Pursuing Peace Conference. Member Spotlight: Chuck Fitzgerald

Chuck Fitzgerald is a peacemaker, Rotarian and mediator based in Arizona. He has held numerous positions in the private and public sectors, creating value between organisations with stakeholders. He worked as the Sargent at Arms for the Arizona House of Representatives. When offered this position, he was told “we need more peacemakers like you in the capital.” For him, being a peacemaker and a peace lover are very different roles.  While a peacemaker seeks to engage in action driven initiatives, a peace lover is more passive. Therefore, he saw this position as an opportunity to maximize his passion for peacebuilding. He was also the former District Governor for 5490 between 2014 – 2015. His motto is “REACH for Good,” which stands for “Recruit, Equip, Activate, and Connect Helpers for Good.” For him, donors, employees, volunteers, and partners all participate at their highest level when they feel connected to their passions. Therefore, he is passionate about creating spaces where everyone can tap into their full potential.

Pursuing Peace Conference

As a result, he has begun a virtual Pursuing Peace Conference inviting practitioners and academics all over the world to reconnect. He stated, “I started the conference in 2018 because no one was talking about peace in our community.” Therefore, he saw an opportunity to lead this conversation through a conference format. At each conference, participants learn about creating and sustaining peaceful outcomes in their institutions and personal relationships. Furthermore, this is a conference that keeps on giving because it is free and accessible to everyone. He stated, “we do not charge people to attend the conference, but they do have the opportunity to donate. All the funds then go towards funding peace related projects.”

This conference goes beyond just one perspective because it is rooted in an interdisciplinary view of peace. He stated,” I view peace in an Old Testament way. I believe everything was created with the purpose, and when one operates within that purpose, they find peace. Shalom is the word, and it means being complete as intended by the creator.” Hence, he believes that peace is a condition where people can flourish together. This vision fuels his motivation to continue hosting these vibrant, inclusive spaces. For Chuck, every act of service is an act of peace. He stated, “as we serve, although it may be small, peace comes to us as well as to those we serve.” Therefore, as an individual or community gets to flourish, the acts of service multiple. He further added that he recalls the phrase, “pray to God but row for shore,” reminding himself that action comes from a collection of steps instead of a single step alone.   

Connection to MBBI

In organizing this conference, he counted on the guidance and support of Mediators Beyond Borders International (MBBI). As an organization and community of mediators, MBBI supported Chuck in two ways. First, their technical expertise ensured the quality of the conference. Secondly, MBBI acted as guardrails to ensure that the message, language, intentions were as transparent and visible as possible. As a body, they helped solidify the vision into concrete actions that helped the conference planning go smoothly. In this process, he worked on many tasks. One of the tasks that Chuck was invested in was reaching out to potential speakers. However, as he identified and reached out to speakers, he realized that not everybody saw themselves as a peacemaker at first. He shared that whenever he approached a potential speaker, they would reply, “why me, I am not in the peace business?” For him, these professionals were directly working on related to peace in many ways but did not necessarily realize it. On one occasion, he told his colleague, “you are the president of a national nonprofit that helps fathers raise their children. Don’t you see how you are working to create more peaceful outcomes for families? That’s being a peacemaker.”

Aspects of Peacebuilding

This realization led to richer critical conversations around the different aspects of peacebuilding and what that “looked like.” He also approached other inspiring professionals directly working on issues promoting peace. For instance, he invited a Justice of the Arizona Supreme Court to give a speech. At first, the Justice was hesitant to get involved with the conference but afterwards realized that his work directly helped improve society at many levels. In his speech, the Justice emphasised that the real peacemakers in the judicial system were jurors. These were only two examples of dozens that greatly inspired Chuck to move this conference forward.

The theme for the conference is slightly different every year. However, he stated, “Despite differences, the bottom line is what we are each contributing to more peaceful outcomes.” He continues, “peacebuilding does not happen ‘over there,’ it happens inside each one of us, and we are responsible for working on finding this part of us.” He shared that he has learned a lot about organizing a conference like this one that, due to COVID19, has a hybrid nature to it. However, the shift to the digital world has not been a barrier to postponing these conferences. It has been an opportunity to expand further. He stated, “to move people towards action, I remember the phrase, ‘swing hard in case you hit it.’ In other words, whenever one is pursuing a project of peace, they must not give their 25%, or 50% but their 100%. Furthermore, despite the word “peace” is overused, it is an integral part towards building an ‘open receptive heart.’ “

Chuck’s passion for the pursuit of peace began before the organization of these conferences. He stated, “I jokingly say that I studied peace in the U.S. Marine Corps.” He served four years and learned that the strongest people must be ethical ‘good’ people. For him, “if good people are not the strongest, we all lose.” Hence, resilience towards violence helps build a strong capable community. Furthermore, his life vision statement emphasizes that “everyone is serving others” in ways that cannot be quantified. He stated, “We all have gifts and someone is in need of your gift, and of my gift. We all have something to give.” 

He is greatly inspired to give to others by witnessing the challenges and struggles of those in poverty. For him, poverty later affects life’s financial, health, and social aspects. Therefore, he is passionate about supporting those with a lack of basic resources, making it his mission to reach out to those in vulnerable conditions to maximize their potential. Chuck, until now, continues to work on creating spaces that will bridge the gap between awareness and action for a more peaceful world where everyone can shape a peacebuilder identity.

Article by Elizabeth Gamarra, MBBI Writer