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The social justice goals of Culture of Peace Hamilton based on an interview with Gail Rappolt, one of its founding members
an article by Kathryn Ani-Otoibhi

Begun in April 2000 based on the UNESCO Manifesto 2000 Six Principles “To Create a Decade of Peace for the Children and Youth of the World” by long time Hamilton peace activist Joy Warner and Dr. Graeme MacQueen who helped found the Centre for Peace Studies at McMaster University; Culture of Peace Hamilton (CoPH) was formed to facilitate peace throughout the Hamilton community.

Gail Rappolt, left, and Ray Cunnington, right

click on photo to enlarge

Though there is no formal board governing the work of CoPH, Gail acts as a communications coordinator for the organization. She hopes CoPH will still be alive and vibrant as a concept in future. In the next 10 years, her goal is to see that the Hamilton City Council, schools, cultural groups and businesses use and understand the six principles of the UNESCO Manifesto 2000 as a common language for working toward social justice.

Gail describes the term ‘social justice’ in two parts. Social, refers to human dignity, respect and kindness that exist in the smallest possible ways within communities and relationships. Justice refers to treating people with fairness and in a way that is in accordance with their needs. Therefore, social justice is about treating people equitably with respect and human dignity, and recognizing that people’s needs vary.

The Social Geography Project was designed by CoPH as a step towards the creation of a Commission on the Culture of Peace. It is a research project where approximately 200 social justice leaders in Hamilton are interviewed about their organization and personal goals for social justice. This project would create a set of benchmarks on which to measure growth towards a culture of peace within the city. The Social Geography Project would track improvements such as reduction in child poverty, increased use of public transport, and reduction in loss of arable farmland.

According to Gail, “the six principles called to me as ways I try to live my life. My role in this life is to be of service to the greater good of humanity.” By setting agendas, planning activities and overseeing the work of student interns and volunteers, Gail works towards making the Hamilton community a place where a culture of peace prevails.

For Gail, social justice as prescribed by CoPH suggests that everyone treat people according to their needs and abide by the six peace principles in order to promote a peaceful community. To quote Karen Johnsen, a former judge in Peterborough, Gail notes, “If you want peace, work for justice.”


Question(s) related to this article:

A  decade of peace-building in Hamilton, what is its history?

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Here’s a bit of history.

On Sept. 19, 2000, 12 months before the twin towers fell in New York, The Hamilton Spectator devoted a page to a new idea from the United Nations. “The nature of a ‘Culture of Peace.’ Can it come to Hamilton? How can it make a difference?”

Among the 10 positive messages in the paper that day, the president of the Hamilton Chamber of Commerce wrote: “May I be the first of our 1,700 members representing 1,150 businesses and organizations employing 75,000 people to give you my pledge?”

At the start of this millennium there was plenty of optimism. The world held its breath in the hope that the new century would not be blemished by the great wars that had blighted the lives of so many families and loved ones in the century before.

In Paris, a group of Nobel Peace Prize laureates drafted six simple principles to help create peace. The United Nations General Assembly proclaimed the year 2000 the International Year for the Culture of Peace, and declared the ten years 2001 to 2010 the International Decade for the Culture of Peace. The Six Principles were published under the title, Manifesto 2000.

Although 75 million people around the world pledged to follow these principles, few North Americans or Europeans really heard about them. Within a few short months, the messages of peace and nonviolence were obliterated by a devastating attack on the U.S., wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and a spreading culture of fear.

In Hamilton, a number of individuals staunchly supported the UN initiative from the beginning. A group, called Culture of Peace Hamilton, decided to spread the manifesto’s six principles and apply them locally. . ...more.

This report was posted on June 17, 2013.