpose to implement, in all areas of NZ government and society, the Programme of Action outlined in the 1999 UN Declaration on a Culture of Peace . This aims to create values, attitudes and behaviours that address the root causes of violence, with a view to solving problems through dialogue and negotiation among individuals, groups and nations.

This declaration was passed unanimously by the UN General Assembly and is supported by the NZ government. The Ministry of Peace and the Commission for Peace would work together to implement the Declaration's eight action areas. Briefly these are:

1) Fostering a culture of peace through education.

2) Promoting sustainable economic and social development.

3) Promoting respect for all human rights.

4) Ensuring equality between women and men.

5) Fostering democratic participation.

6) Advancing understanding, tolerance and solidarity.

7) Supporting participatory communication and the free flow of information and knowledge.

8) Promoting international peace and security.

Additionally, the Commission for Peace would scrutinise the work of the Ministry of Peace and report it's findings to Parliament, in the same way that the National Audit Office scrutinises and reports on government spending.

The Ministry of Peace will be open, democratic, transparent, co-operative and creative with the emphasis on dialogue and a non-confrontational approach. The intent is that the means will reflect the ends.

The Ministry of Peace will consist of seven (7) specific Offices of the Crown including:

* An Office of Disarmament and Arms Control

* An Office of Peace Education and Training

* An Office of Domestic Peace Activities

* An Office of International Peace Activities

* An Office of Human Rights and Economic Rights

* An Office of Peaceful Coexistence and Nonviolent Conflict Resolutions

* An Office of Technology for Peace

The Ministry of Peace would send out a signal to the country and to the world the possibility for a momentous departure from humanity's history of war making. To a point where violence is morally unacceptable as a tool for foreign policy. There is no better time for change than right now! The legislation for an active Culture of Peace within our society would become a historic landmark - as significant as giving women the vote another proud NZ pioneering achievement of being the first country in the world to do so.

Only Parliament has the power to introduce legislation to initiate a process that could produce a shift in the culture of NZ towards peace in all areas of our daily lives. We must call on the government to respond to the heartfelt yearning of all New Zealanders for an end to violence of all kinds within our society.

In summary we call for the creation of the following:

a) A Ministry of Peace within government as a voice for non-violence, conflict resolution and peace at the Cabinet table.

b) A Commission for Peace outside government to report directly to Parliament and to become a voice for civil society, advising, supporting and auditing the Ministry of Peace.

This is a new millennium and requires a new vision to go with it. Wars belong to the past, to uncivilised responses to conflict. Peace, negotiation, reconciliation and facilitation belong to the growing spirit of advanced humanity. A time for greater tolerance, compassion and understanding within our communities.

However, let us remember that the quest for peace begins in the home, in the school and in the workplace. We must consciously live a culture of peace within each of these environments before we can achieve it internationally. Although we are a tiny country, we are a nation with a big heart, and we have a role to play on the world stage. We can lead by example in encouraging education as a means of achieving peace and supporting the holistic principles of a just democracy. These principles can be encapsulated through the work of an active and committed Ministry of Peace for the welfare of all New Zealanders and the greater good in our international relationships with all nations.

In our beautiful multi-cultural society of Aotearoa, the Land of the Long White Cloud, let us reflect on the symbolism of the tatau pounamu - the door of the greenstone - as the expression of an enduring peace, often made visible by the exchange of sacred greenstone heirlooms, a gesture of love and respect. And in that unique exchange, let us recall the words of Nga Rangi-mata-ea, the Ngati Kahungunu Chief who said:

"He tatau pounamu,

Kia kore ai e pakaru, ake, ake

Let us conclude a permanent treaty of peace

that may never be broken, forever, forever."

In closing, let us not forget the current global picture of stark reality, the scourge of war and poverty which condemn millions of humanity to die without dignity in a world desperate for peace. Then ask ourselves How Can We Sleep?

How can we sleep
While poverty grows
Feeding gross indignity
On the human divide
Dark side of the globe

How can we sleep
While children's eyes
Die hollow with hunger
In a planet of plenty
Usurped by greed

How can we sleep
While warmongers feed
Hatred and fear
Gorge their coffers
On human sacrifice

How can we sleep
While fearmongers breed
In the heart of injustice
Without conscience
How can we sleep
While the abyss looms
Larger than Life
Averting our eyes
From the darkness

© 2003 Sophia La Toa


Spirit of Peace Newsletter August 2006

Poems for Peace

Peace is Inevitable: