40th anniversary of invitation letter to the founding meeting for Peace Brigades International

Published by Brent Patterson on

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The letter inviting people to our founding meeting in 1981 was signed by five individuals, including Narayan Desai (left) and K.S. Radhakrishana (right). It was Narayan who first suggested the name ‘Peace Brigades International’.

As noted on this PBI webpage: “On 12 January 1981, a letter signed by Narayan Desai (Shanti Sena Mandal), Raymond Magee (Peaceworkers), Piet Dijkstra (Foundation for the Extension of Nonviolent Action), K.S. Radhakrishana (Gandhi Peace Foundation) and George Willoughby was sent out to a number of organizations.”

That article adds: “It invited them to attend a conference to revive the idea of an international organisation committed to unarmed third party intervention in conflict situations.”

That letter led to PBI’s founding meeting that began on Monday August 31, 1981 at the Quaker Peace Education Centre on Grindstone Island, which is situated on unceded Algonquin territory about 110 kilometres south-west of Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.

Several days later, on Friday September 4, 1981, the founding statement for PBI was agreed upon and adopted.

That statement highlighted: “Peace brigades, fashioned to respond to specific needs and appeals, will undertake nonpartisan missions which may include peacemaking initiatives, peacekeeping under a discipline of nonviolence, and humanitarian service.”

It added: “We are building on a rich and extensive heritage of nonviolent action, which no longer can be ignored.”

When PBI was formed, the peace movement was arguably in its ascendancy.

The Greenham Common Women’s Peace Camp in the United Kingdom had just been established that same month, within weeks 400,000 people would march in Bonn, West Germany in opposition to the NATO decision to deploy nuclear missiles in Western Europe, and on June 12, 1982, one million people marched in New York City’s Central Park against nuclear weapons and for an end to the cold war arms race.

Throughout this milestone year, we will be reflecting on key moments related to the 40th anniversary of Peace Brigades International.


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