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Boston Forum on Coexistence in a Democratic Society
9:30 AM09:30

Boston Forum on Coexistence in a Democratic Society

  • Unitarian Universalist Urban Ministry (map)
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The Initiative for Governance, Reconciliation and Coexistence (Grace Initiative) is convening a Forum to address intensifying differences in the US regarding the rule of law, fundamental freedoms, and inclusion.  The Forum draws from a recent Pew Research Study that recently found that Americans are more divided than ever over about social issues such as safety net, race, and immigration. To develop policy and to protect fundamental freedoms and rights, we need to find common ground for addressing collective challenges in our democratic society.

Our goal is to develop a strategy for a road map for coexistence in one of the world’s oldest democracies – the US. We hope to take up concerns, hopes and fears.  The Forum will provide a platform for strategies for promoting dialogue, countering extremism, and fostering healing to halt the rise of divisiveness. Also, we will examine how the globally endorsed 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development Goals, especially for peaceful and inclusive societies, applies in the US.

This Forum will comprise of international and national experts in democracy, coexistence, immigration, psychology, and social justice. Speakers include:

Dr. Massimo Tommasoli, Permanent Observer at the United Nations for International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (International IDEA); Dr. Theodore Johnson, Brandeis University, The Heller School for Social Policy and Management, Associate Professor in Conflict Resolution and Coexistence; Rabbi Or Rose, Director, The Miller Center for Interreligious Learning & Leadership, Ms. Marion Davis, Massachusetts Immigration and Refugee Coalition (MIRA Coalition); Mr. Syed Meesam Razvi, al-Kohei Foundation;  Representative from the Mayor’s Office.  Also, Greta Hagen of UU Urban Ministry will welcome everyone.

Please RSVP at: No cost, but donations welcomed.

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5:30 PM17:30

Grace Initiative co-develops and sponsors side event at the UN on Reconciliation and Peace in Colombia

You are cordially invited to attend an event following up on Pope Francis’ September visit to Colombia that the Permanent Observer Mission of the Holy See to the UN is sponsoring with the Permanent Mission of Colombia to the UN, Caritas Internationalis, the Catholic
Peacebuilding Network, the Krok Institute for International Peace Studies and Grace Initiative.

Below please find a poster with a list of speakers as well as a concept note with the background.


Event on
Reconciliation and Peace in Colombia:
The Impact of the Visit of Pope Francis

UN Headquarters Conference Room 12
1500-1700 • 20 October 2017

From September 5-11, 2017, Pope Francis visited Colombia, delivering messages and­­ prayers for national reconciliation and for a sustainable peace in Colombia.  The Pope’s visit — which included Bogotá, Villavicencio, Medellin and Cartagena — sought to reinforce the Final Peace Accord and to heal the wounds of the past, transcending the distrust and divisions generated by the unfortunate 52-year civil war.
With the signing of the Final Peace Accord between the Colombia Government and Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC) in November 2016,[1] one of the world’s longest-running armed conflicts came to an end. Included in this Peace Accord was the responsibility to reintegrate thousands of former guerrilla fighters and foster national reconciliation.[2]  The Accord embraces all sectors of society so that the country can “achieve a just and lasting peace for all Colombians.”[3] In view of the magnitude of commitment required, the Pope aimed to reinforce the ongoing peace process.
As a member of the Latin American community with a global heart and a desire to accompany those who suffer, struggle and seek sustainable solutions for a life of real social development, Pope Francis has long been concerned with the needs and rights of the people of Colombia and sought to bring this care and concrete recommendations to the country last month — to the government, the Church, victims and violators, farmers and families. His solidarity of encounter did not at all mean he was intending to come with "answers" but rather with absolute respect for the simple and profound questions, asked so often through the decades — and now even more urgently in these recent days — by women, men, children, youth, wise elders.
The purpose of the Pope's visit, as of this UN Side Event, was not to pass judgment but rather to focus on reconciliation and authentic restoration of right relationships at every level of society — and especially in those remote places or circumstances where indigenous peoples could too easily be neglected, further violated further, or even feared for the depth of their understandable anguish. Indeed, he came to Colombia to state boldly, clearly that the life of every person matters, that every path to peace must be walked carefully and respectfully by all stakeholders, while noting that the task is daunting, perhaps dangerous, and indeed delicate as politics, processes and policies are unfolding.
The Pope's visit underscored that a focus on and shared responsibility for people first and always must be the method to ensure that there be human, integrated implementation of the Peace Accord, one that cares for the people, the land, the culture, and the next generation as one family enjoying a fruitful and safe common home. As part of his appeal in Colombia, the Pope Francis called for prayers for the 6,000 victims of violence and the millions displaced. He also called for a peace that also protects the environment as well as prayed for the end of human trafficking and all forms of modern day slavery and emphasized the universality of respect for human dignity. Indeed, with the arduous process of healing, with ongoing difficult negotiations, intense legitimate investigations, the need for justice, tolerance, patience, one of the most important concrete impacts from Pope Francis’ visit may to be remind everyone that “together we accomplish more for each other.”
While the country has achieved fundamental components of the Accord, challenges and obstacles to securing sustainable peace remain. Even with the FARC disarmed, critical elements of the Accord must make further progress for political, economic and social cohesion, such as an inclusive reintegration (reincorporation) of the ex-combatants; securing human rights and transitional justice; promoting economic development, especially in rural areas; and ensuring national security in the countryside, particularly in the zones of former guerrilla influence. Along with Colombia’s internal challenges, the increase in refugees from Venezuela has caused further strains. There is also the need for peaceful eradication of 188,000 hectares of coca production through adequate compensation and crop alternatives at a time when, according to United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, Colombia is now producing more cocaine than ever before.
International support is necessary to ensure that the goals of the Peace Accords advance stably, sustainably, legally, and holistically. Civil society, international organizations and the private sector similarly are urged to more engaged to help ensure that peace in Colombia is an irreversible process.
This Side Event will be able to focus on the progress made and the many challenges that remain.

Structure of the Event
The panel event will feature those with experience on the ground in helping to achieve the Peace Accords and implement them. The following are confirmed speakers:

  • Archbishop Bernardito Auza, Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the UN

  • H.E. María Emma Mejía Velez, Permanent Representative of Colombia to the UN

  • Msgr. Héctor Fabio Henao, Director of Caritas Colombiana and of the National Secretariat of Pastoral and Social Outreach for the Episcopal Conference of Colombia

  • Professor Gerard Powers, Coordinator of the Catholic Peacebuilding Network, Director of Catholic Peacebuilding Studies for the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies at the University of Notre Dame.

  • Mr. Joseph Cornelius Donnelly, Head of Delegation, Caritas Internationalis (Moderator)

RSVP and Questions

To RSVP for the event, please do so online by 4 pm on October 18, 2017 at the following link:

For questions or more information, please contact Fr. Roger Landry at 212.370.7885 x127 or
1. Acuerdo Final para la Terminación del conflict y la construccióon de una paz estable y durabera, 24 November 2016. Point 3, “la dejación de las armas y preparar la institucionalidad y al país para la reincorporación de las FARC-EP a la vida civil.”

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5:30 PM17:30

Healing the Invisible Wounds of the Past

– Sunderland Event–

Special Event
for the opening of
Grace Initiative in Bogotá, Colombia


To celebrate the opening of Grace Initiative in Bogotá,  Grace Initiative held a special reception featuring a world renown expert in psycho-social healing: Dr. Richard F. Mollica. Dr. Mollica will discuss: Healing the Invisible Wounds of the Past: “in a cruel and violent world, there is hope – we can do more than survive- we can find strength and healing no matter what we have experienced.

Our mission in Colombia is to support reconciliation through Centers for Social Transformation and Economic Empowerment. We see agriculture as a healing mechanism, providing a path for responsible consumption, community decision-making, sustainable farming, and income alternatives to life beyond conflict. To this end, Vermont’s community centered agriculture and decision-making have special resonance for Colombia’s path for healing and peace-building.

Richard F. Mollica, MD, MAR is the Founding Director of the Harvard Program in Refugee Trauma (HPRT) of Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School and the author Healing Invisible Wounds: Paths to Hope and Recovery in a Violent World. He received his medical degree from the University of New Mexico and completed his Psychiatry residency at Yale Medical School. While at Yale he also trained in epidemiology and received a philosophy degree from the Divinity School. Over the past two decades HPRT have pioneered the mental health care of survivors of mass violence and torture.


Following the discussion, we will serve farm to table delicacies and wine and VT beer.

*Your contribution of $30.00 to defray the costs would be greatly appreciated

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to Apr 1

Women's Economic Empowerment

– Invitation –

A Discussion with a Delegation of Women Ambassadors from the United Nations: In Honor of the United Nations Commission on Status of Women

Friday: 31 March, 2017 Northshire Bookstore
6:00 PM - 7:30 PM

Saturday: 1 April 2017, Bennington College, CAPA
11:00 AM – 12:00 PM

Vermont Farmers Food Center
1:00PM - 2:00 PM

The Theme of the Discussion is on Women's Economic Empowerment
in Peaceful and Inclusive Societies

In celebration of International Women’s Day and the UN Commission on Status of Women (UN CSW), the Grace Initiative—with the Center for the Advancement Public Action at Bennington College, Northshire Bookstore, and Vermont Farmers Food Center—is organizing a discussion on the theme of Women’s Economic Empowerment and Peaceful and Inclusive Societies. This event follows the successful G77 retreat in Vermont in September 2016 on Sufficiency Economy Philosophy and Sustainable and Resilient communities, under the chairmanship of Thailand. To this end, a small delegation of Women Ambassadors from the United Nations will participate in interactive discussions in Manchester, Bennington, and Rutland focused on the recent UN CSW.

They will connect its theme of Women’s Empowerment to the 2030 Agenda for Development goal for peaceful and inclusive societies.

Friday, March 31 // Northshire Bookstore, Manchester // 6:00 pm
Saturday, April 1 // CAPA Symposium, Bennington College // 11:00 am
Saturday, April 1 // Vermont Farmers Food Center, Rutland // 1:00 pm

For further information, please email:


The Vermont event takes place on the heels of the recently concluded two-week UN Commission on Status of Women (CSW). The first meeting of the CSW took place at Lake Success, New York, in February 1947 and it has been held every year since then. For the first CSW, all 15 government representatives were women. The CSW forged a close relationship with non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in consultative status with the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). One of the first goals of the CSW was to contribute to the drafting of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The CSW successfully argued against references to “men” as a synonym for humanity, and succeeded in introducing new, more inclusive language.

The Commission drafted the early international conventions on women’s rights, such as the 1953 Convention on the Political Rights of Women, which was the first international law instrument to recognize and protect the political rights of women, and the first international agreements on women’s rights in marriage, namely the 1957 Convention on the Nationality of Married Women, and the 1962 Convention on Consent to Marriage, Minimum Age for Marriage and Registration of Marriages.

In 1963, the UN General Assembly requested the Commission to draft a Declaration on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, which the Assembly adopted in 1967. This declaration became the legally binding Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW). In 1999, the Optional Protocol to the Convention introduced the right of petition for women victims of discrimination.


Every year, women and men from ministries of foreign affairs, government positions, and civil society from around the world convene at the UN to discuss, deliberate, and develop positions on CSW thematic issues. This year, the theme focused on the Empowerment of Women, and the changing role of women in the workplace. Further, it took into consideration the Millennium Development Goals for Women and Girls.

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6:00 PM18:00

Supporting Enduring Peace in Colombia

CSW Side Event on “Supporting Enduring Peace in Colombia through Female ex-combatants’ reintegration”


Thursday, 23 March 2017, 13:15 – 14:30
Venue: Conference Room B, United Nations Headquarters, New York


On 30 November 2016, the Colombian Congress approved a revised peace agreement between the Colombian government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), officially ending Colombia’s 52-year long civil war.

The revised accord1 is both holistic and inclusive, keeping victims at the forefront and paying particular attention to the needs of women, minorities, youth, and the LGBTI population.2 In this regard, it entails a transformation of community relations and individual identity, redressing the loss of dignity and life suffered during the conflict. The peace agreement includes central pillars of a peace process, such as: security, especially in terms for demobilization, disarmament and reintegration, justice and reconciliation, local governance and development.3 Also, it addresses the specific needs of rural communities, whose suffering and healing is distinct from those living in urban areas.4

The accord has components, which are unique to Colombia’s civil war and impact on both sides. For example, it offers another element to breaking generations of cycle of violence through reparations. Further, the accord calls for FARC members—who carried out a minority of homicides and displacements but a majority of kidnappings, landmine use, and child recruitment, to participate in reparations and tell victims the truth about what happened to them and their loved ones.

In addition, the agreement maintains a component to integrate a political role for FARC. Under the agreement, FARC will develop into a political party, receiving 10 automatic congressional seats (5 in the 166-person House of Representatives, 5 in the 102-person Senate) between 2018 and 2026 (pages 70-71 in the new accord).5

The historic peace deal between the FARC and the Colombian government holds unique challenges for the thousands of female combatants reintegrating into Colombian society.

Women guerrillas made up about 40 percent of the FARC and about 25 percent of the ELN; about 20 percent of leftist guerrillas who participated in the government reintegration between 2003 and 2012 programme were women.6 Thus, it is anticipated that there are upwards of 6,000 female ex-combatants, who will be reintegrating into civil society, many of whom have experienced significant gender-based trauma during their time in the FARC.7

To this end, we will hold a side event on the reintegration of female ex-combatants at the Commission on Status of Women (CSW) on 23 March at the UN. The session will focus on the implementation of the security component, Disarmament, Demobilization, Reinsertion and Reintegration (DDRR) within the peacebuilding process, with special attention to the healing and transformation of former female combatants, from guerrilla fighter to participating members of an active, peaceful and democratic society.

In this regard, this CSW side event will examine the needs of former female combatants and their transformation from guerrilla fighters to leaders, contributing to the economic development and promoting community trust building. This will include a discussion on the promotion of reconciliation and the improvement of social vibrancy in receptor communities,8 especially in the areas of governance and political participation which can impact diverse areas ranging from legislative representation, rural engagement, to community service delivery (e.g. as entrepreneurs and managers of community supported agriculture [CSA]).


Mr. Massimo Tommasoli, Permanent Observer for International IDEA to the UN

Ms. Yvonne Lodico, Founder, Grace Initiative

Ms. Delphine Mechoulan, Policy Analyst, International Peace Institute
Prof. Kimberly Theidon, Henry J. Leir Professor of International Humanitarian Studies, The Fletcher School, Tufts University

Followed by an Interactive Discussion

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