Ashland, Oregon: Peace conference attracts UN ambassador


An article from the Ashland Tidings

To honor the strides Ashland has made in the past year to cultivate a culture of peace, the Ashland Culture of Peace Commission is organizing a Global Peace Conference for the International Day of Peace, Saturday, Sept. 21. It’s also ACPC’s fourth anniversary.

Video about the conference

The conference will feature a variety of local, state, national and international speakers, including keynote speaker Anwarul Chowdhury, the former Under Secretary General and High Representative of the United Nations, and founder of the Global Movement of the Culture of Peace.

Registration begins at 8 a.m. and the event runs from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., with additional time to network after at the Ashland Hills Hotel, 2525 Ashland St.

Advance tickets cost $55. After Sept. 1, tickets cost $75.

Proceeds from the event go to the continuation of ACPC’s work in the community, such as the winter shelter.

ACPC co-founders David Wick and Irene Kai said it’s a big deal to have Chowdhury in Ashland on the International Day of Peace. He was the inspiration for the event, they said.

The theme of the event is “You Are the Flame,” in honor of the first anniversary of the world peace flame in Ashland.

“The concept of that is to highlight the … culture of peace, which starts with our own personal commitment to foster peace,” Kai said. “If each of us commits to the wellbeing and compassion of others no matter what our influences are in life … then we are the flame. We can be a light to foster a culture of peace.”

“Even if one person is inspired, there’s no limit to what that person can do,” Kai said.

Other speakers will include Kai, Wick, former Ashland Middle School flame keeper Finley Taylor, Saul Arbess, director of the Canadian Peace Initiative and co-founder and director of the Global Alliance For Ministries and Infrastructure for Peace, and a Native American speaker to be chosen by the Tribal Council of Oregon.

Sen. Jeff Golden, Rep. Pam Marsh, Ashland City Councilor Rich Rosenthal, police Chief Tighe O’Meara, Ashland Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Sandra Slattery, and Ashland School District Superintendent Kelly Raymond will make up a local panel.
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Other community leaders, such as Dee Anne Everson, executive director of United Way of Jackson County, and Linda Schott, president of Southern Oregon University, will sit on a community panel.

“There’s a ceremonial part of this,” Kai said.

The event will open with a Native American song and end with “peace flame” candles for everyone in attendance to light while reciting the invocation together.

“The key point is that peace is not an idea, it is a practice,” Wick said. “Ashland is the only city that is highlighting the practical application of the culture of peace and how the leaders of our city, state and community are stepping up in engaging in doing that. It’s about commitment.”

Wick said Ashland is being recognized at the local, state, national and international levels, which could bring opportunities. In addition to garnering attention by the UN, the International Cities of Peace organization will highlight the events and work in Ashland, he said.

“This is going to have a major impact, and we have the key ambassador of the UN experiencing the work in Ashland firsthand,” Wick said. “This is a step of hope and unity, and bringing together and shining a light on what is good.”

He said city and state officials will have an opportunity to speak about their commitment to peace. They’ve also invited city leaders from other cities in the valley.

They expect from 200 to 500 attendees.

“We caught the attention of the UN ambassadors, because this hasn’t been done in the past — to capture the application of the culture of peace,” Kai said. “This is innovative, to gather all the leaders together in one room and to talk about and learn from each other about their commitment to foster the wellbeing of the entire city together. That is a big deal.”

She said their engagement with young people also struck a chord with the ambassadors. Select Ashland Middle School students tend the monument as “flame keepers,” making sure it always burns in its home across the street from AMS at the Thalden Pavilion.

“The next generation of children will become our leaders, and to inspire them to embody the concept of peace going forward, that is part of building long-term peace,” Kai said.

Kai brought the World Peace Flame to Ashland last September. It is the second in the nation. Kai has also helped Ashland’s sister city Guanajauato, Mexico, gain approval from the World Peace Flame Foundation to ignite its own monument. It will be the first Latin American city with a World Peace Flame and the first sister city flame holder.

“This is an example of people being proactive, of taking a step forward to shine a light on what is good,” Wick said. “Peace is a practice, and we can do it together as a choice.”

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