Everywhere there is someone who stood up and changed something. Do you have it in you to be a Nelson?

Yme Woensdregt

Desmond Tutu, the retired Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town in South Africa, writes “I believe in MasterPeace. World leaders cannot push back armed conflict alone. We need the whole world to make this happen.”

I had never heard of this organization before, so I went to that modern omniscient, all–knowing force which we call Google. The more I read, the more excited I got.

The short answer to the question is that MasterPeace is a UN award–winning grassroots peace movement which challenges us to create peace together, inspiring people to use their talents and energy for peacebuilding. Established in 2010, it urges us to help create a sustainable future for the world. Thirdly, it inspires us to “be a Nelson—to mobilize 200,000 Nelsons to bring change in their local communities.” (More about being a Nelson later.)

What really turned me on about MasterPeace is that it works through the power of music, art, media, sport and dialogue to prevent new armed conflicts and help the world achieve the Social Development Goals (SDG’s). Sponsored by the United Nations, over 190 world leaders committed to these 17 goals in 2015 to “help us all end extreme poverty, fight inequality and injustice, and fix climate change.” (I will have more to say about SDG’s in future columns.)

MasterPeace is currently active in over 40 countries around the world, inspiring people to become peace–builders in their local communities. As people are inspired, local groups begin to have a global impact. The mission of MasterPeace, what they call their “Passion Statement” is, “We are dedicated to put Music above fighting; Dialogue above judgment; Bread above bombs; Creation above destruction.”

They list the four key values that guide their work: “We have selected four values as guideline for our work: positivity (we focus on solutions, not on ‘who is to blame?’), co–creation (we focus on innovative & equal collaboration), autonomy (we encourage entrepreneurship & personal leadership) and ‘walk your talk’ (because you are what you do, not what you preach).”

Who can’t get excited about that? MasterPeace celebrated the International Day of Peace on September 21 with 55 different events in 45 different countries, including many in conflict zones of the world. Musicians performed in places from Moscow to Tunis, from Mexico City to Kabul via Istanbul. You can find some of these concerts on youtube quite easily.

A month ago, MasterPeace launched the “world’s largest music competition for peace.” Musicians will be given the opportunity to perform at Europe’s biggest music festival. “My Music MasterPeace is designed for all solo artists, bands, and singers with music that tackles topics of peace–building, positivity, freedom of expression and human rights globally; offering support and exposure to fresh artists who need to break through into music charts and gain widespread outreach for their message.” You can find out more at

You’ve got to love it when people get together around things that fill them with life, and the movement takes off because it touches the lives of so many others.

The question they ask of all of us is, “Would you like to be a Nelson?”

There is a haunting short video, only a minute long, which shows young people from many different nations walking along a beach at low tide, speaking in their own languages, “I don’t want your money. I don’t want your likes. I don’t want your food. I don’t want your pity. I don’t want your guilt. I don’t need your asylum. We don’t want your weapons.” They all stop, and a young girl gazes directly into our eyes as she says, “I want you.” The video ends with a voiceover, “Give people in conflict areas the best of you. Donate your talent and be a Nelson.”

So what’s a Nelson?

“In every nation, in every country, and in every alley, there is someone who stood up and changed something. Small or big, it doesn’t matter! We here at MasterPeace are on the lookout for these local heroes and recognize them as what we call ‘Nelsons’—named after the most famous Nelson of them all: Nelson Mandela.

“He or she is a change–maker: a role model for their community who dares to break silences and taboos; a peace–builder who’s always searching for common ground. They exhibit the qualities of an inspirational figure to their local community and help foster a culture of peace and acceptance through words and concrete acts while developing initiatives with a strong impact on social change. The Nelson Award is our way of honoring Nelsons who believe in the transformative power of positivity and non–violent activities on a grass–root level.”

What about you? Do you have it in you to be a Nelson?

Yme Woensdregt is Pastor at Christ Church Anglican in Cranbrook

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