Magazine article Montessori Life

Establishing Social Justice through Peace

Magazine article Montessori Life

Establishing Social Justice through Peace

Article excerpt

What an opportunity we will have in New Orleans, at the AMS 2009 Annual Conference, February 26-March 1, and at the Peace Retreat immediately following, March 1-March 4. Each of us will have the chance to participate in the healing process taking place in this city, which has suffered from poverty, corruption, and the events surrounding Hurricane Katrina. As I contemplate my part in weaving a tapestry of support and encouragement for the people of New Orleans, I am moved to dig deeper and become more aware of how the city's residents have been affected physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.

After reading the book, After the Storm: Black Intellectuals Explore the Meaning of Hurricane Katrina, my eyes see more clearly and my heart fills with compassion and love for those so negatively affected by the physical destruction of the hurricane, as well as by the social injustice that occurred once the storm subsided. Thousands of people were stranded, ignored for days in subhuman conditions, sent away to live in unfamiliar cities, and ultimately received little or no government assistance, making it impossible for them to return to rebuild their homes and neighborhoods.

The other side of the coin, however, is the groundswell of support from private citizens and organizations around the world. This is social justice in action, and it offers hope and healing to counterbalance the disillusionment, frustration, and anger the displaced citizens of New Orleans have suffered. Many in our Montessori community contributed to the New Orleans effort and continue to be meaningfully involved in other humanitarian projects throughout the world. It is my belief that with more understanding and a concentrated effort, we as an international Montessori community can do even more than we are now to establish social justice through educating ourselves and our children for peace.

Peace and social justice are inextricably linked. I have heard it said that "There can be no peace without social justice," and I have also heard "There can be no social justice without peace." If we focus exclusively on creating social justice and ignore the principles of peace, such as understanding and patience, we create further injustice through our unintentional insensitive actions. On the other hand, if we focus on peace exclusively and ignore inequality and injustice around us, it is impossible to realize a peaceful community.

Recent research done by Linda Groff and Paul Smoker (UNESCO, 1997, pp. 105-109) provides clarity about the interrelationship between social justice and peace. This work suggests that peace can be viewed at six levels: 1) peace as absence of war; 2) peace as a balance of power; 3) peace as organizations doing no harm; 4) peace as no harm done to people; 5) peace as no harm done to the environment; 6) peace as holistic inner and outer peace.

The sixth level of peace is seen as the most comprehensive because other levels are ultimately based on the ability of each individual to be in touch with his spirit of love and compassion. The song "Let There Be Peace on Earth and Let It Begin with Me" reminds us that for there to be lasting peace, it must begin in the heart of each individual. …

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