“The most important work in the world,” is how Tilla Durr, the daughter of famed civil rights activists Clifford and Virginia Durr, described the work of NAPF Peace Leadership Director Paul K. Chappell during his recent visit to Maine. Durr attended both the two-day Peace Leadership Training in Bridgton, Maine and Paul’s lecture at the University of New England Center for Global Humanities in Portland, Maine.
“He teaches us how to both understand and strengthen that which already lies within us for the change to occur which can heal the way we dehumanize ourselves, one another, and the planet.” As a young adult in Alabama, Tilla Durr had marched with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Her mother was a good friend of Rosa Parks, and Tilla Durr found herself ostracized by the Montgomery, Alabama white community.
“Paul does not just leave his audience with an intellectual understanding of the anatomy of aggression and the art of waging peace, but teaches us to see conflict as opportunity,” Durr commented about the training and the UNE lecture. “There was not a single person who attended who was not profoundly affected.”
One local minister at the training reflected, “As a pastor, I will be able to teach peace with more authority and spread more seeds of peace.” Another minister commented, “I will take away a better vision.”
Pax Christi member Sally Chappell (no relation to Paul) who met Paul Chappell at the previous peace leadership training in Maine said, “My plan is to be more positive and more respectful of opponents…. I will try to be more courageous in speaking to a group that dismisses my values…. I am less fearful as a result of participating in Paul’s workshop.”
She wrote in the local newspaper, “Remarkably candid about the trauma he endured as a child, Chappell used his own life story as well as historical examples of human advancements like the abolition of state-sponsored slavery, civil rights and women’s rights to argue that humans are not inherently violent and that ending war is necessary and possible. ‘I’m not an optimist; I’m a realist,’ Chappell revealed, urging his listeners to opt for a paradigm shift of nonviolent action that provides people with hope, meaning, belonging and purpose.”
The Center for Global Humanities at the University of New England is a public forum dedicated to the study of human destiny in the 21st century. Previous speakers have included Bill McKibben, Helen Caldicott, and Noam Chomsky.