By Kit Cummings
This a powerful story that I will try to communicate in just a few words.
But first, a little background.
On January 18, 2011, twelve prisoners signed a solemn pledge and set out to see if they could live in peace with the men inside Georgia’s most dangerous maximum security prison. It was a simple but powerful pledge: for forty days they would follow the example of iconic peacemakers and commit themselves to timeless, nonviolent principles.
With those initial signatures, the Power of Peace Project was oﬃcially born, and I began the journey of bringing peace to those most removed from it . . . including people in prisons, schools, and churches across the United States, and even planting seeds of peace inside prisons in South Africa, Mexico, Honduras, and Ukraine.
Now to the story.
Just a few months ago, fifty men in a dangerous Mexican prison began the Power of Peace Project’s “40 Days of Peace” program. Many of these men are active in gangs and cartels, and many are rivals.
In this prison, the men are packed fifteen to twenty to a cell because it was built for 2500, but currently houses 5600 convicts. They spend all day and all night in these crowded cells, many without hope, and they do life with potentially violent inmates. (Image via Pixabay)
These fifty men went through the two-day launch with us, signed the peace pledge, received the wristband and journal, and committed to forty days of nonviolence. They began their journey together with daily journaling and action challenges, weekly small groups with their rivals, and a writing assignment that precedes a graduation celebration at the end of the project.
There was one particular issue that came up during a weekly meeting. Out of the fifty men, only one man, named Julio, was not in a cell with any of the other POPP Initiates. The cell he was in had no other POPP brothers, and he was the only one with the wristband and journal. So, he stood out among his twenty cellmates . . . and it’s not necessarily a good thing to stand out in a Cartel-controlled prison.
One of the fifty stood up and said: “Our brother Julio is all alone in his cell! What can we do to protect him?” We asked why he was in a cell all alone. They responded: “He’s not all alone, he just doesn’t have any Power of Peace brothers around him.”
I was in awe. Only three short weeks into the program, these men were concerned that their brother was “all alone” because he was not surrounded by the POPP brotherhood. In a very short time they had already owned the Power of Peace Movement and were protecting it. Imagine what could happen over months and years. These men are HUNGRY for change.
The next week one of the men went to a prison church service, and the priest gave every inmate in attendance a single mint. Our brother took that little mint back to his cell and broke it into fifteen tiny pieces. He carefully passed out all the little crumbs, so that every one of his brothers could have a small taste of sweetness for a change.
Is that what you picture when you hear or read about dark and dangerous Mexican prisons? The media isn’t covering these kind of stories—at least not yet.
The Power of Peace.
This post was written by author and speaker Kit Cummings.