I am currently reading Peck’s 1987 book, “The Different Drum: Community and making peace”. Peck makes a bold opening statement: “In and through community lies the salvation of the world.” (It is interesting to note that Peck is a Christian). He goes on to state that “peacemaking must be the first priority of civilisation”. I am sure your mind is now going to the situation that has been played out in Afghanistan.
Peck goes on to talk about what a true community is, and what it isn’t. We all long to be valued and accepted by a community. When we find that community we experience tremendous joy, but it is quite elusive.
What struck me as I read Peck’s book was his statement that world peace will only be achieved when we learn how to appreciate and celebrate differences: individual cultural and religious differences and how to live with reconciliation in a pluralist world. World peace won’t be achieved by trying to convert all the Jews to Christians, or all the Christians to Muslims, or all the Muslims to Hindus. This just contributes to the problems.
True community, says Peck, isn’t a place where you have to change to fit in. “Community is a safe place because no one is attempting to heal or convert you, to fix you, to change you. Instead, the members accept you for who you are.” True community is a place where individuality is valued and celebrated.
As Peck says, true community is quite elusive. It is certainly challenging in a school context, particularly when there are boundaries, expectations and standards needed to create a safe environment for children. But in those constraints, we can still celebrate difference, value alternative views and perspectives, and aim for true community.
Community is one of St Paul’s School’s core values. Hard to be perfect, but we continue to focus on creating a place where people are safe and valued for who they are.
Dr Paul Browning