Reflections of a peace activist

Reflections of a peace activist

By Stanley Campbell

Reflections of a peace activist

As Rockford’s only paid peace activist, I get accused of wearing too many hats and getting involved in too many issues.

I plead guilty!

I wish there were more paid peace activists here. In Madison, Minneapolis, Chicago, New York, and especially in San Francisco, there are almost too many paid peace activists. (Really, there can never be enough!) But here in the Midwest, peace seems to be a low priority, especially in these times of terrorism and war.

Let me give you an idea of my work with Rockford Urban Ministries, and maybe encourage other organizations to fund a peace activist.

First off, it’s the United Methodist Church and other denominations that pay me. “RUM” has 24 member congregations who donate to cover the costs of an office, one full-time staff member, and one overworked, part-time secretary. And yes, we’ve thought of changing the name, but we’ve had it since 1962.

The churches also cover the costs of upcoming programs, and our big one is Thursday, Dec. 27, 7 p.m. at Court Street United Methodist Church.

We are bringing in a big “big gun” of the liberal Christian establishment in Washington, D.C., Jim Winkler, head of “Church & Society,” who’ll talk about his experiences on 9-11, and the response of the faith community. The program is free (of course) and open to the public. There will be a free will offering (of course) to help us cover the costs, but RUM usually loses money on all its programs.

Fundraising is a large part of my activities, and one of the more fun dinner benefits is Monday, Dec. 10, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the Unitarian Universalist Church. Rev. David Weissbard, the senior minister, will cook a vegan (meatless) meal to raise money for a nonprofit vegetarian restaurant to be housed in a soup kitchen. (To reserve a dinner, call the church at 815-398-6322.)

The Unitarian Universalist Church also hosts weekly Coffee Talk programs, and the best one is Monday, Dec. 17, 7:30 p.m., where I will present the annual peace award and interview dozens of other area activists (unpaid, unfortunately). I also support the Peace Store, a nonprofit gift shop right next door to RUM’s office at 623 Seventh St., open seven days a week for your holiday shopping pleasure. The Peace Store sells items from peace, environmental and mission groups from around the world. These are fair traded (no sweatshop or prison labor allowed). The Store is run by volunteers and is open at least noon to 5 p.m. every day ‘til Dec. 25.

Rockford Urban Ministries also encourages church members to get out of their buildings and put their faith to work in the city. This is the most challenging part of my employment.

There are tons of boarded-up houses, and yet, families are homeless. Even with Habitat for Humanity, Zion Development and Rockford New Hope building and rehabbing, there are many more board-ups overtaking the poorer sections of our community. I encourage the church (and others) to put resources where there is poverty. To invest where the return is a better life. I don’t get enough takers, but there are a lot of social service agencies that help.

But I do wish we had more paid peace activists in this community.

Stanley Campbell is executive director of Rockford Urban Minsitries and spokesman for Rockford Peace & Justice.

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