The International Day of Peace was observed and commemorated Saturday, September 21 at Castlegar’s Mir Centre for Peace, located at Selkirk College. A strong turnout was on hand as the Kootenay Region Branch of the United Nations Association in Canada (KRUNA) event transpired from 6 to 7 p.m. in the gazebo outside the centre building.
The assemblage then moved indoors and upstairs to hear a detailed outline of an effort they all believe in – the concept of a non-violent peace force. Spokesperson Tiffany Easthom, a clearly driven, inspired representative of the Nonviolent Peace Force gave a presentation to about 60 people. The Canadian-born Easthom is based in the world’s newest country, South Sudan. She has previous experience in locations including Sri Lanka and Myanmar, and last year was recognized by Nonviolent Peace Force as Civilian Peacekeeper of the Year.
Narrating a visual program packed with images and information, she gave an impassioned account of what it’s like to be in a war zone, and how straightforward it can be to diffuse hostilities and get rivals ready to consider ending their fight. She described how predictable conflicts can be, and how productive efforts to end them can be if they’re carried out correctly.
With the number of hotspots in the world and the depressing regularity of atrocities committed against innocent civilians, the idea of effective, unarmed peacekeeping may seem an impossible dream to some… but those people would feel encouraged by the message of the Non-Violent Peace Force… mainly because of well-documented, proven results. The proven results relate to a combination of courage, energy, patience and caution.
Easthom wrapped up her presentation and opened the floor to questions, the event lasted about an hour. “It’s unfathomable to me to think of you people with no protection and there’s all this violence around you,” asked B.C. Southern Interior Member of Parliament Alex Atamanenko. “How do you deal with that… do you ever think, ‘I’m going to go out today and may never come back?'”
“A person only gets one chance to be a human shield,” replied Easthom, describing the lengths to which the personnel will go to keep up a record that has seen 10 years go by with no casualties. Other stats indicate the effectiveness of teams like the 125-strong contingent in South Sudan, in terms of the dramatic drop in numbers of victims – of killings, beatings, rapes, etc. Easthom also referred to the United Nations, with a huge budget and large presence in trouble spots like South Sudan… and its corresponding preoccupation with security.
Easthom was asked about the level of her group’s need for new recruits, and the sort of people who make good candidates for this kind of work. “I’m always looking for new recruits,” she laughed. “We are looking for people, ideally, not fresh out of school. We say 25 or older. We want people who have some combination of education and life experience.” Another form of support welcomed by Non-Violent Peace Force, is financial, a point that was made to the crowd before the evening’s conclusion.