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Nonprofit lobbies for peace and justice

The nonprofit Albuquerque Center for Peace and Justice, in collaboration with UNM and the Albuquerque community, is preparing for one of its busiest projects of the year: calling attention to peace and justice issues at the New Mexico Legislature, Sue Schuurman, center coordinator, said.

Juliana Bilowich, a community liaison for UNM’s Peace and Justice Studies program and an intern at the Albuquerque Center for Peace and Justice, said the organization is building upon last year’s action platform so that volunteers in the community can pledge to call their state lawmakers and share their opinions on issues related to peace and justice.

“We’ve taken input from the peace and justice center, input from UNM’s Peace and Justice Studies program, as well as other community members, and we collaborated to make a network of our own and call it ActionNM, a community action network,” she said.

Bilowich said they received 85 pledges in 2014 that would be assigned daily action alerts so they could help impact certain votes to align them more with the peace and justice goals of the community. They plan on expanding that network this year.

According to the network’s flyer, ActionNM’s mission statement is to be “a network of people taking action on peace and justice issues to amplify our community’s diverse voices for greater collective impact.”

Bilowich said the action network’s platform in 2015 will be heavily based on defense, due to the recent elections.

“While in previous years we might have been working to push through peace and justice initiatives, this year will be more about stalling issues and initiatives that might be contrary to the peace and justice movement,” she said. “We have a platform of things that we’re working on, and it is representative of our individual and organizational members.”

While the platform’s issues are still being finalized, the current list of topics that ActionNM will work to address during the legislative session include human rights, environmental justice, police integrity and oversight and immigrant justice. Bilowich said that these primary categories will contain smaller, more specific topics, and within those will be issues that are directly related to Albuquerque.

“Everything is connected,” Bilowich said. “The action network seeks to address issues on the local level, state level, national level and even international level.

The Albuquerque Center for Peace and Justice is also working on getting more UNM students involved. Bilowich called that a priority.

"‘Democracy,’ to quote Paul Chappell, ‘is only as wise as its citizens,’” Bilowich said. “If our students aren’t informed, and they’re the incoming generation, that’s a problem. The center is so close to campus and students are full of potential if they get involved in the peace and justice movement. So we really like to encourage student involvement.”

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One event the center is holding to help spur students into action is a legislative forum on Jan. 15 from 6 to 8 p.m., held in the Albuquerque Mennonite Church at 1300 Girard Blvd. NE.

Anyone is welcome to come to the event, during which some state legislators will be present to talk on a panel about the issues that they will be sponsoring related to peace and justice. Bilowich said it is an opportunity for members of the community to learn about how the legislative session works and what issues are going to come up.

Following the panel will be a question and answer session, as well as information about how to get involved in ActionNM. Bilowich said community involvement is integral to the ActionNM’s success.

“It’s really a community initiative. So while UNM and the peace and justice center are cooperating with this, we’re also working with various organizations in the community to make this an inclusive community project and movement,” she said.

Schuurman also said that to foster growth, unifying the members of the Albuquerque community is essential.

“A lot of people are working on single issues, and we try to get people to collaborate more and unite so we can have a stronger voice,” Schuurman said.

David Lynch is a staff reporter at the Daily Lobo. He can be reached at news@dailylobo.com or on Twitter @RealDavidLynch.

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