Friday, March 21, 2014

The 2014 Peace Studies Course at International Institute of Peace Studies: An Incubator for Global Friendship, Understanding and New Possibilities for Peace

We came from Afghanistan, Pakistan, Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Philippines, Egypt, Uganda, Tanzania, Myanmar, Japan, Lebanon, Nepal, Sri-Lanka, Thailand, Malaysia and the U.S. We came in shades of white and brown, with a rainbow of national dress, music and foods. We spoke many languages, but communicated with one heart; sharing dreams of freedom; dreams of peace and justice and an end to violence. 

Many participants are already translating their dreams into action; working as Human Rights Lawyers or Social Workers, working in NGO’s that support and assist refugees, orphans or juveniles who attempted suicide bombings. Some are working towards Gender Rights, many works with youth. Others work in development sectors.  Together the participants and resource staff represented over 160 years of experience in Peace and Human Rights Activism and related activities.

IIPS arranged an impressive series of presentations for this group of educated and experienced young professionals. Presentations by Thai, S. Korean, Japanese and U.S. scholars covered topics of Ethnicity, Gender and Power, Structural Violence and Practices on Non-Violence.  There were talks and experiential exercises addressing Deep Listening, Indigenous Wisdom, Conflict in Contemporary Thailand, Global Governance, Peace and Human Security, Approaches to Analyzing Conflict and Approaches to Conflict Transformation as well as new information on the experience of Fukishima and movements towards Asian Democratization. Visits to Buddhist Temples, Mosques and Christian Churches were part of the curriculum along with time at rural, self-sustaining inter-faith communities in Bangkok and Chiang Mai.  

Everyone was both teacher and student at IIPS, discovering commonalities, exploring differences and celebrating diversity.  Late night discussions covered everything under the sun. 

At IIPS, PEACE is not just a word or a theory. It’s translated into action - sharing a room with 1 or 2 “strangers” who become friends; eating and working on presentations together, laughing and dancing and listening to each other, even if it occasionally gets uncomfortable. 
Perhaps most profoundly, each of us was offered an opportunity to leave our “comfort zone” and step into new, slightly riskier spaces, where old ideas, historic grievances and suffering, mistrust and misinformation could be heard and received.  In those spaces minds and hearts could break open, forever expanded and transformed.  

These words of Father Nipot Thianviham, from the Center for Religion and Community Culture, will remain with me as touchstones for creating a world of peace and justice, “Allow a conversion of your heart. Search for the essence, the source of life within each person’s story” and “Walk Humbly, Work Justly, Love tenderly.”

Thank you to the entire organizing team for your vision, hospitality, thoughtfulness and commitment in providing a life-changing experience and depth of learning for all of us at the 2014 IIPS Peace Studies Course.

Ms Rose Gordon
Resource Person, Taos County Juvenile Justice, USA