‘An open heart that never closes up’: Peace seekers celebrate life of ‘peacebuilder’ Paula Green

  • A Celebration of Life was held for Paula Green at the Montague Retreat Center on Sunday. STAFF PHOTO/JULIAN MENDOZA

  • A “Celebration of Life” for Paula Green at Montague Retreat Center on Sunday. STAFF PHOTO/JULIAN MENDOZA

  • Monks of the Nipponzan-Myohoji Buddhist Order of the New England Peace Pagoda in Leverett drum and chant during the “Celebration of Life” for Paula Green at Montague Retreat Center on Sunday. STAFF PHOTO/JULIAN MENDOZA

  • Rabbi Or Rose delivers Psalm 23 during the “Celebration of Life” for Paula Green at Montague Retreat Center on Sunday. STAFF PHOTO/JULIAN MENDOZA

  • Court Dorsey plays “Dear Friends,” a welcoming song for the "Celebration of Life" for Paula Green at Montague Retreat Center on Sunday. STAFF PHOTO/JULIAN MENDOZA

  • Paula Green at her Leverett home. STAFF FILE PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

Staff Writer
Monday, July 25, 2022

MONTAGUE — Lovers of peace filled the Montague Retreat Center on Sunday to celebrate the life of Paula Green, a “peacebuilder” whose decades of mentorship nurtured minds across the world.

The Leverett resident’s life work included founding the Karuna Center for Peacebuilding in Amherst, “an organization with international outreach dedicated to bridging deep divides, transforming violent conflict, and fostering reconciliation” in 1994, according to Green’s obituary. She then launched Conflict Transformation Across Cultures (CONTACT) three years later “to train future peacebuilders” across the globe.

More recently, she founded Hands Across the Hills, “a residential dialogue and cultural exchange program that has garnered extensive national and international publicity,” in an effort to foster togetherness between polarized parties during the United States’ 2016 presidential election cycle. Green died at 84 on Feb. 21 as an “Unsung Hero of Compassion,” a title officially bestowed upon her by the Dalai Lama in 2009. Her legacy includes an international following of those who cherish her philosophy and look to pay forward her work.

“You will meet remarkable people committed to creating a worldwide community who honor our many cultures and live beyond the divisions of ‘us and them,’” Green posted to her website prior to her death. “I hope the photos and messages on this site inspire your own quest for a global kinship that embraces all of us in our wild and wonderful diversities.”

Beginning at 2 p.m., over one dozen speakers and performers from this group of impacted people delivered memorial addresses, fond anecdotes and songs during Green’s “Celebration of Life.” Those who took to the podium represented different religions, including Judaism, Buddhism and Islam, serving as a reflection of Green’s interfaith impact.

Rabbi Arthur Green, Green’s brother, presented the afternoon’s first full-length address, in which he recounted his sister’s own religious journey. Green, he said, discovered Buddhism after “reading psychology furiously.”

“She was always moving toward something,” Arthur Green said of his sister’s way of life.

Such a philosophy, he said, began early in their lives with their mother dying while the siblings were still children. This past Friday was the 70th anniversary of their mother’s death, Arthur Green noted.

“There are people who suffer a great loss who just become open-hearted,” he said, describing his mother’s death as “the event that made Paula and (himself) who (they) are more than anything else.”

“A wounded heart just becomes an open heart that never closes up. … Paula was one of those people.”

Following Arthur Green’s address were deliveries of the Hebrew “Psalm 23,” “Psalm 91,” Islamic sura “Al-Fatiha” and the Buddhist “Heart Sutra.” Subsequent to this portion and prior to further musical performances was an address given by James Perkins, who was Green’s husband.

“Paula always talked about, ‘how can we widen the circle a little bit?’” he said in reference to the packed venue, eliciting laughter from the crowd. “That was so key of what her work was.”

From there, Perkins delivered an improvised and authentic-feeling speech that provided personal insight into who Green was as a wife. While this, on one hand, provided an intimate, one-on-one contrast to the outside world’s perception of Green as a factor in so many lives, it also confirmed the sincerity of Green’s compassion that fueled her work.

“The miracle of love that I got to experience through Paula, I never had to think for a second that this woman would have to do something that would hurt me in somebody else’s eyes or hurt me in any way,” Perkins said. “She just loved me.”

Reach Julian Mendoza at 413-772-0261, ext. 261 or jmendoza@recorder.com.