United Action for Peace
“Peace to me means having the freedom to say, do and be who you are within legal, moral and ethical boundaries, whilst allowing others the same freedom in order to bring about tranquillity, reconciliation and lack of violence” Epi Mabika
Earlier in September, I had the opportunity to attend the first ever International Peace Summit held in Kuching, Sarawak Malaysia along with 2 other delegates from JCI UK. Being the National Community Director this year, I was delighted to take part in this inaugural event relevant to my role, and providing the opportunity to share ideas on developing grassroots community initiatives that will contribute towards the fulfilment of the UN Sustainable Development Goal #16 which addresses Peace, Justice and Inclusive societies.
The objective of the summit was to provide a platform for active citizens and global experts to join in building a common vision to create world peace through identifying barriers to peace and formulating sustainable solutions to these challenges. Hosted in collaboration with the Government of Sarawak, the summit had 600 people in attendance from over 100 nationalities and 20 different organizations, adding a unique element to this conference that differentiated it from any other JCI event - It created the perfect melting pot of what peace and unity truly looks like. In addition to this, the host city, Sarawak in Kuching known as the 'City of Unity', is a very diverse and multicultural city, with 28 different ethnicities and various religions residing peacefully in one place. It is no wonder why this made for a perfect location for us to begin the conversation in understanding, creating a plan of action and modelling what living in peaceful societies looks like.
The Opening Ceremony and ‘Cultural Unity Night’ saw us enjoying a warm welcome with typical South East Asian hospitality, gourmet dinner, live entertainment and reuniting with JCI friends from across the globe. This set the tone of the peace conference with keynotes from Government ministers; our JCI World president- Dawn Hetzel, Peace is Possible Committee Chair Tshepo Thlaku and a heartfelt address from Richard Lui- Journalist, News Anchor, UN Women spokesperson and anti-human trafficking agent who shared his story about how they are helping to rescue and restore women who are trafficked in Asia- all in an effort to restore peace and human dignity.
The official Day 1 of the Peace Summit had us engrossed in panel discussions and interactive workshops. Three tracks were available for us to choose from: Peace Promoter; Peace Actor and Peace maker, each with a unique focus to help us develop the skills & knowledge to mobilize individuals & organizations for united actions for peace, as well as helping us develop advocacy techniques to present solutions & opportunities for peace.
In one of the workshops we identified the greatest barriers to peace (mainly cultural, religious, social, economic, racial, educational, political, and environmental) & formulated sustainable solutions to these challenges, thereby empowering young active citizens to be the change agents for peace.
I was able to share my experiences with the refugee crisis & how we in London were helping refugees in Calais with one of our projects- London4Refugees (London2Calais) - in an effort to promote brotherhood amongst nations and tackle barriers to peace, when all of a sudden the rug was pulled up from under our feet & the camps were dismantled as a consequence of Political factors. The question was, what to do when the ball game changes & a curve ball is thrown at you after carefully planning solutions to given challenges.
I was really touched by one of the speakers Kian Hoe Seah, who wasn't on that particular panel discussion, but made an effort to find me & offer practical solutions to the problem I presented. He was able to see my pain and relentlessness in being a voice to the voiceless & encouraged me not to give up on them. Instead he suggested teaming up with innovators within the tech industry who can help to come up with means to track & help them. I was now able to see that challenge, not as an obstacle but an opportunity to provide innovative sustainable solutions to crisis. That for me was gold & knowing that there is someone who is willing to support the endeavour, made it all the more achievable. This got me thinking about all the unlikely alliances that we as young people can collaborate with in order to achieve a common goal- that’s food for thought for you as well.
In the afternoon, it was time to take simple action steps to promote peace. We were divided into various groups, each with a different assignment but overall goal to promote peace at the local mall. Our group had to write positive quotes that we would then hand out to strangers as 'conversation starters' to uplift their day; promote brotherhood & talk about peace & our organization. It was one of the most fascinating activities led by Ben Harrington from ‘Peace One Day’, as we formed a flash mob and made a giant human chain, where mall shoppers were welcomed as we cheered them through & shared our positive message of peace.
There was also a Youth Proclamation video recorded by JCI members on peace, and you can watch it here: Youth Proclamation of Peace
The 2nd Day of the International Peace Summit was also varied in concept and quite intriguing.
We heard a very inspirational keynote from former child soldier-turned-Peace Ambassador and Recording Artist-Emmanuel Jal, who shared his horrendous experiences from childhood in South Sudan. Having been a child victim, his parents and relatives were killed, and he was somewhat brainwashed into a culture of war and had to overcome the feelings of hatred, revenge and conflict, renewing his mind-set to that of peace and reconciliation. He encouraged us to change the conversation from hopelessness to that of opportunity & possibility & reminded us that' Sometimes you have to lose to win'. I also happened to watch his movie called "The Good Lie" on the flight back from Malaysia & was captivated all the way. I highly recommend you watching it. Later that day we attended further workshops that provided an excellent platform for citizens to engage, collaborate and share best practices on the complexities of making peace possible in our lifetime.
During the lunch break, a small group of us from 4 different countries (Denmark; Russia; Finland and UK) went on a boat tour along the Sarawak River, demonstrating that peace truly is possible when we unite & look past our differences- that the 'Brotherhood of man transcends the Sovereignty of Nations'. It was a defining moment for all of us as we had not previously interacted on that level.
The closing keynote was an icing on the cake as we heard from His Excellency Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, the Former President of Nigeria 2010-2015, who inspired us with the actions he took through the programs he implemented during his presidency in Nigeria. He placed his country’s unity and freedom above his own personal ambition and allowed his people to witness the peaceful transfer of power.
The overall conference theme highlighted the fact that Peace undergirds all the other goals for sustainable development, as we need it to ensure reduced inequalities; access to quality education; healthy sustainable environments; economic justice; gender equality; reduced poverty and sustainable cities.
We were certainly empowered to be the generation that develops peace within ourselves, our communities and the world around us.
The evening was reserved for 'The Peace is Possible' Rally and Concert. We rocked the night away with guest artists Tennille Amor, Emmanuel Jal, and Phyu Phyu Kyaw Thein who had the most soulful voice I've ever heard, sharing her message of hope & peace for the country of Myanmar.
It was over all too soon, however we all have the understanding that now is the time to implement what was learnt and we are already making plans to play our part during the UN International Peace Day This Thursday 21st
September. In addition to this, I will also be attending a conference organised by the Universal Peace Federation, discussing how to prevent the next war.
Join us at JCI UK as we host a Twitter Chat this Thursday 21st
September between the hours of 1pm-2pm GMT to begin a conversation about how to move the peace agenda forward. We will be using these hashtags: #JCIUK #PeaceIsPossible #PeaceDay. Feel free to jump in, share your opinions, concerns and suggestions, and together let’s make a move towards the attainment of world peace. Will you join us?