12 March, 2018
As I approach the last few weeks of my study session with the Rotary Peace Program at Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok I realize that it’s hard to capture all the knowledge and experiences within a few hundred words.
Over the last two months, I have been joined by 22 other individuals from around the world and from a wide-variety of backgrounds. In my class we have judges, journalists, peace-officers, lawyers, civil-servants and NGO workers. All of us are joined by the common thread that peace is possible at any level as a way to heal long-running conflicts.
A valuable quote that captures this mindset is found within the preamble to UNESCO’s constitution, it states, “since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defences of peace must be constructed.” The dream of peace may seem at times to be unreasonable and an impossible goal, however today I am surrounded by people who believe in the pursuit of objective truth, freely exchanging ideas and achieving equality in education. Throughout the course I’ve been introduced to individuals and groups who cultivate the values of stability and understanding to advance their interests in a non-violent way. Although all of us carry, overtly or unconsciously, certain prejudices, we can see through the actions of these groups and individuals how it is possible through collaboration, as exemplified by the Rotary Peace Centres, that universal respect for the rule of law and human rights can be achieved.
Our studies include the classic conflict analysis areas such as humanitarian law, the interfaith dialogue, post-conflict reconstruction, security-sector reform, disarmament, demobilization and reintegration, mediation and facilitation. However this course also offers alternative dispute resolution skills and knowledge including using social media to promote non-violence, transitional justice and constructing a peace process through the use of creative arts, sports or humour. My classmates reject the common mindset that war is a natural state of human nature and rather focus on how conflict is often not sufficiently mitigated. The passion and broad skillsets of my classmates are impressive and this course allows the space to look critically at why conflict happens and how to push alternative dispute resolutions.
The important thing for Rotary International will be to look at how this excellent first level initiative of joining together these global peacebuilders can be continued. This could be achieved through supporting them to the next phase of collaboration and perhaps even leveraging the skills of these various practitioners into directly supporting Rotary peace work. Peace work does not necessarily mean solving the Palestine issue or ending the Syrian crisis, rather peace starts at the community level and with fostering the space for local players to take ownership of prioritizing peace over violence.