2023 WWFOR Spring Assembly: Report  

2023 WWFOR Spring Assembly

The theme of the 25th annual WWFOR Spring  Assembly was Evolving Nonviolence.

by David Lambert. David chaired the planning committee for this event.

Our keynoter, Helena Cobban, shared her background of growing up in England. At age 21, she worked as a war correspondent in Beirut, Lebanon, while caring for her two small children. She came to the thinking that no matter how the war started, it needed to be stopped! She took her two children and left the Lebanon and her work there as a war correspondent in 1981.

She has witnessed many war zones, reporting that just as many people die from lack of hygiene, medications, food, and lack of other humanitarian needs as from bullets and bombs. In the 90’s she became Quaker and in 2015, she founded the Just World Educational (justworldeducational.org.), a nonprofit dedicated to publishing books on peace and justice issues, particularly in the Middle East. Helena published the book: Stop the Carnage, Build the Peace, in 2022. Since the Ukraine war began, she has been a strong advocate for a Korean-style Armistice, followed by negotiations. She went on to share the history of that Korean War Armistice. 

Two workshops were offered. One by Sean Arent who gave a very interactive workshop. His goal was to make us participants think about how to organize different groups around the abolition of nuclear weapons. For example: “Why should environmental groups be concerned about nuclear weapons? Answer: at every stage of the production of nuclear weapons, the environment is damaged. While mining uranium, while producing plutonium, and of course when a bomb is detonated. Why should unions and working people be concerned about nuclear weapons? Answer: money going to weapons, and they are expensive, that money will not be going to meet human needs.” Sean ended by encouraging each one of us to take one online action by writing our Senators and Congressional Representative asking them to support HR 669 “no first use.”

The second workshop was by Kathy Railsback of the Ground Zero Peace Community. Participants shared how they define nonviolence. How do we practice nonviolence was then discussed beginning with ourselves and the importance of grounding or centering ourselves through continuous examination of our words, thoughts, and actions.

Her motto of “No opponents left behind” was discussed and each of us has contributions and tools we can offer and provide toward The Beloved Community. She has done considerable work with trauma and has a three day workshop coming up. She recommended the movie “The Wisdom of Trauma” featuring Dr. Gabor Mate’. Kathy ended her presentation listing several important steps in implementing nonviolence: 1. Information gathering; 2. Educate ourselves on the information 3. Putting what we learned into action. 

Sarah Pham, a former Mike Yarrow Peace Graduate, is now working as a coordinator with the current MYPF activists. She introduced two MYPF presenters.  Sarah mentioned how her parents had come to the U.S. from Viet Nam.

Kimberly II’s social justice project: Generational trauma and genocide reconciliation of Khmer refugees. Her parents are Cambodian refugees and her mother was an orphan; many family members died during the genocide while her dad worked in camps. Many Cambodian people suffer from PTSD, including her father. She is working with others in using various artistic forms to help the healing process for Cambodian Americans in this state.

Dwija Adamala’s project is on economic inequality, especially for the BIPOC (Black Indigenous People of Color) community, with the goal of helping create a more equitable economic future for people in the Olympia area. Gentrification, redlining, and a general lack of support contributes to greater air pollution affecting the BIPOC community disproportionately. Structural forces help create high intergenerational immobility. Participants were encouraged to challenge others as a way of making a change in this structural social problem. Both Kimberly and Dwija shared their thanks and appreciation for the MYPF program and its strong support and work in nonviolence. 

Tom Rawson, long-time peace activist and folk singer, kicked off the Assembly with a Land Acknowledgement and song. Tom ended the Assembly with several songs in his familiar and engaging style

Following the formal Assembly, there was an informal sharing.