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PEACEMAKING: A LABOR OF TIME, PATIENCE, CREATIVITY

Peacemaking: a labor of time, patience, creativityMaking a quilt requires many pieces and considerable creativity, time and patience.

The same ingredients are needed for peacemaking, says the director of Bluffton University’s Lion and Lamb Peace Arts Center, which is marking its 25th anniversary this year.

Speaking to more than 60 businesswomen Sept. 1 at the Lima/Allen County Chamber of Commerce, Louise Matthews listed eight actions that she said can serve as blocks in a person’s "peacemaking quilt":

Find inner peace. How do people manage to survive amid violence and turmoil, to go on with seemingly so little hope? "In many cases, it is faith in God and support from others in the community," said Matthews, who will host an open house at the center from 2-5 p.m. on World Peace Day, Sept. 21. Loss is a part of life, she added, but in the midst of loss, change and transition, "we also need to find a sense of inner peace and contentment."

• Consider different perspectives. "We can share our perspectives and opinions in respectful ways without going on a campaign to change everyone else’s opinions to fit our own," she noted.

• Choose your response. "I’m always glad that others can’t read my mind to see my natural response to conflict because it’s not always pretty," Matthews conceded. But "thinking before you respond and taking time to choose an appropriate response has the potential to minimize the conflict rather than to escalate," she said.

• Communicate—find common ground. Citing the "Peace Thrones" sculpture on campus, the Lion and Lamb director pointed out that African and Native American traditions focus on listening to others tell what is important to them and finding common ground before focusing on issues that divide. "Recognize the importance of listening to other perspectives and preferences, not just focusing on our own," she advised.

• Be a good role model—others are watching. "Be a good example for others, and don’t be afraid to apologize when you fail," Matthews said.

• Accept differences—we are a global community. "Regardless of our background and experience, our abilities or disabilities," she suggested, "we are all interconnected, and our attitudes and actions do matter."

• Do random acts of kindness and compassion. "Every act of kindness is an act of peace," said Matthews, quoting Mother Teresa.

• You can make a difference. People tend to say they will make a difference—after, she added, they’ve dealt with a loss or other life transition; raised their children; or gotten a new job, promotion or college degree. "But you can make a difference right now," she urged.

Matthews has been the Lion and Lamb’s director since 2004, using art, literature and music to promote the study of peace and justice, cultural understanding and nonviolent responses to conflict, especially with children. Also as part of its 25th anniversary, the center is hosting "Celebration of Peace: A Bridge Between Us," a conference for children in grades 3-7, on Oct. 21 and 22. More information about the center and the conference is available at www.bluffton.edu/lionlamb/

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Bluffton public relations, 9/12/11