October 20, 2008
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Martin Luther King Jr. wisely said, “True peace is not the absence of tension but the presence of Justice.” In order to build a culture of peace, we must not only eliminate injustices such as poverty and violence, but we must make peace present in our everyday lives by teaching it in our schools and our faith groups.

The US Census Bureau counted 35.9 million people below the poverty line in America, including 12.9 million children. That means 12.9 million children not getting enough food to eat. That means 12.9 million children in America hungry when they open their eyes every morning. The FBI reported 1.41 million violent crimes in 2006, an increase of 1.9 % since 2005. And, the Department of Justice says about 35% of American households own 192 million firearms, and about 67.2 million of those are handguns. These statistics are alarming.

Imagine a world where we eliminated poverty and crime. Imagine a world where no one felt the need for guns. Imagine a world where children had food on the table and adults trusted each other. That would be a world full of peace.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, 13% of American students reported being threatened or hurt with a weapon at school. We must make peace present in our schools. We must make our schools and streets safe. According to the US Census Bureau, there are approximately 55 million students in grades K-12 in the United States. Imagine a world where all of those students learned about mediation, negotiation and other forms of conflict resolution. Imagine the presence that peace would have then.

Imagine a world led by adults who were never poor and hungry, adults who do not solve disputes with guns, and adults who were taught conflict resolution since childhood. What would those military generals or international diplomats do? What would our world look like then? That world would be full of peace.

According to the Hartford Institute there are roughly 335,000 religious congregations in the United States and about 56 million worshippers. That means about 20% of the U.S. population is connected to a religious group. Imagine a culture where everyone embraced peace as part of their religion. Imagine a culture where no religion believed it was superior to another. Imagine a culture where all religions were respected. Imagine a culture where all religions stood together to eliminate injustices such as poverty and crime. That would be a world full of peace!

Make peace present in your life. Help the poor. Become active in community service. Reduce crime. Learn about conflict resolution. Work for justice. Vote. Respect others. Challenge yourself. Empower others. If you do, in time, we will finally have a culture of peace.

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