In a city with growing crime rates and accounts of violence, Bob Stewart and the Canadian Centre for Teaching Peace is making headway in community peace education. CCTP hosted the fourth annual Alberta Peace Conference aimed at creating a sustainable culture of peace and an Albertan peace education strategy Oct. 16-18.
"Nobody has been able to step back and look at the big picture of things on a long-term holistic, systematic basis as to what's needed to address peace," said Stewart. "People are taking care of superficial wounds with band-aids and they're not taking care of root causes. That's why the theme of our conference is the development of an Alberta culture of peace program."
The CCTP worked for over 15 years educating Canadians and networking peace educators worldwide. This year's conference attempts to look at building peace one community at a time as well as establishing Calgary's own peace cafe.
"Our approach is an approach through education or advancing and increasing peace knowledge," said Stewart.
Last week's peace conference at the Calgary Avatamsaka Buddhist Monastery offered workshops and provided a wealth of material including books and videos to the general public. It used a new format called open space technology, where keynote speakers were present. However, all attending members were encouraged to add their concerns to the agenda. The concerns were divided into sub-committees and solutions to all issues were discussed. By the end of the weekend students, teachers, non-governmental organizations, government officials and businessmen alike came to a consensus on a broad spectrum of solutions for spreading peace in local communities.
CCTP opened their first peace cafe in Hamilton last December and hope opening one in Calgary will be as successful.
"The idea of a peace cafe is to have a nice cozy place where a person can go for a cup of coffee or a bite to eat and access our resource library of the best books and videos that we have found on different aspects of peace," explained Stewart.
The peace cafe will be the centre-piece of the peace program and CCTP hopes to open its peace cafe in the next four months. Once established in Calgary, CCTP hopes to continue its program in local communities and in other nations.
Stewart was enthusiastic about the number of opportunities available for students.
"Some of the most important things aren't taught in our schools and universities," he said. "There are a lot of key skills that can be learned in this peace profession. Things like conflict transformation, how to build better relationships, how to have transformative communications and building social intelligence."
Students can partake in internship programs with CCTP and gain valuable volunteer experience, earn money, academic credit and the opportunity to win $50,000 in scholarships.
"It's like the Chinese proverb," said Stewart. "We are living in interesting times and we really need monumental change in our society. Students of today, that is their challenge."