“MANY men cry peace! Peace! But theyrefuse to do the things that make forpeace.”–Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.YOU may think she’s a dreamer, butshe’s not the only one. Especially after theRasur Foundation held its first graduationceremony in December at the EliasJiménez Castro School in Desamparados, asouthern suburb of San José. With directorCarlos Corrales proudly looking on, 19teachers accepted certificates for their successfulcompletion of the foundation’s firstPeace Army basic training in “FeelingPeace, Speaking Peace.”The completion of this innovative pilotproject is an important milestone for CostaRica and for Rita Marie Johnson, creator ofthe project. She intends to make the trainingavailable to all willing teachers inCosta Rica within 10 years.When asked what motivated her totake on such a daunting task, Johnsonreplied: “My goal is to help create a country-wide model of consciously passing theskills of peacemaking from one generationto the next.”MANY groups and individuals in ourtroubled world teach various methods ofnonviolent conflict resolution. Valuable asthis approach is, by definition it comes intoplay only after a conflict has occurred.Rita Marie Johnson, founding Directorof the Rasur Foundation, thinks we can dobetter. She has long had a dream of a worldin which peace is our customary state ofexistence and the birthright of every child.In her vision, parents teach their children,and teachers, their students, how to recognizewhen they are peaceful and how tocommunicate honestly in a way that resultsin empathy and connection, satisfactionand joy in human relationships.After 10 years of research and reflection,Johnson decided to use the Institute ofHeartMath’s Freeze-Framer software andDr. Marshall Rosenberg’s NonviolentCommunication (NVC) method to create ateacher-training program called the PeaceArmy. Freeze-Framer addresses the “FeelingPeace” phase of the training, whileNVC teaches the “Speaking Peace” aspect(TT, July 9, 2004). Johnson found each ofthese techniques had been well validated,over time and across cultures, as beinghighly effective. She went on to pioneerusing them together in a synergistic way.SINCE its inception in October 2003,the Peace Army has raised the money topurchase necessary training materials andcontract Sura Hart, a certified NVC trainer and author of “The Compassionate Classroom.”As a result, the Peace Army hasrecruited and trained 28 volunteers and 19public- and 30 private-school teachers, aswell as 35 members of the general public.The Peace Army introduced its conceptsto more than 600 students and teachersin an assembly at the Elias JiménezCastro School last May. After the teachers intraining had taught the two methods intheir classrooms for several months, theirstudents demonstrated what they hadlearned to another assembly of more than800 students, faculty and communitymembers in November.JOHNSON’S work was recognized byformer President Óscar Arias (1986-1990)and the Arias Foundation for Peace andHuman Progress, which sponsored herattendance at the Alliance for a New Humanity’s(ANH) forum in San Juan, PuertoRico, Dec. 1-3. ANH is an internationalorganization of peacemakers dedicated tocoordinating action and establishing partnershipsto help alleviate suffering and reaffirmhumanity’s profound respect for life.Her journey enabled her to cast her net morewidely for support for the Peace Army. As aresult, author and New Age guru DeepakChopra has become one of its advocates.Professor Ámparo García, faculty advisorto Long Island University’s FriendsWorld Program, performed an independentevaluation of the Peace Army’s pilot trainingbased on a questionnaire completed byall participants, and on observing severaltraining sessions. She concluded: “Thework done by the Peace Army has contributedsignificantly to the reduction ofstress for both teachers and students.” Shewent on to say that concentrated efforts inthe direction of peace can bear significantand immediate results, and that the work ofthe Peace Army proves the skills of peacecan be taught.DURING the new school term, whichbegan this month, the Peace Army willcontinue its work at Elias Jiménez CastroSchool while implementing a “train thetrainers” program so they may add a secondschool later in the year. Volunteersand potential part-time bilingual trainersare being recruited to aid in expansion.Financial donations and the donation of avideo beam projector are also needed tosupport this growth. For more information,call Johnson at 282-6576 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Today in Costa Rica