ANNAPOLIS -When it comes to international conflicts and peacekeeping, it doesnÕt get more complicated than the Middle East, the war in Lebanon during the ’80s, or border disputes between neighbors like Peru and Ecuador.
But for Partners in Conflict and Partners in Peace keeping, a little-known program at the University of Maryland, working to solve such problems is part of the daily routine.
Now the program has drawn attention from far beyond the College Park – and not just from policy wonks and foreign affairs specialists. Two recoding artists, David Wilcox and his wife, Nance Pettit, are collaborating on a peace-inspiring project of their own in hopes of raising money for the center and spreading the word that conflict can be contained.
Their new album, “Out Beyond Ideas” mixes original music with mystical poetry from Christian, Jewish, Buddhist, Hindu, Inuit and Islamic traditions. All the proceeds from the album will be donated to the Center.
The poetry comes from different faiths from around the world, but it holds messages from religious figures who were all masters of love and deep peace, Wilcox said.
“Many of these poems come from parts of the world where there is conflict,” he said. “They’ve been around for a millennium before us, and they’ll be around for a millennium after us. It’s fun to have this thousand year old wisdom available.”
Describing his music as “a complex but subtle orchestration of beautiful sounds, which brings out the emotion of the poems and does not cover them up,” Wilcox said the CD has a unique sound.
Many artists offered to help play on the album, he said, including Bill Kreutzman of the Grateful Dead, who is featured on the drums.
The title of the CD, “Out Beyond Ideas” is from a poem by the poet Rumi. The full line reads: “Out Beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing there is a field; I’ll meet you there.”
That line is a good description of the work being done by Partners in Conflict and Partners in Peacekeeping, said co-director of the program John Davies.
“There is often no clear distinction between who is right and who is wrong in any situation,” he said. “You need to look beyond the issues of right and wrong and look at the human needs that are motivating the parties involved.”
The CD brings together poetry from many of the major traditions around the world that promote peacemaking, and shows that these are internationally recognized principles, not just Western or American ideas, Davies said.
The Partners in Conflict and Partners in Peacekeeping program was established in 1981 to help mediate international peace agreements through citizen discussions, he said, and it is now one of the top programs for tracking international conflict and working toward peace building.
Despite headline-grabbing wars, daily terrorist attacks and visions of good versus evil perpetrated by the mass media, the number of violent conflicts globally has dropped by more than half since the early ’90s, he said.
And using citizen discussions for peacemaking is much more common since the end of the Cold War, he said.
“Over the last 15 years there have been more negotiated settlements of conflicts than in the previous 200 to 300 years,” he said. “There has been a huge shift in conflict management around the world.” Wilcox, who is currently on tour, will perform Oct. 23 at Rams Head Tavern in Annapolis and will give a free performance at The University of Maryland Oct. 26 before moving on to Wolf Trap on Oct. 27. Some of the poetry from “Out Beyond Ideas” will be included in the performances, he said.