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Pikes Peak Justice and Peace Commission works for nonviolent solutions

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PPJPC activists take to the roadways to promote messages of nonviolence. - NAT STEIN
  • Nat Stein
  • PPJPC activists take to the roadways to promote messages of nonviolence.
At a time when, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, hate crimes are on the rise and violent rhetoric is the new normal, people who talk of peace seem a little out of step with the rest of the world. Folks at the Pikes Peak Justice & Peace Commission wouldn’t have it any other way.

“We’re actually pretty proud of that,” says spokesman Loring Wirbel, who also writes for the Indy’s music section.

If the message of the J&P, as it is lovingly called by members, were distilled down to one simple phrase, it would be this: Nonviolence works. “We exist to counter the idea that violent language is suddenly OK again,” says Wirbel. “No. It’s never OK. One should never underscore your political opinion with violence or implied violence.”

Their commitment to nonviolence puts the J&P in a unique position amidst rising tensions, but the organization is up to the challenge, bringing almost 40 years of consistent, sustainable, on-message activist work to the conversation. They have worked for nonviolent change on the local and global level since the late 1970s — it’s a grassroots group that originally rallied around anti-nuclear weapons and anti-war sentiments. Their philosophy and approach draw heavily on the wisdom of nonviolent activists such as Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. to inform their commitment to providing a counterculture perspective on a variety of social issues. The consistent message of nonviolence is the light that guides programming and activist work, which include learning opportunities, public forums and a variety of projects in partnership with other like-minded organizations.

The J&P was instrumental in establishing the Colorado Springs Police Department’s Homeless Outreach Team and continues to work with people experiencing homelessness. Partnering with Catholic Charities, they host the Urban Experience, an in-depth walking tour of service providers that work with homeless people to give the public a taste of what life is like living on Colorado Springs’ streets. The Urban Experience takes place about once every two months and doesn’t stop during the cold months. “The homeless are living out there in those conditions so there’s no reason not to do them right through the winter,” says Wirbel.

The nonprofit also offers Peace Camp, an experiential learning opportunity for students in first through eighth grade that provides tools for living lovingly and nonviolently. And they coordinate the Sunrise Garden, a community garden in the Hillside neighborhood, which is historically low-income and is classified as a food desert, or a community with poor access to proper nutrition.

The folks behind Pikes Peak Justice & Peace Commission believe their work to be of critical importance today. With threats of nuclear war and an unending stream of violent attacks as prominent fixtures in almost every news cycle, a voice for nonviolent change in Colorado Springs and the wider world is crucial. To find out how you can be involved, visit the Pikes Peak Justice & Peace Commission at ppjpc.org.

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