Peace Fair attempted to define look of 'peace'

Opinion

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The Oak Park Coalition for Truth and Justice (OPCTJ) thanks all of those who attended the Sept. 10 Chicago regional Peace Fair and Town Hall Meeting held in Scoville Park. Without you, the event would not have been successful. We also thank the Oak Park Police Department for its assistance and cooperation on the day of the Fair and the Park District of Oak Park for its cooperation in facilitating the event.

The Peace Fair and Town Hall Meeting was a stunning success, far exceeding our most optimistic expectations. Nearly 60 exhibitors from throughout the Chicago area set up booths in Scoville Park, the center of downtown Oak Park. Between 2,000 and 3,000 people visited the booths, listened to music, participated in the Town Hall Meeting "speak-out," or just enjoyed the chance to collectively define peace.

In conceiving the Peace Fair, OPCTJ sought to create an event that reached well beyond Oak Park, bringing visitors and exhibitors from throughout Chicagoland to a central location that was accessible to people from the entire Chicago area.

This effort to reach beyond Oak Park was also remarkably successful. Almost two-thirds of the exhibitors were from organizations based outside of Oak Park and half or more of the visitors came from either the western suburbs or Chicago. We are sure that the large number of out-of-town visitors and the exhibitors at the Fair generated a significant amount of new business for the shops and restaurants in the Scoville Park area. Oak Park was the venue, but participation was far wider than our community.

OPCTJ conceived of the Peace Fair as a chance for participants to move beyond the notion of peace as simply the absence of war and to ask and answer the question, "What does peace look like?" This is the challenge: to define "positive peace." The common theme among the almost 60 exhibitors was the belief that "positive peace" is a vision of what the world can be, how the resources available to peoples and governments can be utilized to create a world that we would want to inhabit?#34;and that we would want to leave to our children and grandchildren.

The answers to the question of 'What does peace look like?' were many. They ranged from environmental sustainability to communitarian togetherness to a society in which the treatment of the most vulnerable, those who have been dealt the fewest resources in life, is the measure both of that society's greatness and its humanity.

This first Peace Fair and Town Hall Meeting stands as a challenge to the priorities of the existing U.S. government and reminds us of Mark Twain's adage: My country always, my government when it deserves it.

See you next year!

Bill Barclay
for the OPCTJ Organizers Committee

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