People often use the words peace and nonviolence interchangeably. Though related, the two have different meanings.
Peace may refer to a tranquil state of being; a quality of life characterized by equity and fairness; or the absence of war and other violent behavior. Nonviolence may refer to a lifestyle, a philosophy, or a strategy for promoting and achieving peace.
Throughout history, men and women who care about their fellow human beings—and the environments they share—have used nonviolent strategies to achieve equity and fairness and to prevent or end war. The Dayton International Peace Museum calls these men and women peace heroes. The Museum defines a peace hero as a person who cares about the world and its inhabitants and strives for positive change through nonviolence.
Through its activities, exhibits, and events, the Museum offers non-threatening opportunities to examine peace, nonviolence, and heroism in historic and contemporary contexts. Consistent with its nonpartisan spirit of inclusiveness, the Museum welcomes and respects different points of view while encouraging the practice of finding common ground, creating a sense of unity, and building consensus.
For centuries, people have used stories to impart values, teach life lessons, and present role models worthy of emulation.
At the Dayton International Peace Museum, storytelling is the medium and peace heroes are the focus. The Museum is dedicated to gathering, preserving, and telling the stories of peace heroes. Whether legendary or unsung, peace heroes demonstrate compassion for others, a desire to effect positive change, courage to speak out and/or take nonviolent action, and a willingness to assume the risks associated with taking a stand.
Whether on site, online, or on the streets of Dayton, the Museum brings the stories of peace heroes to life.
Museum volunteers are transforming the Peace Heroes Room into a multimedia, interactive exhibit space devoted to well-known peace heroes such as Mahatma Gandhi and to those lesser known such as Ted Studebaker (a conscientious objector during the Vietnam War) and Sister Dorothy Stang (a human rights and environmental activist).
The Invent Peace Laboratory on the third floor provides space for conducting digital interviews of everyday people who have accomplished extraordinary things through the power of love and nonviolence. The stories shared in the Peace Heroes Room and collected in the Invent Peace Laboratory will be available to wider audiences on the Museum website.
A major event for the Museum is its annual peace walk. The walk is a family friendly, team event. It is currently a collaboration between the 21st Century Peace Literacy Foundation and the Dayton International Peace Museum, both located in Dayton, Ohio. It has been endorsed by the Rotary Club of Dayton and the mayor of Dayton, a Mayors for Peace city since 2007. The walk was inspired by the first Peace Heroes Walk held May 2, 2015, in Dayton. The inaugural event brought together more than 700 people of diverse ages, races, and faith traditions to celebrate their role models of peace and inspire a new generation of peace leaders.
The Dayton International Peace Museum welcomes people of all ages. An interactive children’s room on the second floor allows children to play, sing, and learn about other cultures. On Saturday mornings, volunteers conduct a storytelling hour for children. Each summer, the Museum offers a Peace Camp for youth ages 5 to 12. On-site programs for adults include meditation and yoga groups, a book club, a monthly Great Decisions series, The MLK Dialogues series, and the Building Peace series which covers timely and diverse topics and issues.
In addition to permanent exhibits, the Museum hosts three to five temporary exhibits each year. Topics of recent temporary exhibits include gun culture, immigration, the 2019 Oregon District mass shooting, Yemen, Poverty in Dayton, and a minority women’s art show.
Permanent exhibits include the extensive Dayton Peace Accords digital and interactive exhibit, located in its own gallery. Four touch-screen modules lead visitors from the early history of Yugloslavia to the devistating civil war, and the journey to Wright Patterson Air Force base in Dayton, leading to a peace treaty. The exhibit includes an update on life in the Balkans today and the work that still needs to happen for a lasting peace. Other exhibits include original photos of Gandhi, a young person’s exhibit on the climate crisis, the birthplace of the International Cities of Peace and an expanding major exhibit on peace heroes.
Since 2014, the Museum has displayed the Peace Labyrinth — an exhibition of quilts depicting the “Golden Rule” in more than 17 faith- and conscience-based traditions. Volunteers trained to be Museum Guides are happy to provide tours to individuals as well as groups. Use this website to schedule a group tour for either adults or students.
The Museum’s outreach efforts include a committment to make connections in support of like-minded organizations and NGO’s in the greater Miami Valley.Formal connections include the University of Dayton, Sinclair College, The Dayton Performing Arts Alliance, WYSO, Wright State University, Wilmington College, Ohio State Univerity, DCOWA, NCCJ, Dayton Mediation,Heartfulness Meditation, and the City of Dayton. The Museum has volunteers willing to travel to other locations and make presentations on peace-related topics. To request a volunteer speaker, call 937-227-3223.
The Museum is well connected outside of Ohio and is an active member of the International Network for Museums of Peace (INMP) based in Kyoto, Japan. Sixteen members of the Dayton community attended the last international INMP conference in Belfast, Northern Ireland in 2017. The Museum has active connections with Peace Direct,the Newseum, the Nuclear Age Foundation, Mercy for Animals, Peace Trees Vietnam, and many others.
Nonviolence comes at a price as does war. Lives may be lost, and many years may pass before nonviolent strategies produce their desired results.
But the belief that war solves problems is not supported by science. For example, research by Maria Stephan and Erica Chenoweth has found that nonviolent resistance is twice as likely as violent resistance to achieve peace and social change.
The movements listed below helped bring equity and justice to greater numbers of people. Although they may have been accompanied or interrupted by violence, these movements are generally considered successful examples of nonviolent efforts to promote social change.
- Women’s Rights Movement, USA, 1848-1920
- Gay Rights Movement, International, 1897-present
- Anti-Apartheid Movement, South Africa, 1912-1992
- Independence Movement, India, 1885-1947
- Danish Resistance Movement, Denmark, 1940-1945
- Civil Rights Movement, USA, 1909-1968
- Anti-War Movement, USA, 1964-1973
- Solidarity Movement, Poland, 1980-1989
- Fall of the Berlin Wall and Reunification of Germany, 1988-1990
The Museum defines a peace hero as a person who cares about the world and its inhabitants and strives for positive change through nonviolence.