Redefining the Peace Movement


Editor’s note: The following is an excerpt from Cultivating Peace: Becoming a 21st Century Peace Ambassador (Shift Books)

We are witnessing a tidal shift in consciousness. Some see it as a great planetary awakening of awareness accompanied by an extended capacity for empathy and collaboration. The burgeoning networks of people who share these new values, along with the accelerating global communications environment, are creating an unprecedented planetary resonance. We are collectively beginning to shed the skin of humanity’s dysfunctional consciousness.

Here are key transformations defining the new peace movement:

We are moving from being locked into outrage at war and violence, or being defined as a protest movement, to creating a culture of peace from the ground up and from the inside out.

We are moving from the reactive condemnation of others arising out of a presumed superior moral position, to engaging in dialogue, listening, and drawing on nonviolent communication strategies.

We are moving from labeling those who disagree with us as the enemy to recognizing the inherent flaw in creating enmity as a peace strategy. In this way, our work attempts to dissolve polarizing behaviors.

We are moving from a consciousness that is problem centered to one that is solution centered. This has a radical impact on how we organize. We are informed by our vision, and our approach is not always defined by the tactics or stance of the opposition.

We are moving from piecemeal, feel-good, quick-fix interventions, to whole-system maps and systemic transformation.

We are moving from a reliance on ideological frameworks to integral approaches that are embodied manifestations of peace at the individual and collective levels.

We are moving from activism that leads to burnout and relationship breakdowns to one in which working for the cause of peace requires self-care and time for quality relationships.

We are moving from the battleground of proving who is right and who is wrong to understanding worldview transformation and exploring who are wounded and how they can find healing.

We are moving from an obsession with punishment to the search for truth, reconciliation, and restorative justice.

We are moving from demanding rights to assuming our responsibility to create environments that promote rights and social justice.

We are moving from merely critiquing the absence of humanity in others to honing our own capacity for compassionate action, deep empathy, and authentic forgiveness.

This, then, is the sounding note from inside the heart of peace itself. It says, “Choose me. Cultivate my ways.”

Feel the pleasure of love, laughter and service to others. Feel peace as the presence of conscious and compassionate awareness. Step boldly to incarnate your belief in the power of peace to transform indifference and hostility. Never allow meanness any foothold over you where instead there can be an ample generosity towards others.

Keep your conscience keenly attentive to the subtlest calls to live in attunement with your own evolving moral imagination. The world is full of moral dilemmas, so listen with confidence to the voice of your higher self, but always be willing to reconsider the validity of your position. Know that you have been asked to walk the path of essence, always drawing deeper from your own essential qualities and allowing them the freest expression — even when cold reason would suppress them. Work ceaselessly to connect the disconnected.

It is impossible to say whether you will be scorned or rejected or even if you will be cut down, but know that the winds of peace will carry your work into future generations and that you will be part of what turns humanity toward its true destiny.

Any action that begins in the core of your being is one that unites with the Source of All Being. Look for that igniting point midway between taking yourself too seriously and being too casual about your gifts; it is here that peace arises and asks you to dance with it. Whether your first gesture is to still the mind, pulse a drum, raise your voice, or cross the threshold of an old fear or enmity, celebrate your choice to leave passivity and disbelief behind.

Keep faith with your vision even if people scorn you for being an idealist. Make sure your vision is big enough for the times we live in and that your execution of the vision comes from a place of humility. Learn to celebrate your vision even in the midst of great suffering, for your vision is an answer to the suffering you see. Peace is the healer of wounds.

For as much as you cultivate peace in all of its dimensions, it will cultivate you beyond all recognition.

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James O'Dea
James is currently Co- Director of The Social Healing Project funded by the Kalliopeia Foundation. This work has led him to Rwanda, Israel/Palestine, N.Ireland and elsewhere. He is a member of the extended faculty of The Institute of Noetic Sciences and its immediate past President. He was Executive Director of The Seva Foundation, an international health and development organization and, for ten years, was the Washington Office Director of Amnesty International. James O'Dea is a renowned figure in international social healing who has conducted healing and reconciliation dialogues for twenty years and was director of Amnesty International's Washington, D.C., office for over ten years. His work as co-director of the Social Healing Project led him to Rwanda, Israel/Palestine, and Northern Ireland. The lead faculty of the popular Peace Ambassador Training hosted by the Shift Network, James is also on the extended faculty of the Institute of Noetic Sciences and he is its immediate past president. He is also a member of the Advisory Board for the Peace Alliance.


  1. Thank you so much for this article James. It’s just what I needed to read because it fits in with visions I had this Labor Day weekend in which I was “visited” by what I will call the Masters of Peace. I saw the images of Jesus/Yeshua, the Dalai Lama, Martin Luther King Jr., and Rosa Parks! I was with a friend at a casino, and in the midst of losing money their images kept saying to me: “Dedicate all the money to peace. Be an alchemist and intend all the energy to peace.” Then first thing this following morning, I find myself here, reading this article. There are no coincidences. After reading this, I know that I am on the right path: the path of peace. ~Val Oliver @ The Healing Artist Studio


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