By Naomi Yakawich
As a melting pot of every ethnicity, culture, and religion from around the world, America represents a global community and a history of learning how to collectively aspire towards bridging divisions under universal principles and shared values.
Global Peace Foundation (GPF) USA reaffirmed the importance of collaboration between all sectors of society in the process of building peace at a Global Peace Forum hosted in Billings, Montana on October 13, 2018 conducted under the theme, "Community Peacebuilding: Where Peace Begins in the Neighborhood."
Eighty leaders and representatives from state and city government, nonprofits, schools, and faith organizations joined in a day of making new connections and fostering partnerships to address the issues relevant to the region. State representatives, including Senator Steve Daines and Senator Jon Tester highlighted the importance of collaboration through shared values with video addresses presented at the forum.
Yellowstone County Commissioner Denis Pitman pointed out that frustrations can exist especially in an era of shrinking government budgets. “I have seen people hunker down in their silos and sandboxes. Sharing resources really hasn’t happened. The good news is that we are at the table together.”
Dr. Brian Schnitzer, whose family’s experience with hate and threats from KKK and Aryan Nations led to the local Not in our Town movement that spread across the nation and around the world, called the community’s response “generally very supportive, but it takes a lot to get good people to do the right thing … Peace, or shalom in my tradition, is not just the absence of conflict. It is an active, positive state of being, and it requires acting on your beliefs.”
Gail Hambleton, Senior Program Specialist for Interreligious and Community Peacebuilding for GPF, provided a keynote address and conducted an interactive workshop where participants delved into a deep dialogue with fellow leaders in the community.
Other speakers included representatives from the State Governor's and Congressmen's offices, Billings Mayor Bill Cole, and representatives from Montana Rescue Mission, the Friendship House, and local universities.