Welcome to Just Peace Circles!

Peace circles are ancient to the future and relevant in the present.

We come together in circles to seek peace and to celebrate,  for healing and community building.  In peace circles we seek to resolve our differences and  make cooperative decisions ……and more.

Circle keepers guide participants through the process, discovering shared values and asking the right questions.  Circling up is catching  on – making hierarchy passé!

~Just Peace  Circles, Inc. is a not-for-profit 501c3 organization~

Just Peace Circles in Central America

Bette has been working for peace with justice in Central America since she founded CASA de Maryland www.casademaryland in 1985.  Recently she traveled to Guatemala, Nicaragua and Honduras.  In Guatemala, she traveled with the Highlands Support Project www.highlandsupportproject.org to the ancient Mayan capital of Xela (aka Quetzaltenango).  The program has organized 26 women’s circles in the villages of the highlands. In Nicaragua, Bette joined a wedding caravan for her dear friend, Becca Wheaton, and spent time in the village of Jinocuao as well as Granada and San Juan del Sur.  After the wedding, she connected with Jenny Atlee and Tom Loudon and met her old friend Dada Maheshvarananda for their trip to Honduras.

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Bette & Jenny at Lagoon Apoya

Dada is a Proutist monk who lives and works in Venezuela.  See more of the Prout Research Institute of Venezuela at www.priven.org. You can also learn about his speaking tour regarding his book “After Capitalism” at www.proutaftercapitalism.blotspot.com  

Jenny & Tom are based in Managua, Nicaragua for their organization “Friendship of the Americas” www.friendshipamericas.org. Since the Honduran coup of 2009, the situation there is highly unstable and thus much of their work is currently focused on Honduras.  The Report of the Commission of Truth on which Tom worked was published in April 2013 and documents “the voice of greatest authority…the victims”.  Their Project of Accompaniment in Honduras (PROAH) provides an international presence to those who document the human rights violations and disappearances.  See the PROAH blog on the right side of their website.

We were invited to come to Tegucigalpa, Honduras, to support the staff of COFADEH -The Commission of the Families of the Disappeared www.cofadeh.hn -who are on the front lines of the work for justice in this troubled country.  The organization has spent more than 25 years documenting deaths and disappearances and since the 2009 coup they have been incredibly busy!  The bus ride was about 9 hours each way with a long border crossing and police stops along the way.  With some trepidation (after all, Honduras had the highest murder rate in the world in 2013), we crossed the border into the mountains of Honduras and found our way into the capital city.

Bertha Oliva, COFADEH’s executive director, had decided to give her entire staff of 18 a day out of the city for “sesiones de terapia relajamiento” or sessions of relaxation therapy.  Each day we journeyed by mini-bus out of the city and into the mountains to their beautiful retreat house called “Lugar Contra la Olvida” (a place against forgetting).  It was funded by a gift to Bertha from the European Union for COFADEH’s human rights work.

Director of COFADEH (Commission of Families of the Disappeared in Honduras

Bertha Oliva, Director of COFADEH Commission of Families of the Disappeared in Honduras

Bette and Dada led peace circles, cooperative games, yoga and meditation, singing and body work that renewed the staff to wholeness.  Everyone returned to their work with renewed energy and increased understanding of how to reduce the stress in their own bodies and support each other better.  We promised we’d tell their stories back home and return to support their important work.  We will see Bertha Oliva when she comes to Washington DC in March 2014 to testify to the Organization for American States about the situation in her country.

Peace Circle in Honduras

Bette & Dada facilitating a peace circle for healing and relaxation.

We are looking for peace workers and healers to join us in return trips to support our sisters and brothers of COFADEH and PROAH in their work and let them know they are not forgotten.  After all, we all all one family, and what affects any of us affects all of us. We do this work so we all may be healthy and live peaceful, happy lives.

A word on Guatemala:  Since the US overthrew the democratically elected government in 1955 and imposed military rule, the military rules.  Although their civil war of 36 years ended in peace accords in 2008, it’s not a peaceful country.  Neo-liberal capitalism supports 10 wealthy families who own most of the land.  NAFTA – true to its reputation – benefits the US and causes great hardship on trade from Guatemala.  Adding to their already troubled economy, the US deports 2000 to 4000 persons back to Guatemala every month.  The indigenous (Mayan) are about 60% illiterate, and 2 out of 6 children are “drastically” malnourished (meaning mental and physical health is stunted for life).  There is a doctor to about each 100,000 people in the countryside.  Village leaders who don’t obey government and military orders are accused of “drug – dealing” and put in jail with no recourse.  Women who organize are specifically targeted for repression.  Our sources spoke of a revolution needing to happen.

The exciting thing that’s happening in the country is the renaissance of mayan culture and indigenous ways.  We saw it bubbling up everywhere as women are recovering their voices and power and reconnecting to “madre tierra” (mother earth).

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Our delegation from VCU (Virginia Commonwealth University) to Highland Support Project in Guatemala

IMG_0581Bette & Mirna, a Mayan woman working with the project.

IMG_0542Mayan Anthropologist preparing to lead a ceremony.

IMG_0610IMG_0584The view of Lake Atitlan from Casa del Mundo.

A little about Circle Processes…

The Circle Process ~ some benefits of using circles: 

  • Circles provide for equitable power sharing
  • Circles allow quiet voices to be heard
  • Circles nurture the emergence of leadership
  • Circles encourage problem solving by consensus building
  • Circles help build a safe space
  • Circles provide a place for people to build relationships
  • Circles provide an opportunity to explore issues more deeply
  • Circles help people step up and take responsibility for their stuff
  • Circles are an effective organizing tool
  • Circle ritual transcends the ordinary and mundane

~ and sometimes magic happens!

Circles can be used:

  • Anytime three or more people gather
  • To open or close a gathering
  • To clear the air when there is controversy
  • To build consensus and come to cooperative decision making
  • To move a group towards action

Ideas for the Circle Keeper:

  • Introduce a talking piece (stone, ball, stuffed animal, etc.)
  • Give clear directions to increase the likelihood of success
  • Start with a low risk question that builds a foundation of shared values
    • The Circle Keeper responds to the question first.
  • Give people the opportunity to pass during the first go-around
  • Pass the talking piece around the circle the second time
  • Suspend the use of the talking piece for brainstorming or facilitated discussion.  Return to its use as needed.
  • The shape of the circle does matter – everyone needs to be able to see everyone
  • Circle Keeping is simple – but it isn’t easy!

Just do it!  

Just Peace Circles, Inc. 2010

Holiday House Party & Fun(d)raiser

Celebrate the Season with us on Saturday, December 7th from 5 – 8 p.m. in Howard County, MD. Live music with jazz keyboardist, Bronson Hoover, and folk duo, Harry Walker & Janet Griffin.  Handcrafts for sale to benefit Mayan and local women.  Beverages and food available.  Children are welcome.

Suggested donation:  $10.00  Let us know you are coming –  info@justpeacecirclesorg

Peace Circles Training

Howard Community College, Columbia, Maryland on Wednesday, November 20, 2013 from 6:45 – 8:30 p.m.  Sponsored by the Mediation and Conflict Resolution Center for mediators and others.

Welcome to Just Peace Circles, Inc