Strength Through The Shadows: Beth Nielsen Chapman's Recipe For Peace Jam & More Delightful Treats

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Beth Nielsen Chapman is an amazing woman, not just for her beautiful music, but because she is a genuinely caring person who shares her faith with people to unify humanity in all its varying shades, rather than trying to use one particular doctine to force people to conform as certain religions are wont to do.

In 2007, she released her latest album Prism: The Human Family Songbook and an accompanying DVD, If Love Could Say God's Name, which incorporates a soul stirring concert with a church service so profound and inspirational with its message of unification. To understand where this depth and passion comes from, one only has to look at Chapman's life, and how she shares her joys and sorrows with the world to teach us a new way of living.

In 1994, Chapman's beloved husband Ernest lost his battle with cancer. Chapman herself has battled breast cancer and a brain tumour but has thankfully survived both, thanks to not only modern medicine, but also to her devout faith. Ernest had an MA in philosophy and was fascinated with the meaning of life and the relationship with God in all aspects of many different cultures and faiths.

Chapman states: "A few months before his death he wrote a letter and sent it to everyone he'd known and loved in his life asking if they would be so kind as to send him a brief note telling him what they believed happens when we pass out of this world."

The Chapman family's friends, who ranged from all cultures and religions from Christian to Muslim, all sent letters and prayers, including one particular (un-named) friend who was a devout atheist. Ernest had had many colourful arguments with this friend during the course of their lives debating all facets of faith, or lack thereof. The atheist friend had also offered this prayer upon receiving Ernest's request.

"I'm probably not, as you know, the best person to ask this question of at a time like this. Nothing has changed. I still feel the same way, still, because I love you, today I sent up for you the prayers of an atheist."

Ernest said to his wife "Wow. That would have to be the most powerful prayer to have had to travel so far."

Thus the inspiration for one of the central songs from the Prism album was born, Prayers Of An Atheist in which Chapman shares her belief that: "Whatever anyone's beliefs are we are born to love and create, which, to me has always been the greatest proof of God's existence. And even the prayers of an atheist have value as I can attest from the amazing grace it brought to my husband in the last days of his life. "

This became the cornerstone with which Chapman sought to find the universal thread in all faiths or non-faiths and weave them together to inspire people to look outside the doctrines of any one particular set of beliefs and try and understand and reflect the values of different cultures and ideologies. To further this crusade, Chapman allied herself with two very special and important organisations, PeaceJam and PeaceMala.

PeaceMala aims to promote "understanding, respect, friendship, tolerance and peace between all communities, cultures and enlightened, compassionate faiths. PeaceMala promotes global citizenship and invites all people to treat each other with respect and compassion regardless of race, colour, religion, gender, sexuality, ability, size or age.

PeaceMala was founded in 2002 by Pam Evans, former Head of the Department of Religious Studies at Coedcae Comprehensive School in Llanelli, Carmarthenshire, Wales. I personally have been fortunate enough to talk to Pam online, since she discovered one of my posts about this subject on the Jon Peter Lewis website/forums and other music sites I frequent. In fact, she specifically signed up to post on the JPL forums to chat more about this noble endeavour with my friends and myself.

PeaceMala arose from discussions regarding race relations after the September 11 terrorist attacks in 2001, and how one student in particular became a target for misplaced distrust and outright prejudice simply for being Islamic. Student Imran Sheikh states that: "I suffered from racist taunts and our local mosque was attacked following September 11 and that is when the Peace Mala all started."

Pam Evans gave up her position at Coedcae School in 2005 to focus on her work with PeaceMala. She was awarded the Noble Soul Award in 2006 in recognition of her outstanding contribution to challenging Islamaphobia in schools. The award was presented by RAHMA (Racial Attacks and Harassment Monitoring Association) on the International Day of Peace.

PeaceJam takes this ideal further with active charity events like an upcoming auction to be presented on E-Bay starting December 7, 2009, where five hand-painted guitars will be auctioned off and proceeds will go toward funding more PeaceJam events. Each guitar has been signed by the following Nobel Peace Laureates and supporters of PeaceJam: The Dalai Lama, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Rigoberta Menchu Tum, Oscar Arias Sanchez, Mairead Corrigan Maguire, Jody Williams, Shirin Ebadi, Jose Ramos Horta, Adolfo Ramirez Esquivel, and Betty Williams.

The mission of the PeaceJam Foundation is to: "create young leaders committed to positive change in themselves, their communities and the world through the inspiration of Nobel Peace Laureates who pass on the spirit, skills, and wisdom they embody."

Also included with each guitar is a Letter of Authenticity from the President/Co-Founder of PeaceJam, Ivan Suvanjieff.

Another interesting project that Beth Nielsen Chapman has been working on (and which comes as a pleasant surprise to me) is a new limited edition EP which is available to purchase from her website store. The product is described as being a "New Limited Edition sneak preview featuring Shadows from the new BNC record."

Chapman's new album, Back To Love, will be released sometime in 2010, so this looks like an early treat for eager fans who (understandably) cannot wait for the new full-length CD release. She will also be touring the United Kingdom in the new year.

Another fascinating project Chapman is involved with is the I Heart Benefit For Cancer Schmancer hosted by fellow cancer survivor and spokesperson, the lovely and talented Fran Drescher from the hit sitcom The Nanny. The benefit will be held at The Million Dollar Theatre at 307 S. Broadway, Los Angeles on December 13 from 7:00 PM, although doors will open an hour earlier. Guests at the event will include: Jackson Browne, The Bird & The Bee, Olivia Newton-John, Beth Nielsen Chapman, The Whispertown2000, Chris Pierce, Arrica Rose & The...'s (actual band name although I am unsure how to pronounce it,) Charlotte Martin, Caitlin Crosby, Vertigo Posse, Charlyne Yi, Mortified, and more.

More information and a direct ticket link can be found by clicking on the relevant links provided.


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