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An Introduction to Community Peacebuilding and Cultural Sustainability

I am making this post to share with readers a new website: Community Peacebuilding and Cultural Sustainability (at www.cpcsc.info ).

The new website consolidates four websites (which have been archived), and thus includes “homebases” for The Interfaith Peacebuilding and Community Revitalization (IPCR) Initiative, Community Visioning Initiatives Clearinghouse, Community Teaching and Learning Centers Clearinghouse, and my Collected Writings. The new website also includes a “homebase” for my “Returning to College Coursework” project, two Discussion Forums, and a “Key Links” section.

While it seems that I have been working outside the “boxes” of many different fields for some time (interfaith peacebuilding, community development, citizen engagement, affordable education, violence prevention, community sustainability, etc)—there are common threads running through all of my Projects and Writings. I am now describing those common threads by grouping them under the heading “Community Peacebuilding and Cultural Sustainability”.

I am introducing this new website with a Three Part Series, which consists of the following documents:

“A List of Ten Critical Challenges” (Part 1) (5 pages)
“A Constellation of Initiatives Approach to Overcoming the Ten Critical Challenges” (Part 2) (9 pages)
“The Treasured Wisdom of Religious, Spiritual, and Moral Traditions—is it is the ‘tool box’?” (Part 3) (27 pages)

All 3 documents in the series (and this 5 page introduction to the series) are accessible at http://cpcsc.info/about-this-website/ (and are attached, in the form of pdf files, to this post).

About “A List of Ten Critical Challenges” (Part 1)

Often we hear that the most important issues on our minds are “the economy”, or “jobs”. The “List of Ten Critical Challenges” is more specific. The list includes 1) Global warming and reducing carbon emissions 2) Cultures of violence, greed, corruption, and overindulgence 3) The end of the era of “cheap energy” 4) The increasing world population and its implications relating to widespread resource depletion 5) Current trends indicate we are creating more and more “urban agglomerations” 6) The U.S. and many other countries will enter the next 15 to 20 years burdened by substantial public debt and 7) A marginalization of the treasured wisdom associated with religious, spiritual, and moral traditions. Also included are some quotes from longer compilations of evidence (by this writer), quotes which support my assessment of these issues as critical challenges of our times. (Note: the actual “List of Ten Critical Challenges”, with supporting evidence, is also accessible in a one page document version.]

We must be honest with ourselves: we are in uncharted territory, for there is no culture or association of societies that ever existed on planet Earth which has had to resolve the kind of challenges the next few generations of people will have to resolve. And yet…people who are not sufficiently informed about the challenges of our times are everywhere, and they are investing their time, energy, and money—voting—all the time. I am hoping that the “List of Ten Critical Challenges” piece can help facilitate more meaningful discussions on the subject of the most pressing challenges of our times.

About “A Constellation of Initiatives Approach to Overcoming the Ten Critical Challenges” (Part 2)

The “Constellations of Initiatives” piece is an effort to describe collaborative problem solving and citizen peacebuilding processes which might represent “problem solving on a scale most of us have never known before”. This writer advocates for a combination of preliminary surveys, Community Visioning Initiatives, Community Teaching and Learning Centers, “sister community” relationships, local currency, and local community newspapers (contributing community service) as a starting point for accelerating solution-oriented activity, and creating more “close-knit” communities…communities with a healthy appreciation for each others strengths, communities with a well-developed capacity to resolve even the most difficult challenges—and communities which demonstrate a high level of compassion for their fellow human beings.

Community Visioning Initiatives can be described as a series of community meetings designed to facilitate the process of brainstorming ideas, organizing the ideas into goals, prioritizing the goals, and identifying doable steps towards those goals. One of the main goals of Community Visioning Initiatives is to maximize citizen participation in identifying challenges, and in solution-oriented activity. [Note: For a detailed look at the kind of Community Visioning Initiatives I advocate for, see “A 15 Step Outline for a Community Visioning Initiative” (28 pages) (2008).]

My interest in Community Visioning Initiatives was inspired instantly when, in 1994, I watched a documentary titled “Chattanooga: A Community With A Vision” (13 minutes). The video documents two very successful Community Visioning Initiatives organized by the non-profit organization Chattanooga Venture (Chattanooga, Tennessee USA)—one in 1984, and a follow-up in 1993. The 1984 Chattanooga Community Visioning Project (“Vision 2000”), attracted more than 1,700 participants, and produced 40 community goals—which resulted in the implementation of 223 projects and programs, the creation of 1,300 permanent jobs, and a total financial investment of 793 million dollars. For more about Community Visioning Initiatives, see “The Potential of Community Visioning Initiatives (in 500 words)”.]

Community Teaching and Learning Centers have the potential to be

1) a multi-purpose support center for implementing Community Visioning Initiatives
2) a neighborhood meeting place and workshop center and
3) a critical part of a low cost lifelong learning education system (which would include questionnaires and surveys, neighborhood learning centers and neighborhood learning networks, and Community Visioning Initiatives).

Creating the knowledge base and skill sets necessary to resolve the challenges of our times will require encouraging as much formal and informal meetings as possible between neighbors—and people living in the same local community. Creating many Community Teaching and Learning Centers can provide places—in local neighborhoods—for discussion, information sharing, mutual support and encouragement, fellowship and friendship—so that the exchanging of information and resources will also include further development of the kind of close-knit communities described above (in paragraph 1 on this page). [For more about Community Teaching and Learning Centers, see “The Potential of Community Teaching and Learning Centers (in 500 words)”.]

About “The Treasured Wisdom of Religious, Spiritual, and Moral Traditions—is it is the ‘tool box’?” (Part 3)

The “Treasured Wisdom—is it in the ‘tool box’?” piece is an effort to give special attention and emphasis to the need for an exponential increase in compassion for our fellow human beings. The 27 page “Treasured Wisdom” document offers 13 observations/insights (excerpts from a variety of sources) which provide evidence that we are a critical point in the history of life on Earth—and 8 questions which illustrate that we are ill prepared to overcome the challenges ahead, and have far to go to avoid a disastrous future. This writer believes we cannot afford to exclude from our “tool box” (needed to overcome the challenges of our times) the time-tested sources which have helped people learn compassion over many centuries. What we need to do instead is learn how to cultivate the time-tested sources so that the sources yield the treasured wisdom. Thus, in the “Treasured Wisdom” piece, I also share some ideas and commentary on the theme of “integrating spiritual wisdom into the everyday circumstances of community life” (i.e. realistic and practical ways for making best use of the wisdom human beings have accumulated over 5,000 years of human history).

The “Treasured Wisdom” piece begins with the following quote:

“… there are truths which none can be free to ignore, if one is to have that wisdom through which life can become useful. These are the truths concerning the structures of the good life and concerning the factual conditions by which it may be achieved….”

How many of us know what is possible along the lines of wisdom and compassion?

Many of us could be much more familiar with what is possible along the lines of wisdom and compassion. Unfortunately, much of the real treasured wisdom of religious, spiritual, and moral traditions now seems to be hidden—and thus in need of being re-discovered. These “hidden” resources include teachings which inspire and encourage people to

a) place a high priority on the development of truth, virtue, love, and peace; and on living disciplined lives for the purpose of adhering to truth, cultivating virtue and love, and maintaining the pathways to enduring peace
b) sacrifice personal desires for the greater good of the whole
c) find contentment and quality of life while consuming less material goods and ecological services
d) prefer peacebuilding which supports and actualizes mutually beneficial understandings, forgiveness, and reconciliation—and which abstains from violent conflict resolution—as a way of bringing cycles of violence to an end
e) use resources carefully, so that there is surplus available for emergency assistance
f) support community life and cultural traditions which “… bring to the fore what is often hidden: how many good people there are, how many ways there are to do good, and how much happiness comes to those who extend help, as well as to those who receive it”.

Here are four key points which are emphasized in this “Treasured Wisdom” piece:

1) Human morality is not a constant—it is not something which is the same throughout the centuries of human existence; and thus it is something which can become degraded or raised up, depending on the leanings of human aspirations.

2) The challenges of our times are such that it is now critical for us to access the storehouses of wisdom which have accumulated over the many centuries of human experience, and which have been confirmed again and again as essential to individual well-being and social harmony by the saints, sages, spiritual leaders, and sincere practitioners of all religious, spiritual, and moral traditions.

3) If many people can learn to find contentment and quality of life while consuming much less, this limiting of desires at the ‘root’ will save much trouble trying to respond to the symptoms as they materialize worldwide. This is part of the ‘spiritual teachings’ element which often gets overlooked.

4) One of the most persistent ironies in life is that with so many opportunities to provide real assistance to fellow human beings—and with the potential for such assistance to result in happiness “to those who extend help as well as to those who receive it”—there are still many, many people in this world who cannot find a “way to earn a living” providing such assistance. I believe that there are many serious challenges before us now, and that we will need to invest our time, energy, and money very wisely to overcome these challenges. How can we do it? We must help each other.

There are 13 sections to this 27 page “Treasured Wisdom” document:

Introduction
Evidence of the serious nature of our collective circumstances (13 Observations)
Why the above 13 Observations are included in this document (commentary)
Are we prepared to resolve the challenges of our times? (8 Questions)
The Great Responsibility on Representatives of Religious, Spiritual, and Moral Traditions
6 propositions which I believe will become self-evident truths in the years and decades ahead
The Interfaith Peacebuilding and Community Revitalization (IPCR) Initiative
Some Excerpts from “Brief Descriptions of The Eight IPCR Concepts”
On the importance of surveys and questionnaires in determining workshop content
24/7 Peace Vigils
Three Additional Observations
Four short documents which summarize my work up to this point
The Community Peacebuilding and Cultural Sustainability Website (at www.cpcsc.info )
Concluding Comments (Note: The same “Concluding Comments” section have been included at the end each part in this Three Part series. Thus, I am giving much emphasis to those comments.)

Who I am sharing this information with

I am sharing information about this new “Community Peacebuilding and Cultural Sustainability” website with two specific communities of people:

1) professors and instructors teaching college level courses in the areas of peacebuilding, conflict resolution, development, community education, and sustainability
2) discussion forums at websites serving people who are researchers, instructors, practitioners, students, etc in the above fields, and in related fields.

I am hoping that this Three Part Series might generate some discussion among instructors, students, practitioners, etc which would raise the quality of ideas, discussion, and application in many topic areas including: critical challenges assessment, community assessment questionnaire design, collaborative problem solving and citizen peacebuilding processes, participatory democracy, neighborhood learning centers, curriculum design for neighborhood learning centers, low cost lifelong learning education, violence prevention, realistic parameters for sustainable human habitats, the community service component of local newspapers, “sister community” relationships, local currencies, workforce development, and re-valuations of our individual, and collective, “moral compasses”. To facilitate the exchange of ideas and best practices, two Discussion Forums have been created at the www.cpcsc.info website:

1) Community Peacebuilding and Cultural Sustainability Discussion Forum—a starting point for discussing the webpage topics which make up the website, and whether or not they contribute to a definition of Community Peacebuilding and Cultural Sustainability
2) Returning to College Coursework Discussion Forum—a starting point for what an educational curriculum for preparing survey specialists, resource coordinators for Community Teaching and Learning Centers, organizers for Community Visioning Initiatives, etc would look like if it was to be college coursework (and experiential learning)—and what it would look like if it was to be delivered at the neighborhood learning center level

Concluding Comments

I believe there is much that can be done to generate goodwill and promote peace that has not yet been done. I am hoping to provide one kind of clearinghouse for discussing, exploring, and applying ideas, intuition, and insight in fields relating to Community Peacebuilding and Cultural Sustainability.

I welcome and offer my best wishes to all who come to visit the Community Peacebuilding and Cultural Sustainability website at www.cpcsc.info . I hope you find something there which is helpful to your work, and I hope you share links and resources there which may be helpful to others.

For a Peaceful and Sustainable Future,

Stefan Pasti, Resource Coordinator
Community Peacebuilding and Cultural Sustainability
www.cpcsc.info

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