'Peace Must Begin With Me': An Interview with Syracuse Peacemaker Carl Thomas


'Peace Must Begin With Me': An Interview with Syracuse Peacemaker Carl Thomas

'Peace Must Begin With Me': An Interview with Syracuse Peacemaker Carl Thomas

Carl Thomas is a trained volunteer peacemaker with the Near Westside Peacemaking Project, an initiative of the Syracuse office of the Center for Court Innovation. Thomas sat down with Sarah Reckess, director of the Syracuse office, to talk about his interest in peacemaking, the challenges of the work, and how the community can begin to heal itself.

Sarah Reckess: Why were you interested in being part of the Near Westside Peacemaking Project?

Carl Thomas: Peacemaking is a process that seeks to resolve disputes using an inclusive, non-adversarial approach. In order to accomplish this, peacemaking establishes a safe place, a circle. Within the circle, each participant has an opportunity to tell their story. The offense has disrupted the balance of the community. It has torn the fabric which connects each community member to each other. The community has to be active in restoring this balance, repairing the tear in the fabric. That is why the community’s participation in this process is so essential.

SR: Why were you drawn to the role of peacemaker?

CT: The role of the peacemaker is to actively guide the participants, to encourage open communication, and to share stories from their own lives to help participants in the process reach a consensus decision. Peacemakers may assist in suggesting different types of restitution, community service, and ways of healing.

SR: What does being a peacemaker in the Near Westside community mean to you?

CT: Being a peacemaker can be a daunting task. However, I decided to take up this challenge because I wanted to do something meaningful for the community.

SR: What effect do you think peacemaking can have on a neighborhood?

CT: As I look around, there is far too much turmoil in the community. With dedication and effort, much of the hurt can be alleviated. If we want our communities to be places of peace, we cannot look to others to resolve these issues. It is up to us to do it for ourselves. Peace must begin with me.

Carl Thomas retired from Le Moyne College, where he served as director of the school's Higher Education Opportunity Program. In addition to his work as a peacemaker, Thomas currently volunteers for the Syracuse Jail Ministry Council, which provides spiritual guidance and bail support to incarcerated individuals in the Syracuse area, and serves on the board of directors for Catholic Charities of Onondaga County.



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