A small change that we make in our daily lives can have ripple effects in our society.
So our latest weekly type (stretch limo) started in Oxford on International Day of Peace (21 September.) It included Oxford residents of asian and white origin, covering all ages from recent graduates in their 20s to grandmothers. Another Peace Circle requirement is full confidentiality: this makes it extremely hard to report! However we can tell you that all are women already active in the community, in different ways, including a local magistrate, a radiographer and a campaigner on ecological issues. We always ask for comments as evaluation, as this helps people review what they have learnt, helps us check how we have done and draws out themes. In Oxford this year, a key theme was listening and community. Participants answered the questions, ‘What have you learnt from this Peace Circle, and what might you do differently now?’ One anonymous reply was, '[I learnt] That I need to listen more (properly!) to others and stop talking! I am learning now to be comfortable being alone with myself, meditating and reflecting and feeling empowered to get up and "do"!'
Another said, 'I will try to forgive more and listen more. Maybe try to build more community feeling wherever I am.' A third wrote, 'I will listen more carefully to others as there is always a story to tell which we often are unaware of.' And lastly, '[I will] Acknowledge others and their opinions. Listen more to others. Find alternative ways to communicate. Consider getting to know my neighbours better.'
One of the outcomes which meant the most to us, Willemijn and Su, was the observation that ‘the process of Peace Circles works.’ The Peace Circle mirrors IofC: searching for inspiration in reflection, identifying and reaching for our highest values, deciding on a next step. One of our Oxford weekend participants was someone who is hugely concerned for her country, and studying here in order to go back and bring justice and change to a difficult situation. She asked us early on in the Peace Circle, ‘But how can I do anything when it is impossible to speak out, when others control, and are corrupt?’ Willemijn and I paused, and decided to come back to it later in the weekend. We wrote the question on a piece of paper and stuck it to the back of a door to remind us. At the end we asked our friend if she wanted us all to take time to discuss her issues. ‘Oh no,’ she said. ‘It’s fine now. I have an answer.’ Her confident reply showed us that she was truly satisfied and that we can ‘trust the process.’
As 2011 draws to a close, and we prepare to set out on our Creators of Peace journey in 2012, we are encouraged by the fruits of this past year’s work. We hope to see many more women able to access the Creators of Peace Circle experience in 2012, forming small local teams, training to run new groups, or coming along and helping with food, fundraising and friendship across our communities.
Su Riddell and Willemijn Lambert