HALO Trust brings hope and healing

I just happened upon some haunting  photographs about the aftermath of war. The pictures are the work of Fiona Willoughby and they document the important work of HALO Trust, a NGO that dedicates itself to getting rid of landmines around the globe. Even though this exhibit is focused on landmines and those whose lives have been affected by them, it is both hopeful and inspirational. It shows not only the heroic work of those who risk their own safety to get rid of landmines, but also those who have been injured by landmines, or forced from their homes due to the risk of  landmines and unexploded ordances.

The new exhibition Getting Landmines Out of the Ground, For Good is being hosted by the World Affairs Council of Northern California. You can stop by their office at 312 Sutter Street in San Francisco to see the exhibit for free any time during their office hours. I just walked in off the street this morning.

If you want to hear the photographer and her husband, Guy Willoughby (founder of HALO Trust) speak, you can attend the reception from 6:00 to 8:00 pm, tomorrow night (April 3) Tickets are $15 for the general public and $5 for students.  You can get tickets online at

In case, like me, you have never heard of the HALO Trust, here are some pretty impressive stats about the work they have done in the 25 years since their founding:

  • Over 1.4 million landmines destroyed
  • Over 11 million items of larger calibre ordnance destroyed
  • Over 208,000 cluster munitions destroyed
  • Over 53 million bullets destroyed
  • Over 3,400 heavy weapon systems immobilized
  • Over 165,000 assault rifles destroyed
  • Over 10,423 minefields cleared
  • 33,460 hectares (82,682 acres) made safe from landmines
  • 144,616 hectares (357,353 acres) made safe from unexploded and abandoned ordnance
  • 14,491 kilometres (9,004 miles) of roads cleared

Finding out about this organization makes me reaffirm my belief that even in the worst of situations there is always hope. As I looked at the very moving photographs I was reminded of two quotes from Anne Frank's diary:

“It's really a wonder that I haven't dropped all my ideals, because they seem so absurd and impossible to carry out. Yet I keep them, because in spite of everything, I still believe that people are really good at heart.”  (This brought tears to my eyes the very first time I read it, back in 6th grade, and it has every time I have thought about it since then. To have such faith in the goodness of humanity in her circumstances is so incredible to me.)

“How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.”  (These words have often reminded me that we can always try to make things better, whether in big ways or small, it is never the wrong time to help make the world a better place.)

I feel fortunate to have stumbled upon this exhibition and to be reminded that there are many people who dedicate their lives to healing both the people and the land in countries devastated by war.



And Yet...

Saturday, September 21st was the International Day of Peace. I celebrated it with a group of like-minded folks who gathered at The First Parish Church in Concord, Massachusetts.

It was a lovely event and it felt good to be there. It felt good to know that across the U.S. and around the world, other like-minded people were getting together to celebrate a day dedicated to peace. And yet...

And yet, throughout the U.S. and across the globe, violence continues, and I have to ask myself, after all these years, is the Day of Peace making a difference? I want to believe it is. As a matter of fact, I do believe it is a making a difference, but not enough of a difference.

Yes, there are celebrations of Peace Day around the world, and these celebrations are increasing in number. This is, of course, a good thing. I know it matters and I know that the more of us who have peace in our hearts, the more peaceful the world becomes. And yet...

And yet, after more than 30 years of Peace Day, the geo-political climate is not one of peace. Or is it?  Various studies and statistics tell us that the world is more peaceful than it has ever been. (I include links to these studies at the end of this blog post.) This is encouraging news and it makes me feel that working for peace and celebrating peace is working to a certain degree. It gives those of us who believe world peace is actually possible encouragement to keep believing and to keep working for peace. Most importantly, it shows that the paradigm is shifting away from violence and oppression as the way to resolve conflict. And yet...

And yet, this shift is slow and tentative and easily disrupted. The sad and alarming fact is that the world is less peaceful now than it was five years ago.  110 countries are more violent now than they were in 2008. This fact should really concern all of us because it shows that a trend towards peace and non-violence is easily disrupted. The causes are varied and often reflect the desire of people to have better lives - lives that are characterized by

more freedom,

racial/ethnic, religious and gender equality

secure access to the basic necessities of life, including enough food, a source of income, medical care, and education.

No one can fault people for these desires. And yet...

And yet, it is imperative that we learn how to achieve these goals without violence. This should truly be a primary goal of every country, every government and every person in the 21st century. Recently the world has seen diplomacy prevent the U.S. from dropping missiles in Syria. To those of us who believe in negotiation this is a gratifying testimony to the power of non-violent conflict resolution. And yet...

And yet, the road before us is long and hard. To truly change the paradigm away from war and violence we must work at every level and in every way. We must work on the individual level and the local level. We must work to influence governments to seek peaceful solutions. We must use politics and churches, schools, universities, non-governmental organizations, media, music and literature to change the global consciousness away from war, revenge and retribution. In order to do this, we must also make it our work to ensure that people everywhere have access to the basic necessities of life. This is a tall order. And yet...

And yet, what if we diverted all of the money, brain power and resources that we use to create weapons and military power to finding ways to ensure that all people have basic human rights? How different would our world be by the end of the 21st century? I would like to find out. So, as we learn that the world is becoming more violent again, we must not let go of our belief in peaceful solutions. We must work with more love in our hearts; with more determination to wage peace instead of war; we must not only want peace, we must learn to be peace.  And we must never, ever let ourselves lose hope.


The next morning my mother told us that we must pray for our father and all the good men that had been taken by the enemy. We must pray for our men to be safe and to defeat the enemy. We must pray for God to wreak vengeance on our enemy.

“What does vengeance mean?” my brother asked when were finished praying. My mother, who I had always known as gentle and kind, replied, "Vengeance means doing worse to them than they do to us. If they kill our men, we must kill their men and their children. We must leave them with nothing. Not even hope.”

My brother looked confused. “If God wreaks vengeance on them for killing our men, will our men come back to life?”

“No, they will still be dead, but their deaths won’t be in vain. God will take more lives from them, than He takes from us and that will mean we have won the war.” When I heard these words, I knew that my mother had already lost hope. She would never ask God to kill anyone if she wasn’t overcome with grief and fear.

My brother sat silent for a few seconds, and then he said, “I guess I don’t understand war. What good does it do to kill everyone?” (from I Call Myself Earth Girl, chapter 2.)

Engaging Peace!

As someone who believes in the possibility of a more peaceful world, Kathie Malley-Morrison of  Engaging Peace knocked my socks off  when she appeared as the featured guest on Oneness and Wellness, a local access cable show out of Dedham, MA. ID-10065199

(You  can view the segment by going to the show's website:  Click on the "shows" link and  look for Engaging Peace through Book and Blog.)

Malley-Morrison has communicated with people all over the world hoping to learn their views on war and the possibility of creating a world culture that uses nonviolent means to solve conflict.   I was so impressed with the work of Malley-Morrison that I went immediately to her website ( after viewing the show, foregoing my usual practice of putting it on a list of sites to check out sometime in the future.

Her mission is to educate about alternatives to warfare, and to foster engagement and activism for the cause of world peace. Her blog, as well as the award-winning monthly newsletter, Choosing Peace for Good, offer articles that bring academic peace studies and stories of activism to the general public.

For me, this website is like a treasure chest of resources! It includes not only research and articles, but also books and films about war and peace. Even if you never read one book or article on the site, just watching the movies would give you an education on the place of war in our culture, in our national psyche, even in our hopes and fears.  Some of the films, most notably for me Beyond Belief (the story of 9/11 widows who go to Afghanistan to help poverty-stricken women and form a tremendous bond with them),  show the possibilities for peace through individual person to person interaction.

I urge you to check out this site if you are interested in any of their goals:

1. Promote optimism concerning the possibility of peace

2. Explore how people in power and the mainstream media persuade citizens that various forms of government-sponsored aggression, such as war and torture, are justifiable

3. Present examples of serious conflicts that have been resolved without warfare

4. Demonstrate that a major pathway to peace is through responsible activism

5. Translate into user-friendly language the best of relevant scientific and academic work contributing to the understanding of war and peace. In particular, we will periodically mention some of the major results from our own international research team.

6. Help readers find useful tools and important resources to support their own efforts to seek and promote peace.

7. Encourage readers to share their opinions and contribute their own stories and examples of “engaging peace.”

image courtesy of Stuart Miles/

As a matter of fact, I urge you to go to this site even if you are not particularly interested in the topics listed above, because I am pretty sure you will find something on this site that peaks your interest if you happen to care about the future, the present, the environment, veterans, children, or families.

If for no other reason, I would go there just to see the ticker at the bottom right of the home page that keeps updating the costs of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

My enthusiasm for the work of Kathie Malley-Morrison and the Engaging Peace website stems from my beliefs  ~

I believe the world can and will move to a culture of peace in which war will be the rare exception.

I believe when people understand the environmental impact of war, the urgency of peace-making will become more evident.

I believe we owe our veterans a better life than the one so many of them face when they return home from military service.

I believe non-violent conflict resolution is a possibility at every level from individual conflict to national conflicts. We will never rid the world of conflict, but we can rid the world of war.

I believe each individual can and should make a difference.

I believe that none of this is simple or easy.

I believe in you and me and our power to make a difference.

image courtesy of artur84