'Peace Builders' use Asian techniques to tackle street violence

CHICAGO (WLS) -- A group of young people called Peace Builders from some of the city's toughest neighborhoods are using techniques from Southeast Asia to tackle street violence here at home.

Students at St. Agnes of Bohemia in the city's Little Village neighborhood are soaking in the message of peace one breath at a time.

Their leaders are a group of 20-somethings from neighborhoods including Austin, Humboldt Park and Englewood. They recently traveled to Thailand and Myanmar to learn how people in those cultures manifest peace.

"When you're trying to figure out an answer to why is Chicago so violent a lot of people say, 'oh it's the poverty rate that makes it so violent.' So we wanted to go to a place, way more poverty, but not as violent," said Peace Builder Marquetta Monroe. "So is this really why Chicago is so violent? There has to be another answer somewhere."

While in Asia, the Peace Builders met with community activists and student groups. Now armed with a documentary and a fresh perspective, they aim to share peace methods with at least a thousand local students.

"A lot of Eastern traditions have incorporated this idea of mindfulness," Peace Builder Henry Cervantes said. "So if you teach somebody how to be mindful of how they talk, how they walk, how they behave, then it has a ripple effect on their communities."

Students are getting the message and learning to nurture peace.

"You breathe, take a deep breath and think about is there really actually a point to this violence or the argument," Chirstopher Gonzalez, St. Agnes of Bohemia.

"Hispanics usually stay in Hispanic neighborhoods and African-Americans usually stay in African-American neighborhoods," Carlolina Villanueva said. "So if we get out of our comfort zones, if we would go to other countries like that, we could be exposed to so much more. We can be learn so much more."

The program is sponsored by the non-profits Free Spirit Media and Holy Family Ministries.

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To view the documentary: http://vimeo.com/88485482

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