Peace and war

Rachel Bright Morones

Photo By Robert Speer

As the new director—since December—of the Chico Peace & Justice Center, Rachel Bright Morones knows full well that she has an impossible job. “There is so much violence in the world, so much suffering,” she says. The important thing is for each of us to do what we can to alleviate it. A warm, articulate woman, Bright Morones, 28, grew up in Chico, attended Pleasant Valley High School, then got her BA degree at San Francisco State and her master’s at the University of the Pacific, in Stockton. She spent five years working at a Mexican university as an international-students coordinator (she speaks fluent Spanish), then a year as a resident director in the Chico State residence halls. During that time she volunteered at the CP&J Center, and when the director’s job came open, she applied and got it. As with most such jobs, it’s full-time work on a part-time salary.

What are you focusing on at the center?

One of my big priorities is strengthening our volunteer internship program. We have a really phenomenal staff of 35, and we need to utilize them better.

Which is more important, peace or justice?

They’re equally important. Certainly without justice there is no peace. We begin with nonviolence. We believe that poverty is a form of violence, racism is a form of violence, sexism, all the “isms.”

What’s the best way to counter these forms of violence?

I think it’s to increase our ability to be empathic, to feel others’ suffering.

It’s easier to go to war when you don’t suffer its consequences…

It’s true. Americans don’t feel the war in Iraq, unless they’ve lost a loved one. Our lives aren’t affected, we think. But just financially, this war has cost Chico $22 million. That’s outrageous.

How do you decide where to focus your work?

We have to prioritize. It’s difficult. There’s so much suffering. We try to do the best with what we have.

Which is more valuable, becoming peaceful oneself or working for peace in the world?

I would be hard pressed to say one is more important than the other. That’s why we need a diverse staff here. Some focus on social activism, others on personal transformation.

Does it sometimes feel like you’re carrying sand with a teaspoon?

Sure. But we have to know we’re doing something. Who was it, Voltaire, who said, "Bad things happen when good people are silent"?