An acquaintance of mine, Steve Shick, was the first director of the Unitarian Universalist Peace Network, a faith-based organization that was formed late in the Cold War to promote nuclear disarmament. The Peace Network grew out of a coalition of national and international organizations in the early 1980s. In spite of a small budget, the Network proved to be quite successful, running a wide range of programs including direct legislative actions, peace education curricula for children, cross-cultural programs to increase Soviet-U.S. understanding, protest actions, etc. The Peace Network’s programs were specific to the Cold War, and thus it ended its institutional existence in 1991.
In a recent article, Steve Shick points out some of the strengths of this Peace Network. Of primary importance, says Steve, the Network was a broad-based coalition: “With the Network were pacifists, nuclear pacifists, and those who supported only limited arms control but not disarmament.” A number of denominational leaders declared that the Unitarian Universalist Peace Network “was the most effective cooperative… effort they had experienced.” Equally important, the Network provided many opportunities for individuals to get directly involved, at whatever level they felt comfortable.
Steve concludes by saying that the old Unitarian Universalist Peace Network offers some lessons for anyone doing faith-based peace work today:
1. You don’t need an ideological consensus to develop effective national programs that mobilize members of a denomination into action.
2. You don’t have to declare yourselves a traditional peace church to be strong advocates for peace.
3. Large numbers of individuals within your denomination are eager for their religious organization to provide action programs in peacemaking.
I especially like the first lesson — you don’t need an ideological consensus to do effective peacemaking.