By Shelly Cone, News-Press Correspondent
A movement to create a world without war is gaining global momentum, and it started out right in Lompoc.
Joseph White, a Lompoc resident and a professor of philosophy at Santa Barbara City College, started A Year Without War last year with the help of his SBCC students.
The goal is to create a one-year cease-fire by 2020.
A Year Without War has grown rapidly with the help of people who have set up satellite movements in places as far-flung as Canada, Scotland and Jordan.
“Sometimes very important things come from very humble places,” Mr. White said.
The group is a nonpartisan, nonreligious movement that is not anti-military, not pacifist and not a peace movement, Mr. White explained.
The idea of A Year Without War is not necessarily creating peace — because peace is a concept that he says is too complicated — but obtaining a cease-fire for a period of time.
The United Nations already has voted that there should be no war every two years during the Olympics, and in 2001, Sept. 21 was recognized as the International Day of Peace.
Mr. White said, given those declared days of peace, he thought of trying to stretch it into a year.
” Let's keep pushing and pushing and see if we can lengthen it to a year,” he said.
The group is going to keep pushing with several organized efforts. For instance, it hosted a screening of “Hotel Rwanda” and the star of the movie, Paul Rusesabagina, attended and gave a talk to the audience at SBCC.
One of the group's most exciting efforts, Mr. White said, is asking the United Nations to recognize the Pact of Paris, aka the Kellogg-Briand Pact of 1928, which formally outlawed war globally. The pact was never rescinded by the more than 60 countries that signed it but it is unrecognized by most.
Mr. White said his nonprofit has started a petition asking the United Nation to recognizeAug. 27 as Pact of Paris Day.
A Year Without War is collaborating with the Peace Crane Project to have children from all over the world create peace cranes in the colors of the nonprofit and send them to their U.N. representatives asking them to support the petition.
Lompoc resident Joshua Wheeler has been part of A Year Without War since the beginning, handling the website and helping to spread the word globally.
“The special thing about this idea is it's so noble. Who really wants war other than the people who have special interests in it?” Mr. Wheeler said.
Melisa Ashbaugh Johnston, the nonprofit's assistant executive director and U.N. liaison, said she was a student of Mr. White's, so the topic intrigued her.
“I always thought if I could do something that took a small effort on my part that would make a big difference on a large scale, I had a moral obligation to do so,” Ms. Ashbaugh Johnston said.
Success for the movement depends on what a year without war really looks like. Mr. Wheeler said it can be defined as a reduction of violence on a global scale, or no official sanctioned warfare, or even having rebel groups lay down arms for awhile.
Mr. White said he plans a campaign urging cities to pass proclamations recognizing the group's efforts and, because the project started in Lompoc, he hopes the first proclamation can come from Lompoc.
At Lompoc's City Council meeting earlier this month, he asked the council to pass such a proclamation but, after some discussion, council members decided they first need to define what qualifies for a proclamation.
After deciding that, the council will make a determination about the proclamation for A Year Without War.