Music above Fighting

Powerful new Mini-Documentary from Masterpeace

MasterPeace wants to inspire everyone to use their talents for peace building and togetherness.

Everyday, thousands of MasterPeacers are working the world to build peace in their own communities.

Their website is the hub of this offline and online movement. (

Join the effort to start a peace movement:

    • 1. Creating the MasterPeace Concert

      On the International Day of Peace 2014 (21st of September) we will organize the most heartwarming peace concert ever. During this concert, the top artists from 14 of the world’s major conflict areas will perform together. Think about popular artists with ‘power of speech’ and many fans from for instance North and South Sudan, Russia and Chechnya, Pakistan and India, Israel and Palestine, bringing a message of togetherness and positivity, and a message to push back armed conflicts and nuclear arms. The event will be broadcasted internationally.

    • 2. Creating the MasterPeace WorldBand

      One of the other eye-catching moments during the MasterPeace Concert will be the performance of World Leaders and top musicians side-by-side in the MasterPeace WorldBand. Using music where words failed. The proud leaders of the WorldBand are Nobel Peace laureate Desmond Tutu and the Colombian Grammy Award winner Juanes. In the coming years many others will follow. The artists will provide musical lessons to the world leaders and of course the footage of these rehearsals will create worldwide attention for MasterPeace and its goals.

    • 3. Creating MasterPeace Documentaries

      In the week before the International Day of Peace 2014 artists from 14 conflict areas will prepare their performance at the concert in 14 studios, supported by world-renowned artists as artistic mediators. At first some artists will hardly shake hands, but at the end of the week they will be friends or at least contact and dialogue will be established. That’s what making music can bring. This process and the exchange of visions, values, judgments, experiences and dreams will lead to beautiful documentaries, to be broadcasted worldwide and preferably in the conflict areas too.

    • 4. Organizing a MasterPeace Village

      In the week before the International Day of Peace 2014 Cairo – the biggest city of Africa – will be transformed into a Peace Village. The city will host several inspiring peace meetings. One of those meetings may possibly bring together thousands Mayors for Peace to launch  – with us – their global campaign to create a world free of nuclear arms by 2020. All over the city hotels, clubs, universities, theatres and museums will host artists, peace-workers,  marketers, NGO’s and social entrepreneurs for debates, seminars, workshops to fuel  peace building innovation and information exchange. Because minds are like parachutes: they work better if they’re open.
    • 5. Mobilizing millions of MasterPeacers

      Before 2015 we will have reached millions of people with our innovative campaigning including a 2.0 platform, several virals, RTV programs, social media activities, educational programs, MasterPeace Clubs, crowd funding, special songs, art events and an eye catching travel project. Because peace is a verb

Thoughts about Empathy on April Fools Day

Empathy is a concept that enjoys ( or suffers from ) many definitions. It is, in a very broad sense, defined as the capacity to recognize and, to some extent, share feelings that are being experienced by another person.

“Empathy depends not only on one’s ability to identify someone else’s emotions but also on one’s capacity to put oneself in the other person’s place and to experience an appropriate emotional response” Charles G. Morris

In times where the news consists primarily of rapid fire reports that detail the collective and individual suffering of people across the globe. It is not uncommon for us to see in just a few short minutes:

* The wrath of Japan’s Tsunami

* Airstrikes in Libya

* Accounts of Genocide

We are often attracted to the drama of these natural disasters, revolts, warfare and atrocities. The news coverage highlights what can be covered in media bites that fit the format. If we are disturbed by a particular story, it is very easy for us to hit mute, turn the channel or simply press off. We can disconnect ourselves from the reality immediately. We play our own version of an April fools joke on ourselves. It is so easy to do. It is fast, and effective. We filter our intake, much as we do with junk mail, spam and the like.

What is easily forgotten, is that we “fool” ourselves to thinking that these stories cease to exist because the screen is black. Of course, they are not. The people who are affected by all of these quite traumatic events are still suffering with the reality of their life when the cameras are off. The loss of life, limb, personal safety, and liberty continues.

“The fool speaks, the wise man listens” — African proverb

So, on a day where we may share a trick or two with friends and family, let’s not forget that the world has become a place of great personal suffering and strife for many people, each with a story to be told. Let’s stop fooling ourselves into thinking that the suffering of others is not, in some sense, ours as well.

For, it is through empathy, not apathy, that we can make a difference in the lives of others, one at a time.

The difference between what we do and what we are capable of doing would suffice to solve most of the world’s problems. Mohandas Gandhi

Mediators as early responders – follow up and a discussion of a recent trip to Haiti


Some may recall that we wrote a post in February in an effort to open a discussion of the need to have mediators and facilitators on early responder teams who resppond to disasters. A  robust and informative online exchange was  had with many helpful points ov view being exchanged. This was followed by a discussion of several interested mediators in Washington DC in March of this year. All of the comments to the earlier posts and a bibliography of collected references was provided to all participants. Anyone  interested in that compilation can email me directly for a copy.

A couple of hours of pointed discussion in Washington DC in March led to these questions/tasks/points:

  1. There is often a need for conflict management skills after the early responders have left and there is a lull in activity. NGO’s become conflicted internally and conflicts between NGOs and beween NGOs and local officials.
  2. Do we add value/credibility by being trained as relief workers?
  3. How can we build relationships with NGO relief providers ( potential partners)  in advance of a natural disaster?
  4. Should we consider developing a program to train early responders in mediation?
  5. We should perform a survey of all of the natural disaster providers as a starting point.
  6. We should develop an inventory of  the skill sets that would be necessary  for any team sent in.
  7. To avoid the notion that we are early responders we are early responders, we should call ourselves “Mediators In Times of Crisis”  ( MITC)

We have not,  as a group, begun to explore these issues since then.

However, I made a recent assessment  trip to Haiti with Alan Gross ( a NY & PA mediator, trainer and facilitator who has worked all over the world).  We went with the thought in mind that we would assess the presence of conflicts falling within the first listed point above.

My  friend, Erik Kulstad, an ER doctor in Chicago,  had just volunteered for two weeks in Haiti and suggested that things weere pretty chaotic there.  Based upon that there appeared to be a need to take the next step, and the timiong appeared to be appropriate. The early responders had done there work. There was a substantial NGO/volunteer presence that was still working in Haiti, and some apparent conflicts present.

Erik introduced  me to Paul Sebring who operates MMRC-US a brand new  NGO that focuses on logistics in Port-au-Prince Paul and I had several conversations that led me to conclude that teh time was right to go. I solicited Alan’s help, and he kindly agreed. We first made sure that we were not goiong to be a drain on local resources or get in the way. Paul said that he would introduce us to some folks, and asked us to assist with some conflicts he was exposed to involving other NGOs and local organizations. We brought our own food to insure we would not be a drain. Paul let us stay at the MMRC-US operations center where there was room. We knew we would need water locally, but other than that, we were not going to deprive locals. Paul had a truck to take us where we needed to go. Paul said that he had thinhs to keep us busy when we were not pon appointments.

I  had some travel complications that kept me inMiami overnight, so Alan was a day ahead of me. On arival I was greated at the airport by Alan and the MMRC vehicle. No waiting!  We were on the way to drop a volunteer off at the Kola orphanage.

The 20 children were cared for by a mom and her two daughters. It was essentially 2 12 foot square tents that operated as classrooms by day and sleepiong quarters at night. MMRC-US built the tents and provides food, medicine and has health care workers check in on the kids. We were dropping Craig off who is doing a study on the numerous orphanages that have sprung up in Haiti post earthquale. The kids were all smiles and immediately jumped on us, and stuck to yus like glue. Christina and Little Paul from MMRC were with us, as was Carol. The kids were clearly attached to them. Have a look at this clip:

That clip shows the innocence of the youngest and the hope of those that look after the children.  A tragically different picture is painted by the look of despair in the eyes of those waiting for medical assistance at the clinic:

or searching in the rubble:

The fact is that the rubble is still there. Some have been allowed back into their homes but many are still in tents, fearful of the start of  hurricane season:

So, as conflict practitioners, we met with NGO workers as we helped distribute food and medicine; built tents; and delivered supplies. The relief work was done in conjunction with a  great group — Carol, Maya and  Ericka, and “the guys”  from Haiti. The NGO workers did not perceive any conflicts amongst their teams or between teams.

We, then, began talking to local folks who raised an important issue —

Are the volunteers, NGOs and other organizations who are there to help, in fact taking away the opportunity for Haitians to help themselves, learn a trade or sell a product?


— are volunteer doctors who see anyone for free unknowingly affecting the income of local physicians whose offices are empty?

— do the donated pharmaceuticals keep people out of the pharmacy?

— does donated housing materials keep people from buying locally?

and, the list goes on and on and on.

Life in Haiti is primarily a life of hustling on the street:

Given the overwhelming poverty present in the country, these questions are hard to answer.

It appears that, with regard to Haiti in particular, the roles of NGOs need to be re-assessed in light of the countries pre-disaster condition. Attention needs to be paid to not only the immediate impact of the volunteer efforts as well as the long-term impact. I am reminded of the following, Chinese proverb ( by attribution) :

Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime

Shouldn’t there be, in Haiti,  some attention paid and some  common ground reached where the billions of dollars raised around the world for the reconstruction of Haiti find its way into the Haitian economy.

There is a tremendous need to train and employ Haitians. The NGOs should set aside , in each endeavor, some money and time to train Haitians so that they can become employable and self-sustaining.

Every medical NGO can train  health care workers.

Every construction company can train carpenters, laborers, electricians and other trades.

Every food provider can employ locals to deliver the aid.

And the list goes on and on.

And the opportunities to contribute to a sustainable Haiti grow and grow.

It seems that we mediators can take the lead in this regard. We can teach Haitians skills to mediate existing disputes and how to peacefully and effectively advocate for a wise and thoughtful use of the existing aid and volunteer efforts that contribute to:

  • the long-term health of its population;
  • the education of its children;
  • the training of its workers;
  • the viability of its economy;
  • the effectiveness of its government; and,
  • the effective participation of its citizens in all of the above.

So with this in mind, we see an opportunity with mediators, conflict managers and trainers to set an example and start a framework for these processes to be put in place.  So we intend to train Haitians in mediation, facilitation, advocacy, dialogue and in training itself.  We are taking steps to start a program to train Haitian lawyers in mediation to work on the  existing 7 – 10 year backlog of cases in the Haitian judicial system. This can eventually include the development of community mediation centers to handle disputes at a local level by people from the community.

We hope to work with existing NGOs to start peer mediation training in the schools, which in many respects need a fresh look at how to get kids into school; how to keep kids in school and how to treat kids while there.

We hope to empower Haitians to be able to advocate for themselves so that from the rubble and chaos, there arises a new Haiti that provides the Haitians with a home; an education; a job; and a country in which they have pride.

Not a Perfect Game, but a perfect ending…

Perfection is elusive.

There are not many places where we are judged against a standard that allows observers to conclude that something was “perfect.” Usually we judge perfection against some subjective standard that allows us to make that assessment. Usually it is in reference to something we treasure — the perfect day, hamburger, sunrise.

It seems that sports is an arena that has established standards for judging  perfection — bowling a 300 game; and yes pitching a perfect game. Education also contributes to the chase for perfection — 100% on an exam, and the 4.0 average are , but those “perfects” have as much to do with the difficulty of the questions as  the answers given. In sports the competitive edge and structure of the game, creates a truer objective standard against which to measure perfection.

It occurs to me that the recent baseball “imperfection” is a good opportunity to consider that it is not how we handle “perfect” that counts, but rather how we handle “imperfect.”  What was interesting was the outrage of the fans, coaches, media and other players who were outraged in defense of the perfect game, while Armando Galarraga stood and smiled.  What was apparent to the world was that the pitcher pitched a perfect game, but Jim Joyce, the umpire, did not call a perfect game.

A lesson here is that is takes more than on pitcher to create a perfect game. It takes the whole team to play their error free best, and each umpire to call an error free game. One missed call behind the plate, could result in a walk. One dropped or booted ball from a teammate could result in an error. So we were left with an a perfect game played by Galarraga, his teammates, and the umpires, except for the one missed call.  Near perfection that caused outrage.  Because the call was so obvious, the outrage was well placed.

But, what we did not recognize at that moment is that  Jim Joyce did not see the taped replay. We had more information, in slow-motion and freeze-frame, than he had. Of course he defended his call, because he only knew what he perceived at that moment.

What happened next was something that will forever re-write the way the story of the 28 out perfect game will be told.

Jim Joyce looked at the tape, saw his mistake and admitted he blew the call. He knew that he had taken away from Galarraga something that eluded all but 20 others in the history of the game. Joyce showed a true sense of remorse and self- criticism. There was no attempt by him to defend the call. It was the perfect confession – I blew it. I was wrong. No excuses.

The tearful events at the beginning of the next game demonstrated how two people who have suffered through a problem, where the behavior of one hurts the other, can decide to accept what happened as unchangeable, but to restore a relationship that will endure beyond that one game.

It took two people to make it happen.

They did it on their own.

Two men, each of great character created a new perfect for the world to talk about…..

A perfect ending.