Grieving the tragedy of war – Committed to the promise of peace

Photo courtesy: Jolene SimkoBack Row: (from left) Bronek Korczynski, Barbara Linds, Jamie Swift. Middle Row: Ann Boniferro, Pauline Lally, SP, Judy Wyatt. Front Row: Elaine Berman, Michael Cooke. Missing: Laurie Davey-Quantick, Jolene Simko, Administrative Coordinator


PeaceQuest was founded in late 2013 as a grassroots organization dedicated to creating conversations about WWI. Our idea was to remember that tragedy in, what my co-founder Jamie Swift calls, a “post-patriotic” manner. Not celebrating military victories but commemorating the lives lost on both sides. And reflecting on any lessons for peacemaking in our own age. 

With a very committed and capable volunteer steering committee and others interested in helping, we created and supported a wide range of programme initiatives designed to engage ordinary citizens of different age groups and backgrounds – both locally and nationally. We agreed to describe peace as, not just the absence of war, but as “an active way of living, resolving conflicts cooperatively, respecting the well-being of the earth and all peoples.”

Over four years, we have been involved in projects looking at war and peace from four perspectives or “streams”: culture, education, faith and policy. We’ve organized public forums to discuss and promote peace (some involving partnerships with other like-minded groups). We’ve gone on peace “pilgrimages” on Hiroshima Day. We’ve organized film screenings and plays – at the Grand and The Thousand Island Playhouse – often followed by discussions. We launched a PeaceQuest School Initiative. We developed our own WWI Memorial Walk in Kingston, visiting monuments and setting the Great War scene for visitors and Kingstonians. Our War and Children website is available, free of charge, as a virtual museum and curriculum resource for teachers. Peace Song has offered weekly north end gatherings to sing about peace. We sponsored the wonderful children’s’ book What is Peace? by Wallace Edwards, published by Scholastic. Our Canada 150 sesquicentennial project profiled 150 Canadians who worked for peace. An inter-faith potluck and celebration, Kingston Meditates for Peace was graciously facilitated by Marie Dundon, SP. We organized a street level “citizens signing” of a petition promoting the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. Our white square campaign encouraged reflections and conversations about peace. And we co-sponsored a 2016 effort by civil society organizations that produced a detailed brief to Ottawa’s Defence Policy Review. It was called A Shift to Sustainable Peace and Common Security

We were able to do all this through the generosity of wonderful donors, predominantly Canadian religious congregations, in particular the congregations of women. And especially my own congregation, the Sisters of Providence of St. Vincent de Paul who, from the very beginning, have been so supportive both financially and in kind. We could not have done this work without such support. On Friday, November 9, 2018, a banquet at the Motherhouse will be held to honour our donors.

On November 10 we will gather at Kingston City Hall in the very fitting Memorial Hall, with its stained glass windows featuring images of WWI. We will hold an all-day session with peace scholar Paul Rogers from the University of Bradford as the keynote speaker. A five-member panel will respond, animated by prominent Kingston author Lawrence Scanlan. The theme? “Imagine Peace.”

Then, on Sunday, Remembrance Day itself, we will conclude with an afternoon concert about peace at the Isabel Centre For the Performing Arts. It promises to be a rich and wonderful weekend. Please consider putting aside those dates to attend. See our website for details and registration. This national gathering with peace groups from across Canada will complete our four-year programme of PeaceQuest in its present form.

We are grateful to the Community Foundation for Kingston & Area which provided a generous grant of $3,906 in support of the November events. 

Where do we go from here?  Do you have any ideas where we can steward and share our resources and experiences to ensure a smooth transfer?  We’d love to hear from you.