After learning that Costa Rica did not have an army, Rita Marie Johnson moved from the United States to Costa Rica over 17 years ago to help strengthen its peace model. Now she serves as director of the Rasur Foundation in Costa Rica, which she founded in 1998, and also Rasur Foundation International (RFI) in the US, founded in 2009.
Johnson's work has been inspired by the poem Rasur, written by Roberto Brenes Mesén in 1946, that predicted Costa Rica would become a model of peace. The poem tells of a teacher, Rasur, who comes to a village and awakens the children to the wisdom and compassion in their hearts. In 2000, Johnson wrote The Return of Rasur: The story that holds the answer to education in our time. This led her to write and produce the musical entitled Rasur, decreed an event of national interest by the President of Costa Rica.
In 2002, Johnson created BePeace, a practice that combines a scientifically tested method for “feeling peace” with a sure path for “speaking peace” that creates an authentic, compassionate connection. This combination inspired her to found the Academy for Peace of Costa Rica. By 2005, BePeace won the Ashoka Changemakers Innovation Award: Building a More Ethical Society, chosen from 79 projects in 32 countries. Now the Academy is working with the government to implement BePeace in every high school in Costa Rica.
In November 2006, Johnson completed a speaking tour in Japan on Costa Rica as a model of peace. In July 2007, she served on the plenary panel “Women of Power” at the International Women's Peace Conference in Dallas. Johnson serves on the Advisory Board of the National Peace Academy of the USA and served as a keynote speaker at the Department of Peace Conference in Washington DC in March 2009.
In 2006, the Rasur Foundation presented a Ministry for Peace initiative that was embraced by Costa Rica's president, Oscar Arias, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate. This Ministry for Peace bill passed on August 19, 2009. The Academy for Peace is currently being integrated into this new Ministry for Peace. As a result of Johnson's involvement in the Global Alliance for Ministries and Departments for Peace, the Costa Rican government hosted the 2009 Summit of the Global Alliance and the Rasur Foundation facilitated it.
Johnson served the United Nations University for Peace in Costa Rica from 1999-2002. Now she offers the BePeace Foundations Course there each year for two graduate credits. This course has also been approved for college credit in the US and is offered as part of the National Peace Academy's Certificate Program. Johnson has initiated BePeace in eleven states in the USA as well as Canada, Europe and Central America. Headquarters for Rasur Foundation International are in Arlington, Texas. www.rasurinternational.org
Info on Costa Rica program www.academyforpeacecr.org