August 19, 2019

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Activists look back at three decades of denouncing violence

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 12/3/2016 (1255 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

After three decades of walks, toy inspections, concerts, education and lobbying efforts, a local ecumenical peace group is closing its doors and letting other groups pick up the pieces.

Project Peacemakers ceases operations at the end of May after working out of a second-floor office at Westminster United Church since 1983.

“It’s not a financial problem at all,” explains interim board chairman Shawn Kettner.

“They (the former board members) are all tired, and they were all ready to step down, and there were no young people to step in.”

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 12/3/2016 (1255 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

After three decades of walks, toy inspections, concerts, education and lobbying efforts, a local ecumenical peace group is closing its doors and letting other groups pick up the pieces.

Project Peacemakers ceases operations at the end of May after working out of a second-floor office at Westminster United Church since 1983.

JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS</p><p>Project Peacemakers’ artist and storyteller Jamie Oliviero is looking for a new home for the Many Voices One World project.</p></p>

JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Project Peacemakers’ artist and storyteller Jamie Oliviero is looking for a new home for the Many Voices One World project.

"It’s not a financial problem at all," explains interim board chairman Shawn Kettner.

"They (the former board members) are all tired, and they were all ready to step down, and there were no young people to step in."

Kettner says the interim board is concentrating on finding new homes for ongoing projects and programs, as well as archiving 33 years of files and resources.

One continuing program is their Many Voices One World project, where Kettner and storyteller Jamie Oliviero work with school-aged children to create stories and artwork on large fabric banners.

A final event to celebrate the work of Project Peacemakers is scheduled for May 7 at St. Paul’s Anglican Church.

Project Peacemakers' storyteller Jamie Oliviero</p>

Project Peacemakers' storyteller Jamie Oliviero

In a February letter, the interim board suggests supporters send their donations instead to Peace Alliance Winnipeg, which will run the annual Peace Festival and Walk and the August Lanterns for Peace event.

Project Peacemakers was formed during the height of the Cold War after a dozen members of a local faith-based study and social-action group heard Australian physician Dr. Helen Caldicott speak in Winnipeg about the dangers of nuclear weapons and nuclear energy.

"We were taken aback and so scared," recalls Beverley Ridd about the speech from Caldicott, who was the president of Physicians for Social Responsibility.

"We were all from different churches, and none of the churches were involved in peacemaking."

Initially known as the Inter-Church Disarmament Project, the group pooled their money, found office space at Westminster United, hired Dianne Cooper as its first staff person and spent the next decade or so promoting peace.

"When Project Peacemakers came into being, it was a much more polarized world," recalls Tim Sale, a retired Anglican priest and former NDP cabinet minister who was part of the early organizing group.

"It was East versus West, there was a thermonuclear threat. China was not a factor. It was Russia versus the West."

As the threat of nuclear war declined, the organization moved into developing educational resources and organizing community events such as the annual Walk for Peace, concerts and dinners.

The group also conducted toy-store inspections to encourage retailers not to stock toys that promote war and violence and lobbied the provincial government to pass a law banning the sale of mature-rated video games to children.

"We changed a law to do with violent video games," says Ridd, who ranks it as the highlight of her involvement with the group, which includes 25 years as chairwoman of the finance committee.

Over the years, the organization received funding from Mennonite Central Committee and the United Church of Canada, as well as full-time volunteers from Mennonite agencies, says Ridd, but all those funding avenues have dried up.

Although the peace organization won’t continue, it has planted and nurtured seeds in other social-justice efforts in the city, says Sale.

"I think the community is better for the work that was done, but there’s sure more to be done," says Sale.

"I think Project Peacemakers, among other things, called the churches to more openness and commitment to social justice."

The organization also provided a venue for people of many faith traditions to live out their commitments to peace, says Ridd, still an active volunteer at age 85.

"If I don’t work for peace, all the good things I’m doing will be for naught," she says.

"As a Christian, I’m called to be a peacemaker."

brenda@suderman.com

 

Brenda Suderman

Brenda Suderman
Faith reporter

Brenda Suderman has been a columnist in the Saturday paper since 2000, first writing about family entertainment, and about faith and religion since 2006.

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