Two individuals are walking downstream below a swiftly falling waterfall when they hear the screams of a small child in the water. They dive into the river and save the child.
As they continue walking down the river, more children are screaming for help. The pair keep diving into the river to rescue the children. After a while, one of the two men turns around and begins to run upstream. His companion yells, "You can't leave me here alone. We must keep rescuing these children!"
The runner turns around and calls back, "I am going upstream to see who is throwing the children into this river, and I am going to stop them."
This is the philosophy upon which the three local authors of "Building Peace: Overcoming Violence in Communities" focused their book -- it's not enough to work on healing the victims of violence, people must also work on preventing violence from occurring.
The book by Mary Yoder Holsopple of Goshen, Ruth E. Krall of Dunlap and Sharon Weaver Pittman of Africa reads like a how-to manual, giving specific ways individuals and entire communities can reduce or prevent violence.
"It's a proactive, practical approach to peacemaking," said Holsopple, who is a social worker at Elkhart's Roosevelt Elementary School.
Holsopple also is the former director of the Peace and Justice Collaborative, a joint effort of Goshen College, Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminary in Elkhart and Andrews University in Berrien Springs, Mich. She spent three years traveling throughout the world talking to people about violence prevention, finding out what's being tried and what's working.
Krall is a retired religion and psychology professor from Goshen College and Pittman, formerly of Michigan, is a retired social work professor from Andrews University.
All three women have national experience working on the peace initiative. They began writing the book in 2002 as a way to promote the issues they worked on through the Peace and Justice Collaboration. The trio spent 10 days together in Belize, where Pittman was working in 2003, to begin combining their separate chapters into one manuscript. Holsopple then completed the final editing and distributed the manuscript to several international peace activists to get their reactions.
They initially planned to seek an American publisher, but after reading the manuscript, representatives of the World Council of Churches in Geneva asked to publish the book to coincide with their "Decade to Overcome Violence." Having helped launch the campaign for the World Council of Churches, Holsopple agreed the book would be a perfect fit with the organization's aim. "Building Peace" was published in December and released in March.
The writers know achieving peace will not happen overnight, but believe "Building Peace" can show people how to begin. "It outlines some of the little steps that can make an enormous change," Holsopple explained. For instance, companies allowing their employees time off, without docking pay, to attend parent/teacher conferences would have a tremendous impact on a child's education.
Other examples mentioned in the book include the local CARES program, which puts more than 1,000 volunteers into Elkhart schools to tutor and mentor students, and anti-gang efforts similar to the Mothers Against Gangs group formed recently to help keep kids away from gang membership.
To be effective, groups need to work together, Krall said.
Young people also must be included and take ownership of the measures, said Holsopple, who started Project Peace, a schoolwide anti-violence, peer mediation program at Roosevelt. "Kids need to learn how to be peacemakers," she said.
One of the most important steps in peace-building is providing people with basic necessities, the writers agreed. "We need to work at helping people feed and clothe their children," Holsopple said. "That could mean providing child care or transportation to and from work for parents working the night shift."
The writers acknowledged they don't expect "Building Peace" to become a best-seller, although it is being translated into other languages. What they do want is for people to read it and then put the ideas into practice.
"I would hope people pick up this book and say, 'I could do that. I know someone who could do this,'" Holsopple said. "I want it to inspire people to work right here in their own community."
While noting the reader doesn't have to be religious to benefit from the book's contents, Krall said she'd like to see churches use "Building Peace" in their congregations and then develop some cross-denominational connections. "I'd like to see more churches adopt a school or participate in a gun buy-back program like the one at Belmont," she said.
Ultimately, the women hope readers will simply take the book to heart and use its ideas to affect change.
"As a mother, I don't want to educate my child about what to do when the bullets start to fly," Holsopple said. "I want them to live in a community where they are free to walk the streets and not have fear and go to school and not have fear."