USA: Projects for Peace and Unity
Around 30 young Unificationists attended a two-day Peace Designer Seminar held by Youth and Students for Peace (YSP) during the 2019 Peace Starts With Me Unity Festival in Las Vegas. They gathered at the International Peace Education Center (IPEC) on June 24 and 25 to learn how to create a peace project from the ground up, drawing from their personal strengths and passions.
“It gives you the tools and ideas you might need for any kind of project that promotes peace within individuals; peace between other people; and then peace with the environment,” said Naria Gaarder, YSP National Program Coordinator.
Founded in Korea in 2017 and launched in the USA in 2018, YSP is a practical way to implement peace on both a small or large scale, with projects ranging from park cleanups to mentorship programs and more. Gaarder said the projects are led by individuals who are between the ages of 18 and 40, with many peace projects now being created around the world. “I believe it’s now spreading to Europe and Africa, and South America as well,” she said.
The peace projects already have a strong presence in Southeast Asia. One young Unificationist in Japan recently started the Moringa Tree Planting Project to address global carbon dioxide levels. “The Moringa tree is considered a miracle tree that can absorb 20 times more carbon dioxide than an ordinary tree, and the goal is to plant billions of trees,” said Gaarder. Hearing about such projects inspired the seminar participants to brainstorm peace projects that could benefit their communities.
“The Detroit area needs brother-sister interaction,” said Cynthia Konan, a participant from Michigan who wants to create a mentorship program. Hyoun Shibata, a participant from Chicago, said she wants to do something that brings her community together as well. “Unity within a community can help us understand each other more, and move forward as a community and as a nation,” said Shibata.
Participants were encouraged to create a personal connection to their peace project ideas. “We think about what our strength is, what our knowledge is, and combine them to make a peace project,” said Akifumi Takami, a participant from Hawaii.
Peace projects also include an internal aspect called a peace perspective which aims to cultivate the concept of living for the sake of others. “This concept is incredibly important and is vital if we want to see sustainable peace in the world, because without this heart of service people won’t be able to help other people,” said Gaarder. Participants left the seminar eager and motivated to develop future peace projects of their own.