Fr. Bob Holmes

Taking peace to the streets

  • February 27, 2016

TORONTO - Violence is often understood as the use of force or power against another person, but Fr. Robert Holmes also sees the mistreatment of Canada’s natural resources as a form of violence.

“The way we’re operating, since the Industrial Revolution, is just plundering the Earth for profit,” said Holmes. “It’s a justice issue. We’re all being victimized by this profit motive... And it’s the poor who are affected by it the most because they have no control over the raping of the planet.”

Christian Peacemaker Teams will be taking part in a public march in April for Earth Day.

Together with two other local peacemaking movements, it hosted a Campaign Nonviolence Training Day on Feb. 20 to prepare for the march.

Christian Peacemaker Teams partnered with Camp Micah and Pax Christi Toronto for a workshop to teach young people about using nonviolent activism to raise public awareness on protecting the environment. Participants looked at the differences between violence and nonviolence in activism. Youth engaged in different activities with Christian Peacemaker Teams shared their experiences with public protests and demonstrations.

Holmes said the workshop was a call for young people to take action against Canada’s violence against its natural resources, from clearcutting forests on indigenous land to the building of oil pipelines across the country. It is also a way to teach the new generation about emphasizing the importance of nonviolent public demonstrations and prompting awareness and discussion.

Using what they learned in the case studies and in sharing stories, the group drafted positive messages that they wanted to send at the Earth Day march and created posters and banners for the event.

Holmes, a Basilian priest and pastoral services co-ordinator for Christian Peacemaker Teams, said the workshop is a continuation of a march for peace the three groups organized in September inspired by the Blue Scarf Movement.

“The Blue Scarf Movement is calling for an end of all violence and war, and (is) also very concerned about the planet Earth,” said Holmes. “We had a march for peace in September... and so then, we decided to do something for Earth Day.”

During the workshop, participants learned about the history of The Blue Scarf movement. It began in 2008 when about 1,500 women gathered in Kandahar wearing blue scarves to publicly pray for peace and justice in Afghanistan.

The blue scarf became a symbol of unity among all people under one blue sky. It has since grown into an annual event involving public demonstrations for peace around the world.

It was important for Tim O’Connor to take part in the training day.

“Social media can generate ideas and share stories that motivate people to get involved,” said O’Connor, a member of the Christian Peacemaker Teams. “But it doesn’t compare to being physically present and to have the faceto- face stories that people have to offer.”

O’Connor is also a religion teacher at St. Michael’s Catholic Secondary School in Stratford, Ont. He brought with him four students from the school’s new social justice club to participate and learn more about social justice activism.

“Too much of what I do as a teacher is sitting in desks. The more you can step out of that world and work for justice in the context of relationships, I think the healthier it is for you,” he said.

“I think that we’re all just very passionate about making a change and we want to learn more about how we can make a change,” said Lena Taylor, a Grade 10 student at St. Michael’s.

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