In July of 2001, Congressman Dennis Kucinich of Ohio proposed to the United States House of Representatives that there be a Department of Peace. The idea inspired honored elders Chris Griscom and Mary Lou Cook to organize a New Mexico Department of Peace.
Twenty people were invited to join in this effort, which was followed by regular Friday gatherings in a large public space. These meetings have grown both in size and in learnings that include mediation and listening skills, arts and culture, social justice, peace education, and inner peace. Meetings include youth, who are fully welcomed and heard. The larger peace making community is kept informed and involved through email. The group is all volunteer and a small collection is taken each meeting for expenses.
Members divided into committees or teams. One group developed “dialogues-in-depth” circles led by Craig Barnes, an international mediator. These dialogues bring together differences of opinions toward common understandings. The first opportunity to use this dialogue process in community relationships was the facilitation of a public event that included police, school board and administrators, students and parents.
Working teams that have been developed include dialogue and mediation, media and outreach, arts and culture, youth and schools, legislative lobbying—always using creative brainstorming.
In New Mexico, a Memorial lays the groundwork for a Bill. The Memorial supporting a Department of Peace Bill has been passed in the 2003 New Mexico Legislature. The Chair of the House Government and Urban Affairs Committee commented that this is the best thing that has happened all session, when a group of young people testified on behalf of the memorial before her committee. We followed advice from professional lobbyists, attended the necessary meetings, and now are working toward passage of the Bill during the next legislative session.
The logo for the NM Department of Peace is an ancient symbol found all over the world—used most recently by the Russian artist Nicholas Roerich to symbolize an International Pact for the Preservation of Culture. States establishing a Department or Office of Peace are welcome to use this as their logo. Additional information to coordinate Department of Peace initiatives can be found on this web site.
The NM Department of Peace is a network of people committed to finding ways to be together that inspire us to remain civilized. The group’s intention for our State is to find and maintain the high ground of humanity, good will, respect, and hope. It promotes a culture of non-violence and mutual security — a culture of people getting along with each other. Practicing peace is a core principle of the NM Department of Peace Initiative and the proposed NM Office of Peace.