“We need the exuberance, energy and vision of youth to make our world whole. We need to listen to their voices and encourage their participation in the planetary restoration that is essential not only for the survival, but for the dignity of humanity and other forms of life.”
In July, the Foundation again joined with La Casa de Maria in sponsoring our annual Peace Retreat. The retreat was led by Joanna and Francis Macy, and its theme was “Coming Back to Life,” which is the title of Joanna’s new book. Some 50 participants explored our relationships with the Earth, our fellow humans, other creatures, and the future. In one exercise, we imagined speaking to beings in the future, and answering their questions about living on Earth at this critical juncture in time. “What was it like,” the imagined future beings asked, “living with the threat of global annihilation?” “Is it really true that in your time many people starved to death while others had more resources than could be imagined?”
These are hard questions to grapple with, but they point to the responsibility that we share today to make the world safer and more equitable. The beings of the future will either thank and praise us for our committed actions today, or they will condemn us for our failure to face and solve the tremendous problems of our time. What we do today, for better or for worse, is helping to shape the future – just as what was done in the past has shaped our present.
Under present circumstances, inertia – the failure to take active steps to change – is a formula for global disaster. We don’t have the luxury of putting our journey to the future on cruise control. Nor do we have the luxury of turning it over to political leaders who are too often indebted to corporate agendas more concerned with the bottom line than with the welfare of humanity, the environment and the future.
Nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction threaten our cities and our civilization, and even annihilation of our species and other complex forms of life. Inequities in resources cause mass starvation and epidemics of diseases. The poor are growing poorer and the rich are growing more apathetic and indifferent. This is another formula for disaster, one that is conducive to crime and terrorism.
We need to live as if in the very presence of those who will follow us on Earth and take into consideration their needs and welfare. We should be doing this with today’s youth for whom the adult world sets an example. We need to set an example of caring and sharing rather than one of greed and indifference. We need the exuberance, energy and vision of youth to make our world whole. We need to listen to their voices and encourage their participation in the planetary restoration that is essential not only for the survival, but for the dignity of humanity and other forms of life.
We concluded this year’s Peace Retreat in Sadako Peace Garden at La Casa de Maria. In this exquisite natural garden, we joined hands and sang with Janice Freeman the song she had composed for the occasion, “Coming Back to Life.” In the garden, Orange County Buddhist Church Junior Girl Scout Troop 855 had left 1000 colorful paper cranes hanging on the branch of an oak tree. Some of the cranes had messages from the girls who had folded them. I picked up one of the cranes that had fallen to the ground and read this message: “I wish for peace in our world and for no one to feel threatened by nuclear bombs.” It was signed, “Love, Rachel.” Thank you, Rachel. You wish for what we wish for, and we promise to work with you and other young people to create such a world.
I’m pleased to report that Michael Coffey, 26, has joined the Foundation’s staff as our first Youth Outreach Coordinator. You’ll be reading more about Michael, and the programs he is coordinating in future issues of Waging Peace Worldwide. Michael is now in Africa in an intensive Youth Leadership course, which he will be helping to teach in the future.
Marc Kielburger, 23, a Board member of the Foundation and chair of our International Youth Advisory Council, is a guest editor of this issue of Waging Peace Worldwide. He has brought together some powerful voices of youth to contribute to this issue. These young people are already dedicating their lives to social change. We are honored to share their ideas and commitments with you.