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Our New Year’s Letter: Wishing you a Peaceful 2024!

Updated: Feb 12


Pictured in photo row above: Rodrigue with Ishtiaq Khan and Antonio Companhia in front of the “Peace Tree” at Church World Services, Harrisonburg (May 2023), Frances with Imam Magid of All Dulles Area Muslim Society and International Interfaith Peace Corps, at the Council on Foreign Relations Religion and Foreign Policy Conference, NYC (May 2023), Liz with Imelda Cervantes de Barnard and Sarah Jo Lightner Executive Director of Methow Recycles at Green Drinks, Winthrop, WA (Oct. 2023).


Greetings to you, dear Friends of BioEarth!


This has been an exciting year for us and we can’t wait to share this update. We have made huge strides taking the One Billion for Peace Pledge worldwide, getting the Root.ED Nature School up and running in Washington State, and developing BioCongo programs in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).


Undergirding all of our projects is our commitment to the goal of sustainable peace for all, especially in this time of climate crisis. As the One Billion for Peace Pledge teaches us, sustainable peace entails the physical, material, psychological (/spiritual), cultural (/religious), and ecological wellbeing of all peoples. We know that we must cut global average greenhouse gas emissions to zero by mid-century to avoid catastrophic impacts to over half the world’s population, especially the poorest and most vulnerable, with cascading effects on all of us. We also know that conflict and war – and above all World War – not only cause suffering and trauma for victims and their families, but also hamper these critical collective transformations we must undergo for human civilizations to thrive, or even to survive, by the end of the century.


Pictured: Sharing thoughts after visiting the DMZ and before a roundtable at the Peace-Life Valley Center in the Republic of Korea. Frances, third from left, with fellow peacebuilders from Okedongmu Children in Korea and Dr. Duncan Morrow (Ulster Univ. Northern Ireland) and Dr. Katerina Antoniou (Lecturer, Univ. of Central Lancashire, Cyprus). September, 2023.


Sadly, in this difficult and at times traumatizing past year, the goals of meaningful climate action, peace, and equity have seemed at times to be very far away. In 2023, we reached both the highest temperatures and the highest carbon emissions in human history, threatening half of humanity and millions of species within twenty-five years. The course of global suffering toward which we are headed is unimaginable, including an estimated 1.6 Billion climate migrants by 2050. The COP 28 meeting (or Council of Parties meeting, at which leaders of 190+ countries try to achieve consensus in combatting climate change), for the first time ever, did agree that a “transition away” from “fossil fuels” is necessary, but it still stopped short of calling for a phase out.


Worse yet, in this critical window in which we need to come together to work for shared climate actions, wars continue to rage in Ukraine and in Gaza – each of which is devastating in itself and each of which also threatens to escalate into a wider war. Still new wars threaten to emerge, including between the Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda. The heart of the world is heavy with grief.


Yet, it is this very realization - that there has never been a more urgent need for sustainable peace - that keeps us motivated to share this vision. Please see and circulate our urgent call for peace in the Israel-Hamas war, by Frances Flannery, Co-Founder and Madiha Patel, Executive Director of Communications, “Shalom and Salaam: Why We Must Avoid World War”. We hope that our blog, our Root.ED Conversation videos (now with 10 episodes), and the updates on projects that we share below will encourage you and give you some spark of hope. Remember: Local+Local+Local = Global.


Pictured: Co-Founder Rodrigue Makelele reciting the One Billion for Peace Pledge in Swahili and French at the Peace Rally for Congo, Courthouse steps in Harrisonburg, VA. January, 2023.


Together, we can educate and work for equity and resiliency in climate crisis.

We are so grateful for you for joining us in this effort. We wish each of you and everyone in your circle a peaceful, happy 2024!


Love, Peace, and Gratitude from BioEarth


From the Co-Founders, Frances Flannery, Liz Blackman, and Rodrigue Makelele, and from all of us on our worldwide BioEarth Leadership Team – from Washington, Virginia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, California, Ohio, Germany, and Samoa.

May you have a Peaceful and Happy New Year!


Please consider a beginning of the year donation to support our work at http://www.bioearthcommunity.org/ and please share the One Billion for Peace Pledge with a friend or organization. BioEarth is a 501c3.


Pictured: (l to r) Imelda Cervantes de Barnard, Avery Young, and Co- Founder Liz Blackman in planning session for Dia de Los Muertos community grief rituals, Twisp, WA. October, 2023.


The One Billion for Peace Pledge- World Tour - Update by Frances


A year and a half ago, the Pledge debuted at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin, Ireland during a Peace concert for Ukraine by guitarist Gregory C. Brown and in a webinar for the 50th Jubilee Celebration of the Irish School of Ecumenics at Trinity College, Dublin, Ireland. Last Fall of 2022, Leadership Team Member Dr. Brian Kolia (Malua Theological College in Samoa) and Dr. Frances Flannery (James Madison University in Virginia) featured the Pledge as part of two co-authored presentations to the American Academy of Religion for the 2023 Annual Meeting. Since then, members of the leadership team have taken it around the world.

Seoul, Korea and the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ): At the invitation of the Ministry of Interior for the Republic of Korea, the Okedongmu Children of Korea, and the Peace-Life Valley Center in Inje, Korea, Frances took the Peace Pledge to the 2023 Korea Global Forum on Peace Education and to a Roundtable on Climate Change and Peacebuilding at the Peace Education Center in the DMZ of the Republic of Korea (Sept 2023). Seeing North Korea with my own eyes – on the same day as participating in a Peace roundtable - was deeply moving.


Pictured: Dr. Frances Flannery far left in the 2023 Korea Global Forum for Education: How can we create a sustainable world? Invitation of Okedongmu Children of Korea and the Ministry of the Interior, Republic of Korea (Sept., 2023).


Other Highlights include:

  • Washington DC and Harrisonburg VA: Rodrigue Makelele read the One Billion for Peace Pledge in multiple African languages at a Rally for Peace in Congo event in Harrisonburg VA and a March for Peace in Congo in Washington DC (Jan 2023).

  • Lisbon, Portugal: The Centro de Historio for the University of Lisbon invited Frances to give a public talk, “Why ‘Climate Apocalypse Backfires: Theoretical Insights for Effective Climate Action at the Hinge Point of History.” The highpoint was talking with audience members from the Occupy movement, active across Europe (May 2023).

  • NYC, New York: BioEarth was invited to the Council on Foreign Relations Religion and Foreign Policy Workshop (May 2023).

  • Winston-Salem, NC: The Pledge was featured in Frances Flannery’s talk as the 2023 Allbritton Lecture for Wake Forest University (March 2023).

  • Star Island, NH: Frances was invited to speak on “Implementing Technologies to Foster Justice and Equity” at the 23rd Conference of IRAS (Institute on Religion in an Age of Science) (July 2023).


Pictured: Oh Jinny, Host from Okedongmu and Frances in Seoul, Republic of Korea making a heart in a tunnel of blessings, (Sept 2023).


The One Billion for Peace Pledge- New Signatories - Update by Frances

This year the Pledge has seen a swell of new signatories, both organizational and individual, and the momentum is growing. Last week the Presbytery of Boston (25 churches) and the Presbytery of Charleston-Atlantic (47 churches) agreed to become signatories! (Thank you for your role in facilitating this, Rev. Jim Miller!) This summer, the Presbyterian Church of the USA will consider formally adopting the One Billion for Peace Pledge in their General Assembly, which would push the number of signatories to over a million.

These Presbyteries join a host of diverse organizations and individuals who have signed in 2023, each working on their part of the Pledge out of their particular local context, values, and commitments. Local + Local + Local = Global!We are so grateful for our organizational signatories and invite you to explore how they fulfill the One Billion for Peace Pledge! A few of these signatories include:

  • Bees for Peace – creating an interreligious peace network of houses of worship and wild bee-friendly pollinator gardens (www.beesforpeace.org)

  • Mandala Café – empowering vulnerable persons in NYC by training them in food service and offering meals, including over 38,000 to date in Harlem! (www.mandalacafe.org)

  • Kiota Global – empowering women, girls, and underserved communities through quality education, good health, economic resiliency and advocacy (www.kiotaglobal.org)

  • Institute for Religion in an Age of Science (IRAS): Cultivates a community of informed and respectful inquiry and dialogue at the intersections of science with religion, spirituality and philosophy in service of global, societal, and personal well-being (www.iras.org)

  • Buddhist Alliance for Non-Violence and Human Rights: International and multi-denominational voices for a just peace in the Middle East (http://www.banvahr.org/)

  • Center for Mind Body Medicine: Helping communities around the world develop tools for healing population-wide trauma (https://cmbm.org/)

  • Congolese Association of Harrisonburg: Some 1,200 newcomers from Congo now live in this Virginia town. Together, we adapt resiliently to a new locale, preserve our valuable heritages, and act as community changemakers.


Pictured: We are truly honored to have Vijana Africa as a signatory of the One Billion for Peace Pledge and to work with them as partners on BioCongo projects. Pictured above: Graduating cohort of Peer Educators on Gender Based Violence in the Dzaleka Refugee Camp, Malawi.


Introducing the Root.ED Nature School! -Update by Liz

After over a decade of designing by Co-Founder Liz Blackman, the Root.ED Nature School is becoming a reality. Located in the Methow Valley in Washington State, it is a local expression of BioEarth’s global sustainable peace movement. Given that children are our future, this school establishes a foundation of education for the littler ones, crafting a curriculum for our new future that asks what children (and the rest of us) really need in order to face this resiliently and equitably.


Pictured: Liz Blackman and Imelda Cervantes de Barnard, Root.ED Nature School August, 2023


In addition to Liz as Director of Wayfinding, we are delighted to welcome Imelda Cervantes de Barnard, who joined the Root.ED Nature School team as Director of Learning and Unlearning. Currently, we have three land partners in an innovative private + non-profit collaborative model, providing 80 acres of beautiful river, farm, and forest property for our School. We know how vital this programming is for the health of our children and for shaping our collective future. We are so grateful to our generous land partners!


Pictured: Land partner Cailyn Brierley of Hoodoo Blooms and Arlo in our weekly playgroup. October, 2023.


It has been an exciting first year of program delivery serving 100+ children and families through weekly nature immersion playgroups and community events co-hosted with local land and organizational partners. Currently, the Root.ED Nature School is seeking funds to support dedicated staff time and curricular supplies to support the following programming:

  • Fall 2024: the opening of our nature immersion program for 3-6 year olds hosted at Walking Rose's 45 acre farm www.walking-rose.com in partnership with Dana Visali who is providing program development support and access to his neighboring 10 acre riverfront homestead www.methownaturalist.com

  • Ongoing: our weekly playgroup for families with children 0-3 hosted weekly at Hoodoo Blooms 25+ acre farm www.hoodooblooms.com

  • Ongoing Methow Grieves community events: We offer and facilitate regular community programming, such as a well-attended and meaningful Dia de Los Muertos community grief ritual and a concert at TwispWorks this fall. We are committed to offering this programming as part of creating a healthy community.


Upcoming:

 The Youth Climate Change Conference for Sustainable Development Goals in Kinshasa, DRC (Spring 2024) -Update by Rodrigue

BioEarth is thrilled to work with our partner Vijana Africa in planning and facilitating an extraordinary initiative that echoes the urgency of our times, in alignment with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs): the Youth Climate Change Conference in Kinshasa, DRC, scheduled for Spring 2024. This collaborative endeavor seeks to convene 100 passionate youth from diverse backgrounds, creating a dynamic space where inspiration, education, and empowerment converge, echoing the spirit of the SDGs, with workshops on sustainable agriculture, eco-friendly practices, and renewable energy.


Pictured: Vijana Africa’s Storytelling Workshop Group in Dzaleka Refugee Camp, Malawi

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