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In memory of Johan Galtung

By Blog Editor, on 29 February 2024

We were saddened to learn about Johan Galtung’s passing on 17th February 2024.

We want to highlight as part of UCL’s Peace Education Special Interest Group our deepest gratitude for the impact that Galtung’s work has had on the peace education community, the work we do and our overall goal to connect and enable peace educators to share their work broadly.

We have several personal perspectives on Galtung’s engagement with peace research and will remain appreciative of those for the rest of our lives. Galtung revolutionised thinking about peace and this has enabled many to learn and work forwards for peace, achieving it in many areas.

We send our condolences to the family and thank them for the support they gave Johan Galtung to enable him to share his vital ideas with a world that desperately needs more education around peace.

For a full obituary: https://www.prio.org/news/3505

“Enough” by Danielle Poitras

By Blog editor, on 9 November 2023

At UCL’s Peace Education Special Interest Group (PESIG) we aim to support and amplify voices that call for peace in education, in society and in ourselves. Please get in touch with us if you would like to share your contributions to the PESIG blog:
Alexis Stones a.stones@ucl.ac.uk; Hans Svennevig h.svennevig@ucl.ac.uk

Words are crucial at this time to ask questions, listen, speak out, define terms, explore language, sources and histories; to write, challenge, protest, and to build peace. Here, Colorado-based poet and storyteller, Danielle Poitras, launches this term’s PESIG blog contributions with her poem “ENOUGH”.


Since Hurricane Lydia crashed into Mexico’s Pacific coast in early October where I was on retreat, the keyboard of my laptop is stuck in all caps.

I remember when I was in the first grade at West District School, I would write my name across the top of my worksheets “DANIELLE M. POITRAS.”

My teacher, Miss Thurston, who wore a permanent grimace and once locked my brother in the coat closet, pointed to my name in all caps and in a voice loud enough for all to hear, asked:



I kept my mouth closed in class after that.

Now, being forced to type in all caps is a sign of these terrible times, an expression of the horror unfolding in the world.

The urgent need to lift our voices for peace.
An invocation to our ancestors.
A prayer to end violence and hatred.
A call for humanity to evolve.


Haven’t we humans had enough of war?

NO MORE killing machines.
NO MORE using children as tools of war.
NO MORE children frantically searching for their mothers in the rubble.
NO MORE massacres of civilians.
NO MORE parents grieving their dead or kidnapped children.


I am someone who knows that we humans are capable of immense beauty and goodness. In his book A Power Governments Cannot Suppress, Howard Zinn reminds us that “to live now as we think human beings should live, in defiance of all that is bad around us, is itself a marvelous victory.”









*from Denise Levertov’s poem “Making Peace” in Breathing the Water.

Danielle M. Poitras earned her MFA in Writing & Poetics at Naropa University’s Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics in Boulder, Colorado. As a heart-centered multimedia storyteller, she is most interested in telling authentic stories that spark ways of remembering and connect humans with their purpose for making the world a more beautiful and kind place.

White Poppies in Schools: A Peaceful Trip to Somerset

By Blog Editor, on 4 April 2023

By Peter Glasgow Chair of the Peace Pledge Union

Every year as the ubiquitous red poppies appear, the Peace Pledge Union (PPU) begins its campaign to distribute white poppies as symbols of alternative remembrance. The white poppy stands for remembrance of all victims of war, challenging militarism and a commitment to peace. Here I share my insights from a visit to a primary school where I discovered that 8-9 year olds are more than capable of reflecting critically on war and everyday militarism.

Last October the PPU was contacted by a curriculum leader from a junior school in Somerset who requested a number of white poppies for a project that the school was undertaking over the remembrance period. The poppies were duly sent and I subsequently travelled down to the school having been asked to speak to a group of Year 5 pupils on Remembrance Day. I would consider myself an experienced teacher having spent over 30 years working in further education and then for two years as the PPU’s Peace Education Officer. The thing is, although I have taught people aged between 13 years and 70 years, I have never had any experience of teaching youngsters aged 8 or 9 years old. Could someone whose formative teaching was facilitating General Studies sessions for Craft Apprentices really manage the looming task that lay ahead?

At the school I was introduced to Lauren, who had made the request to the PPU. Lauren is a deeply impressive teacher who has come to the clear perception that primary education must include significant elements of critical education. This is why the school’s remembrance events were to include a presentation by pupils from years 4, 5 & 6 on the meaning of the white poppy, the purple poppy, the black poppy, and the ubiquitous red poppy, as well as my facilitated session. Talking to Lauren I was struck how much her educational views aligned with my own and that she didn’t demur when I expressed my opinion that it’s important that young people have opportunities to challenge their and others’ common sense notions of the world. My antennae twitched when she dropped into our discussion that ‘kids of this age like storiesmaybe a lifeline for my session.

I am introduced to a number of dignitaries assembling for the Remembrance Service. As is usually the way in these events, aspects of everyday militarism feature strongly, with the compulsory involvement of young children making me as a pacifist, feel uncomfortable. The presentation given, on the other hand, is more than a step in the right direction for critical awareness as the children showcase in creative ways their learning about the different poppies to the other pupils, the assembled dignitaries and a healthy number of parents. I take my leave of my new friends and it is with mounting trepidation that I am led to a very large room where, aargh, I find seventy-five Year 5 pupils sitting on the floor, accompanied by a number of teachers and learning support assistants standing at the back. I decide against sitting down and I commence in recounting my experience of being subjected to corporal punishment at the same age as my audience, in my junior school in late 1950s Sunderland. They are aghast but listen quietly and I am buoyed up when I get an all-round laugh when I tell them the teacher who wielded the cane was called Mr Ruff.  I ask them if this could happen today and the excited responses I get, with many hands thrown in the air, shows that they are horrified. Having indicated to my audience that this behaviour was not at all uncommon and was just accepted, I then ask them to think about what other behaviour was previously acceptable and is now very much unacceptable.

There is a short pause and they are able to articulate in their own words changing attitudes including relating to sexism, misogyny, racism, and homophobia. I come back to the idea of remembrance and the earlier presence of the military and the overriding concentration on remembering British military war dead, and once we have established that they really have been taught percentages, I ask them what is the respective proportions of civilian and military casualties in wars in the Twenty First Century. The highest figure anyone comes up with in relation to civilian casualties is 13% so they are very surprised to find the average is usually over 87%.

Before I know it the 45 minute session is coming to an end so I leave them with a number of questions perhaps the most pertinent on that day: why is remembrance always about the armed forces? In my summing-up I ask them to always be quizzical and to be careful of taking anything for granted. I left the room feeling pretty good and hopeful about this group of critical and reflective thinkers.

What had I learned?

  • Never be blasé when getting in front of any learners, no matter how experienced a teacher you may be.
  • It’s a pleasure to work with junior school pupils just as it is with other learners
  • 8/9 year olds can cope with moral questions and articulate sophisticated ideas
  • Critical education as a pedagogy works with all learners
  • In sessions themselves it is always best to get the learners to do the heavy lifting.

For further information about the Peace Pledge Unions Education resources please go to: https://www.ppu.org.uk/education

IOE Blog Post – Nuclear disarmament education

By Blog Editor, on 8 February 2023

This is a blog link to another blog that has just been published by the IOE Blog: Nuclear disarmament education is needed now more than ever. Read it here:

Nuclear disarmament education is needed now more than ever

UCL Peace Education Special Interest Group: A Call to Action

By Blog Editor, on 1 December 2022

by Hans Svennevig and Alexis Stones


The following article is featured in the latest edition of Teaching Citizenship journal. The practitioner journal for the Association for Citizenship Teaching. The theme of issue 56 is Conflict and Peace. We are delighted to have been able to contribute this call to action and welcome you to join us in January to discuss next steps.

Peace education is often spoken about as being somehow a radical endeavour. It is often considered to be on the left wing of political ideas, an expression from the left field or alternative culture. We would advocate that peace is ordinary rather than extraordinary. Even in the midst of conflict or violence, whether physical, internal or structural, peace still exists as a potential state of being. Conflict can also be a norm. So-called ‘healthy’ competition in education or sport, argument, oppression, injustice, marginalisation, territorial claims and religious disagreement are all part of the discourses of conflict. Indeed, conflict can define experience and the nature of existence.  

Our point is that peace education should reflect this tension. In an ideal world, peace is the default, but we recognise the influence of competing tendencies and ideologies that threaten peace. For this reason, peace education should exist in all educational settings. It should be part of the substance and framework of education with the value and application of any broad scale educational aim, principle or practice. Other authors in this edition of the journal have expressed the theoretical aspects of peace, peace education and conflict, they have discussed the practical application of this and how to embed it in the classroom. Our article is not to repeat those elements but to bring educators together to reflect on peace education practice, peace discussion and peace research so that peace education has its rightful place in educational settings.

The UN Sustainable Development Goals (4.7) require peace education to be further developed as one of the 17 goals that are identified to support sustainable development. There is a clear appreciation at a supranational level for all of us to develop peace education and yet we see a significant absence of peace education in multiple settings, not to mention a lack of awareness of what peace education even is.  As the tragedies of Putin’s War in Ukraine continue and media coverage is a constant, it is easy to imagine how fragile young people’s ideas about the possibility of peace are. 

We need to educate about peace and how to go about it in practice. We need to connect, for example, to those in Russia and elsewhere who courageously resist tyrannical regimes. We need to think about peaceful practice and endeavours, around the world and through time and consider dialogue such as ACTs deliberation methods in the classroom that promote safe spaces for peaceful discussion. 

As Subject Leaders of Citizenship and Religious Education (RE) with experience in peace education with charities and informal and formal education settings, we set up UCL’s Peace Education Special Interest Group (PESIG) to help connect peace education to theory, policy and practice as part of the university’s curriculum, culture and commitment to social justice. We want to bring educators and researchers together to de-mystify peace education and bring this important area of education to students and staff. We were both aware that some aspects of peace education were treated as ‘tick box’ exercises and appeared in the curriculum in a purely academic way limiting genuine engagement and restricting experiences of peace education to prescribed models of engagement. As teacher educators, we have a huge responsibility to support the values of the student teachers we work with. Exposing and nurturing commitments to peace from the outset of the teacher development process is the least we can do. We set up the UCL PESIG to connect and reach out beyond our contexts to colleagues, students and professionals across subjects and educational settings. We held a launch event in July 2022 as part of this endeavour as a sharing space for peace practitioners. We have a blog series and we invite contributions from anyone interested in writing about practice, policy or theory in peace education: in  https://blogs.ucl.ac.uk/peaceeducation/. Do have a read of it as there is already good variety of contributions that reflect the multidisciplinary and context-driven nature of peace education with many more to come. 

At the end of this piece [in the journal, the same quotes are used in our previous blog] we share insights from the PESIG launch event as quotations to begin conversations about the role we as educators have in our students’ lives when considering peace education. So as you read the quotes here – think about how you can bring all of the elements of this journal together in your teaching practice. If you would like to get more involved in peace education policy, practice and research, if you want to come to an event to share ideas or write for the blog and share some of your own practice, we would be delighted to hear from you contact Hans or Alexis

UCL Peace Education Special Interest Group Launch and Updates inc next event Jan 12th Online

By Blog editor, on 21 October 2022

“We are seeing a critical mass where educators are enabling peace education in the mainstream.” Monisha Bajaj Co-Author of Educating for Peace and Human Rights: An Introduction. 

“If war is the answer, we must be asking the wrong question. It’s time to ask the right question.” Ellis Brooks Peace Education Co-Ordinator Quakers in Britain. 

We celebrate the Peace Education Special Interest Group (PESIG) launch in July which brought together peace educators from diverse fields in peace education in their individual, national and global contexts: from students to teachers and academics, charity founders and community education organisations. We asked: “What does peace mean for us today and how can we educate for peace?”. The room at the IOE and online breakout rooms buzzed with connections and plans to collaborate for meaningful and impactful peace education.  

We look forward to reconvening online for the next UCL PESIG meeting on January 12th 2023 at 4.30-6pm here: https://ucl.zoom.us/j/95629643055 this is a date change due to strike action on the original date.

Below are quotations and links from the speakers at the event to begin conversations about the role we have as educators when considering peace education. As you read the words here, think about how they can inspire your teaching, planning and practice in both formal and informal ways. What difference can a commitment to peace make to our work? 

‘Educating for a better world has to be the focus, and it is more imperative than ever to push for peace education and social justice, to build pockets of hope and resistance to amplify ideas and solidarity. We have to find communities and challenge ourselves’ Maria Hantzopolous Co-Author of Educating for Peace and Human Rights: An Introduction. (See Teaching Citizenship Issue 54 for a review of this book: https://www.teachingcitizenship.org.uk/journals) 

‘We are seeing a critical mass where educators are enabling peace education in the mainstream. Be willing to grow… in dialogue with others. All growing and approaching things in humility.’ Monisha Bajaj Co-Author of Educating for Peace and Human Rights: An Introduction. 

‘Food is the anithesis of war. It brings people together and in love and community. The best thing about building communities and building peace education is through storytelling. This is what brings people together. Telling stories with dignity. In education we should be telling the stories of families, love, food, laughter, not destruction, violence and hatred.’ Giles Duley, CEO of Legacy of War Foundation  https://www.legacyofwarfoundation.com/ https://gilesduley.com/one-armed-chef/  

‘How can we be sure that when we talk about these sustainable development goals peace education can be seen as an integral part bringing many of the themes of human rights, sustainable development together: holistically, personally, locally and globally? Communities are seeing the connections in education; we need to do the same in Higher Education’. Professor Douglas Bourn, Director of Development Education Research Centre at IOE, UCL’s Faculty of Education and Society. https://www.ucl.ac.uk/ioe/departments-and-centres/centres/development-education-research-centre  

‘If war is answer, we must be asking the wrong question. It’s time to ask the right question. Learning from practice and experience as we did in the Peace at Heart report: https://www.quaker.org.uk/documents/peace-at-the-heart. We need to think about every layer of the education system and the experience of social justice and peace education. There are glimmers of light with restorative justice and peace education becoming mainstream. We need to persuade others that our relational approach is important to them. What if peace was an FBV?’ Ellis Brooks Peace Education Co-Ordinator Quakers in Britain. https://www.quaker.org.uk/our-work/peace 

If you would like to get more involved in peace education policy, practice and research, or if you want to come to an event to share ideas or write for the blog to share your own practice, we would be delighted to hear from you. Please contact Hans and Alexis on h.svennevig@ucl.ac.uk and a.stones@ucl.ac.uk  

Peace Education and Action for Impact: Towards a model for intergenerational, youth-led, and cross-cultural peacebuilding

By Blog Editor, on 11 July 2022

Peace Education and Action for Impact: Towards a model for intergenerational, youth-led, and cross-cultural peacebuilding

World BEYOND War partners with the Rotary Action Group for Peace to pilot a large-scale peacebuilding programme

by Phill Gittins

The need for intergenerational, youth-led, and cross-cultural peacebuilding

Sustainable peace rests on our ability to collaborate effectively across generations and cultures.

First, there is no viable approach to sustainable peace that does not include the input of all generations. Despite general agreement in the peacebuilding field that partnership work among different generations of people is important, intergenerational strategies and partnerships are not an integral part of many peacebuilding activities. This is not surprising, perhaps, given that there are many factors that mitigate against collaboration, in general, and intergenerational collaboration, in particular. Take, for example, education. Many schools and universities still prioritise individual pursuits, which favour competition and undermine possibilities for collaboration. Similarly, typical peacebuilding practices rely on a top-down approach, which prioritises the transfer of knowledge instead of collaborative knowledge production or exchange. This in turn has implications for intergenerational practices, because peacebuilding efforts are too often done ‘on’, ‘for’, or ‘about’ local people or communities rather than ‘with’ or ‘by’ them (see, Gittins, 2019).

Second, while all generations are needed to advance the prospects of peaceful sustainable development, a case can be made to direct more attention and effort toward younger generations and youth-led efforts. At a time when there are more young people on the planet than ever before, it is hard to overstate the central role youth (can and do) play in working towards a better world. The good news is that interest in the role of youth in peacebuilding is rising globally, as demonstrated by the global Youth, Peace, and Security Agenda, new international policy frameworks, and national action plans, as well as a steady increase in programming and scholarly work (see, Gittins, 2020, Berents & Prelis, 2022). The bad news is that young people remain under-represented in peacebuilding policy, practice, and research.

Third, cross-cultural collaboration is important, because we live in an increasingly interconnected and interdependent world. Therefore, the ability to connect across cultures is more important than ever. This presents an opportunity for the peacebuilding field, given that cross-cultural work has been found to contribute to the deconstruction of negative stereotypes (Hofstede, 2001), conflict resolution (Huntingdon, 1993), and the cultivation of holistic relationships (Brantmeier & Brantmeier, 2020). Many scholars – from Lederach to Austesserre, with precursors in the work of Curle and Galtung – point to the value of cross-cultural engagement.

In summary, sustainable peace is dependent on our ability to work intergenerationally and cross-culturally, and to create opportunities for youth-led efforts. The importance of these three approaches has been recognised in both policy and academic debates. There is, however, a lack of understanding about what youth-led, intergenerational/cross-cultural peacebuilding looks like in practice – and specifically what it looks like on a large scale, in the digital age, during COVID.

Peace Education and Action for Impact (PEAI)

These are some of the factors that led to the development of Peace Education and Action for Impact (PEAI) – a unique programme designed to connect and support young peacebuilders (18-30) across the globe. Its goal is to create a new model of 21st century peacebuilding — one that updates our notions and practices of what it means to do youth-led, intergenerational, and cross-cultural peacebuilding. Its purpose is to contribute to personal and social change through education and action.

Underpinning the work are the following processes and practises:

  • Education and action. PEAI is guided by a dual focus on education and action, in a field where there is a need to close the gap between the study of peace as a topic and the practice of peacebuilding as a practice (see, Gittins, 2019).
  • A focus on pro-peace and anti-war efforts. PEAI takes a broad approach to peace – one that includes, but takes on more than, the absence of war. It is based on the recognition that peace cannot co-exist with war, and therefore peace requires both negative and positive peace (see, World BEYOND War).
  • A holistic approach. PEAI provides a challenge to common formulations of peace education which rely on rational forms of learning at the expense of embodied, emotional, and experiential approaches (see, Cremin et al., 2018).
  • Youth-led action. Frequently, peace work is done ‘on’ or ‘about’ youth not ‘by’ or ‘with’ them (see, Gittins et., 2021). PEAI provides a way of changing this.
  • Intergenerational work. PEAI brings intergenerational collectives together to engage in collaborative praxis. This can help to address the persistent mistrust in peace work between youth and adults (see, Simpson, 2018, Altiok & Grizelj, 2019).
  • Cross-cultural learning. Countries with diverse social, political, economic, and environmental contexts (including diverse peace and conflict trajectories) can learn a great deal from each other. PEAI enables this learning to take place.
  • Rethinking and transforming power dynamics. PEAI pays close attention to how processes of ‘power over’, ‘power within’, ‘power to’, and ‘power with’ (see, VeneKlasen & Miller, 2007) play out in peacebuilding endeavours. 
  • The use of digital technology. PEAI provides access to an interactive platform that helps to facilitate online connections and supports learning, sharing, and co-creation processes within and between different generations and cultures.

The programme is organised around what Gittins (2021) expresses as the ‘knowing, being, and doing of peacebuilding’. It seeks to balance intellectual rigour with relational engagement and practice-based experience. The programme takes a two-pronged approach to change-making – peace education and peace action – and is delivered in a consolidated, high-impact, format over 14 weeks, with six-weeks of peace education, 8-weeks of peace action, and a developmental focus throughout.


Implementation of the PEAI pilot

In 2021, World BEYOND War teamed up with the Rotary Action Group for Peace to launch the inaugural PEAI programme. This is the first time that youth and communities in 12 countries across four continents (Cameroon, Canada, Colombia, Kenya, Nigeria, Russia, Serbia, South Sudan, Turkey, Ukraine, USA, and Venezuela) have been brought together, in one sustained initiative, to engage in a developmental process of intergenerational and cross-cultural peacebuilding.

PEAI was guided by a co-leadership model, which resulted in a programme designed, implemented, and evaluated through a series of global collaborations. These included: 

  • The Rotary Action Group for Peace was invited by World BEYOND War to be their strategic partner on this initiative. This was done to enhance collaboration between Rotary, other stakeholders, and WBW; facilitate power-sharing; and leverage the expertise, resources, and networks of both entities.
  • A Global Team (GT), which included people from World BEYOND War and the Rotary Action Group for Peace. It was their role to contribute towards thought leadership, programme stewardship, and accountability. The GT met every week, over the course of a year, to put the pilot together.
  • Locally-embedded organisations/groups in 12 countries. Each ‘Country Project Team’ (CPT), comprised of 2 coordinators, 2 mentors, and 10 youth (18-30). Each CPT met regularly from September through December 2021.
  • A ‘Research Team’, which included people from the University of Cambridge,  Columbia University, Young Peacebuilders, and World BEYOND War. This team led the research pilot. This included monitoring and evaluation processes to identify and communicate the significance of the work for different audiences.

Activities and impacts generated from the PEAI pilot

While a detailed presentation of the peacebuilding activities and impacts from the pilot cannot be included here for reasons of space, the following gives a glimpse of the significance of this work, for different stakeholders. These include the following:

1) Impact for young people and adults in 12 countries

PEAI directly benefited approximately 120 young people and 40 adults working with them, in 12 different countries. Participants reported a range of benefits including:

  • Increased knowledge and skills related to peacebuilding and sustainability.
  • The development of leadership competencies helpful for enhancing personal and professional engagement with self, others, and the world.
  • Increased understanding of the role of young people in peacebuilding.
  • A greater appreciation of war and the institution of war as a barrier to achieving sustainable peace and development.
  • Experience with intergenerational and cross-cultural learning spaces and practices, both in-person and online.
  • Increased organising and activism skills particularly in relation to carrying out and communicating youth-led, adult-supported, and community-engaged projects.
  • The development and maintenance of networks and relationships.

Research found that: 

  • 74% of participants in the programme believe that the PEAI experience contributed to their development as a peacebuilder.
  • 91% said that they now have the capability to influence positive change.
  • 91% feel confident about engaging in intergenerational peacebuilding work.
  • 89% consider themselves experienced in cross-cultural peacebuilding efforts

2) Impact for organisations and communities in 12 countries

PEAI equipped, connected, mentored, and supported participants to carry out more than 15 peace projects in 12 different countries. These projects are at the heart of what ‘good peace work’ is all about, “thinking our ways into new forms of action and acting our way into new forms of thinking” (Bing, 1989: 49).

3) Impact for the peace education and peacebuilding community

The conception of the PEAI programme was to bring intergenerational collectives together from across the globe, and to engage them in collaborative learning and action toward peace and sustainability. The development of the PEAI programme and model, along with findings from the pilot project, have been shared in dialogue with members from the peace education and peacebuilding community via various online and in-person presentations. This included an end-of-project event/celebration, where young people shared, in their words, their PEAI experience and the impact of their peace projects. This work will also be communicated through two journal articles, currently in process, to show how the PEAI programme, and its model, have potential for influencing new thinking and practices.

What next?

The 2021 pilot offers a real-world example of what is possible in terms of youth-led, intergenerational/cross-cultural peacebuilding on a large scale. This pilot is not seen as an end-point per se, but rather as a new beginning – a strong, evidence-based, foundation to build on and an opportunity to (re)imagine possible future directions.

Since the beginning of the year, World BEYOND War has been working diligently with the Rotary Action Group for Peace, and others, to explore potential future developments – including a multi-year strategy which seeks to take up the difficult challenge of going to scale without losing touch with the needs on the ground. Regardless of the strategy adopted – intergenerational, youth-led, and cross-cultural collaboration will be the heart of this work.



Author Biography:

Phill Gittins, PhD, is the Education Director for World BEYOND War. He is also a Rotary Peace Fellow, KAICIID Fellow, and Positive Peace Activator for the Institute for Economics and Peace. He has over 20 year’s leadership, programming, and analysis experience in the areas of peace & conflict, education & training, youth & community development, and counselling & psychotherapy. Phill can be reached at: phill@worldbeyondwar.org. Find out more about the Peace Education and Action for Impact programme here: at https://worldbeyondwar.org/action-for-impact/

“Be thou more sheltering, God. Pay more attention.” – response to Tony Kushner for hope in heartless times

By Blog editor, on 28 March 2022

by Alexis Stones

Ongoing and deadly attacks on the people in Ukrainian cities, towns, villages, homes, hospitals, schools and a theatre, amidst hopes for ‘humanitarian corridors’, all affirm the scale and dehumanisation of war. Marina Ovsyannikova’s protests on live news leaving her long-term prospects still uncertain, and the tens of thousands of detained protesters in Russia, demonstrate that words and actions are indeed a privilege.

Suffering persists for the dispossessed, the ‘survivors’, and victims of countless global conflicts. Plights of refugees remain a constant reality across the world. Resilience, solidarity, social action, charity, aid, local and global support, kindness and care abound, and yet old and young flee war for the second and third time, children grow up war-torn and babies are born in war.

Words feel hopeless compared to the urgent needs of individuals and communities who are invaded or suffer under the threat of invasion. Inspired by Lisa Birman’s “A Prayer” (1996), this response to Tony Kushner’s “Aids Prayer” (1994) is an attempt to use words to speak to the heart in heartless times. In the face of the AIDS pandemic, Kushner petitions God for justice and a cure. While God is used here as an address, this God is also a goddess, a god, G-d, gods, a principle, a truth, an aspiration, a hope.

“Be thou more sheltering, God. Pay more attention.”
– response to Tony Kushner’s “Aids Prayer” in heartless times

“Dearly Beloved, Let us pray.
[Dear] God: A cure would be nice. Rid those infected by this insatiable unappeasable murderer of its lethal presence.”
A cure for war, we ask
For war, for invasion, for indiscriminate and discriminate violence.
When ceasefire occurs, for reconciliation
When peace occurs, for listening to flourish.

When homes are built, stories told, for trauma healed not handed on
For story converted to allegory: tales of inner resolvable conflict
Outer peace to yield inner peace.

May anger alert us to injustice (not force)
May fear and pride make peace
May what divides us, do so peacefully
May the exhausted and embattled not need bravery.

Your neglect leaves us besieged, God
We shake our fists at you and your corridors of humans
Wars known and unknown
Suffering heard and unheard
In the Great Court, who will the Jury find guilty?

We ask you to turn your face to us
“At present we are homeless, or imagine ourselves to be…
Be thou more sheltering, God. Pay more attention.”

Further Reading:
“Aids Prayer” for the Episcopalian National Day of Prayer for AIDS (Tony Kushner, 1994)
“A Prayer” (in “Some Things: poems and translations”, Lisa Birman 1998, Dristill Press)