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Celebrating the Season of Non-Violence

Be the change you want to see in the world the words of India s Mahatma Gandhi resounded, encouraging Costa Ricans to cultivate peace during an inauguration ceremony Monday for the international Season of Non-Violence, 64 days beginning Jan. 30 and ending Feb. 4.

These dates mark the anniversaries of the deaths of two men who dedicated their lives to peace: Gandhi, who worked in India to promote humanitarianism through non-violence, and Martin Luther King, who shared this approach in his work toward civil rights in the United States. Both men were assassinated: Gandhi on Jan. 30, 1948, and King on April 4, 1968.

In 1998, the United Nations declared that these days mark the Season of Non-Violence, and since then countries around the world, including Costa Rica, have observed the time to reflect on peace, said Dulce Umanzor, Coordinator of Costa Rica s Season of Non-Violence organizing committee, composed of representatives from the Justice Ministry s National Office of Violence and Crime Prevention (DINAPREVI), the international spiritual group Brahma Kumaris and the National Committee for the Recovery of Values.

For the past nine years, Costa Rican governmental and nonprofit organizations have filled these 64 days with activities that teach peaceful ways of resolving disputes and spreading understanding, such as discussions, concerts and art exhibitions.

Unfortunately, violence is a serious problem here, Umanzor said.

There are instances all the time in Costa Rica when we forget about human beings, Umanzor said. We get angry all the time.We have to remember that there are other ways to resolve conflicts than violence.

Because Costa Rican governmental institutions are required by law to honor the season, many events are planned over the next two months at government offices, Umanzor said. However, all citizens are encouraged to participate by holding events in their communities or just contemplating what peace means on a personal level.

We encourage people to be builders of peace, and this can be done in many ways, Umanzor said. Some volunteer with the elderly or at the National Children s Hospital or just help a neighbor.

The Season of Non-Violence organizing committee is holding a Builders of Peace contest to recognize people or organizations that promote peace and work toward a more equal society, Umanzor explained. Those interested can nominate someone they know who they feel embodies peace through their actions. For more information on the contest and other events planned during the Season of Non-Violence, contact Umanzor at 258-6133 or by email at or

U.N. Ambassador Visits

This year s Season of Non-Violence coincides with a visit to Costa Rica by Ian Hall, the United Nations Inaugural Ambassador for the World Association of Non-Governmental Organizations, a job that takes him around the world to advance peace and conflict resolution.

Originally from Guyana, Hall moved to Great Britain at age 12 and received a scholarship to become the first black student at the prestigious Archbishop Tennison s Grammar School and later at OxfordUniversity s music school.

Hall serves as an Ambassador for the International Interreligious Federation for World Peace and the International Slavery Memorial Day, among other organizations, and was invited by United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan in 2000 to serve as an ambassador of peace under the title World Association of Non-Governmental Organizations Inaugural Ambassador-at-Large.

Since becoming an ambassador, Hall has visited the Middle East, Europe, the Far East and the Americas.

We are in a crisis throughout the world in these modern times of terrorism, Hall told The Tico Times on Monday. We must destroy and neutralize guns, but this is only a cosmetic solution.We must go to the heart of man and distill the divine essence of loving each other by sharing ideas.

This sharing of ideas is a big part of Hall s agenda during the two months he is spending in Costa Rica. He spoke with former President and National Liberation Party (PLN) presidential candidate Oscar Arias briefly at Arias public rally Sunday in San José (see separate story). He said he admires Arias as the Nobel Peace Prize winner in 1987 and advises him to strive to love and assume a non-judgmental, empathetic attitude toward everyone if he becomes President.

Hall, 66, is also in Costa Rica for personal reasons, he explained. His wife of 30 years, Radha, is suffering from breast cancer and receiving treatment from a holistic doctor in Chirripó, in the Southern Zone.

Costa Rica s history of peace and lack of a military presence also drew him here. He is working with the University for Peace (UPEACE) in Ciudad Colón, southwest of San José; the University of Costa Rica (UCR) in San Pedro, east of San José and Universidad Nacional (UNA) in Heredia, north of San José, giving seminars and meeting with university leaders to make plans for future exchanges.

I ve been enormously impressed with Costa Rica. There s so much laughter and good will and pura vida, as they call it. The people are charming, Hall said in his thick British accent, followed by the resonant burst of laughter that frequently punctuates his sentences.

A music director and composer of the United Nations´ anthem Come, Let us Unite, Hall hopes to hold a concert for peace at the National Theater in San José before leaving Costa Rica Feb. 12, among other activities.

Hall invites anyone interested in knowing more about his work to contact him by email at



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