If Every Child Were Mine
01 April 2006
'Segregation just isn't acceptable in any form any more. It harms all of us!'
A WOMAN LEANED across the breakfast table, and said, 'Segregation just isn't acceptable in any form any more. It harms all of us!' She was taking part in the ninth Annual Metropolitan Richmond Day breakfast organised by Hope in the Cities in Richmond, Virginia. Hope in the Cities is an IofC programme, which provides a framework for honest dialogue and collaboration among citizen groups of different races and faiths.
This year's theme was 'If every child were my child'. Intense conversations took place at each table as over 650 invitees discussed questions posed by the organisers: ‘Most of our schools, like our neighbourhoods, are segregated by socioeconomic class and race. From your perspective, what is one of the advantages of this? What is one of the disadvantages of this?' ‘I think the issue in education is excellence and providing that for all students, regardless of their class or economic levels,' said a retired judge. 'If we can't commit to doing that, our future in this region is not very hopeful.'
Two others at his table nodded their heads. 'But how can we make that happen?' asked a woman who had moved to Richmond three years ago. ‘The most important thing to me is to somehow keep parents involved with the teachers and the school so that kids know we are ALL looking out for them, like when we grew up.'
The keynote speaker was the superintendent of the Wake County public school system in North Carolina, William McNeal. McNeal, who was national Superintendent of the Year in 2004, said, 'We don't talk about race any more. The real issue is "healthy schools", not school integration; however, a diverse, inclusive school is more likely to be a healthy school.' The breakfast was followed by a forum on education. 'What is really important is that we are having these conversations,' a long-time community activist said in closing. 'We couldn't have done that 25 years ago.'
CIRCLES FOR PEACE
'EVERY PERSON HAS a story to tell and a need to be heard' is one of the guiding principles of a series of Women's Peace Circles which have been taking place in Australia, Malaysia, the US and Lebanon under the umbrella of IofC.
The circles grew out of the Creators of Peace women's network whose conference in Uganda last year was reported in For A Change (Vol 18 no 4). They bring together six to 12 women from different cultural backgrounds and faiths to explore their ability to create peace. As they work through a series of topics, participants are encouraged to share something of their personal stories in an atmosphere of trust and respect.
Peace circles have taken place in Adelaide, Melbourne and, most recently, Sydney, where women from Lebanon, Kenya, Iraq, Rwanda, Burundi, India, Holland and Australia took part. Comments from participants included:
- 'I can't be a prisoner of my past. I choose to forgive.'
- 'Islam is not terrorist. I worry about my children's generation.'
- 'I've held anger and disappointment inside me for many years. I am confronting this and starting the healing process.'
- 'Offering hospitality is a way of building peace.'
Eight more peace circles are starting up in Sydney this year-including one for men!