Creators of Peace (CoP) Circles often take place in the space of a single weekend, or over a number of weeks. What happens when the Circle is over?
Actually, quite a lot, explained Bek Brown, outgoing national coordinator for CoP. CoP Circles offer a space for diverse participants to be properly listened to, and to tell stories about their authentic selves. Many choose to keep the energy going by continuing to meet and support each other.
In New South Wales (NSW) there are Peace in Practice groups and family picnics. Women who have not yet done a Circle can connect through the Peace Culture Cafe events or the monthly meetings of suburban CoP networks in Galston and Auburn.
In Queensland, there have been film nights with invited guest speakers, which have led to collaboration with other community groups. In the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) a strong relationship is being built with the Women’s Interfaith Network; and in South Australia there are regular Peace Focus Gatherings.
In rural NSW, CoP women have even made a Peace Quilt together, which is displayed at CoP gatherings as a symbol of their togetherness.
Serving young people and local communities
‘Recent developments have shown the continued relevance of CoP Circles in Australia today,’ said Bek. ‘There’s a lot of need for peace in our communities…the culture clashes that happen, desperately need a peaceful response. How do we live together, and learn to celebrate our differences rather than fear them?’
Adolescent mental health is another area of need. ‘I work in a school where anxiety levels are going through the roof,’ she said. ‘Australia’s suicide rates are some of the highest in the world. CoP has a role to play in pointing people in a deeper direction…So many people are looking for something that’s going to give them peace and purpose. How can we use the CoP model to work with young people?’
CoP in Victoria have furthered their work with young people through the CoP Southeast project that serves high schools and local communities in Melbourne’s southeastern suburbs. The two-year project is funded by the Victorian State Government, and is conducted in partnership with the Southern Migrant Resource Centre (SMRC), a local service provider to migrant and refugee communities.
CoP Southeast project coordinator Alice Killip recently organized a ‘welcome tour’ of places of worship in the neighborhood. ‘It’s a way of opening conversations, and for getting people to bring forward what’s on their own hearts,’ she said.
Developing a community of practice
CoP Circle facilitators in NSW have formed a Creators of Peace community of practice (referred to as a CoPCoP). The group supports members to develop their facilitation practice, and provides peer accountability.
In 2019, 78 participants took part in 13 Creators of Peace Circles in Australia. Australians also supported some of the 88 Peace Circles that took place around the world, engaging more than 1,000 participants.
Reaching out to the world
A high point of 2019 was the CoP fundraiser in Adelaide, a film night to support training of CoP facilitators in Nepal to enable more CoP Circles to take place. Serena Rix Tripathee , former Country Director and Senior Advisor of the peacebuilding NGO Search for Common Ground Nepal, recorded a video message for guests, emphasizing the transformative power of CoP Circles. (You can view the six-minute video here
The evening raised $2,000 and brought together a diverse group of women in support of their colleagues in Nepal to offer Creators of Peace Circles in a country context that is often ridden with political conflict.
’It was a great event,’ said Bek. ’You can think of our work at the global scale, as a contribution to world peace, but it’s also about bringing it back to your own life, your own heart.’