A week to remember

Jan 21, 2023

By Ximena Murillo

Muchas veces escuchamos que nada cambia de la noche a la mañana o que los cambios drásticos no duran en el tiempo.

Before the start of the second week of the Rotary Peace Fellowship, the entire class (Class 24) was invited to a Rotary orientation at the Rotary Center in Thailand. The Center is located on the 30th floor of the Ocean Tower II Building in Bangkok. The view of the city from the Center was breathtaking and after taking over a hundred photos, each of us met our Host Counselors. Charidad, my host counselor who I wrote about previously, was there! We also had the opportunity to network with other Rotarians from different clubs.

The Past Rotary International Director, Noraseth Pathmamand delivered a presentation on Rotary International and the Rotary Foundation, goals, ideals and programs over the history of their existence. He highlighted the importance of peacebuilding and conflict resolution as one of the main focus areas of Rotary International and the Rotary Foundation, and its interconnection with other priorities such as fighting global diseases, providing clean water, saving mothers and children, supporting education and growing local economies. The Rotary Peace Centers have played a crucial role in promoting peace around the world.

“Peace is not just a piece of paper”

Welcome remarks offered by the past Rotary International President, Bhichai Rattakul were, without question, inspiring. Mr. Rattakul, an impressive 92 year old man is not only a recognized politician in Thailand who held important titles in this Country, but he was also recipient of the Rotary Foundation’s Distinguished Service Award and Citation for Meritorious Service for his support of its international humanitarian and educational programs. During his term, he encouraged the opening of the Rotary Peace Centers and convinced the University of Chulalongkorn to become a partner in Thailand. That is why he was proud to welcome Class 24 to such a wonderful setting that he helped arrange!

Mr. Rattakul asked all of the Rotary Peace Fellows a fundamental question: “why are you here?” He questioned what we were feeling at that moment. “You are here –he said- because you as fellows believe that peace is not just a piece of paper and the world needs someone who works for peace and stability”.

He also talked about the profound respect and love felt for King Bhumibol among the people of Thailand and cited the King’s close relationship with Rotary, collaborating in different projects over the years. He also reflected on international politics and the division within nations and between nations, addressing the incredibly complex issues that undermine peace. This prompted deep reflection regarding the real potential for achieving peace in the world? Perhaps or maybe not, but what it is certain is that peace is unlikely to be realized without dedicated, skillful intervention and each one of us can contribute to such intervention, village by village, nation by nation.

Meeting Two Inspiring Peacebuilders

We started the second week meeting two inspiring peacebuilders: Irene Santiago and Michael Flyer.

Irene Santiago was the only woman member of a peace negotiating panel and head of the body implementing the peace agreement for the Bangsamoro Peace Accords. She has been involved in peacebuilding for almost 40 years in the Bangsamoro in Mindanao, Philippines. She held multiple important positions since then, founded organizations, and has continued to lead/support peace movements while advancing the role of women in peace and security. She was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2005 and was selected for the 2013 N-Peace Award as Role Model for Peace in the Philippines. Currently she is the lead convener of the global campaign on women, peace and security called #womenseriously.

I had the honor of introducing Irene to the class. She is a true inspiration of determination and passion for peace in the world while enhancing inclusion of women in that process. She is a humble, wise visionary and practitioner. We all loved her and most importantly, she inspired us all to continue our development and peace work with determination, always remembering that women can play a critical role in the peace process. It’s up to us (women) to make our voices to be heard.

“The greatest threat to peace and security today is the marginalization of women”

Michael Fryer has been working on issues relating to conflict resolution and peacebuilding for many years. He is an expert in conflict resolution and shared with us his knowledge incorporating arts and creativity in the peacebuilding process. Along with John Paul Lederach, Michael was recently one of the founding members of Humanity’s Thread, a “cooperative of social change facilitators, activists, and artists nurturing the integration of the inner and outer worlds necessary for supporting healthy people, courageous leadership, and webs of relationships in a shared world.”

Michael spoke to our souls with poetry, reflecting on our role within the field of development and peacebuilding. By doing that there are important elements to remember in becoming an effective practitioner that is able to connect with the human spirit, across cultures.

The most important things that practitioners in this field need to remember.

  • We need to intentionally go out of our comfort zone in order to learn, listen, focus and most important to heal.
  • “The conditions and environment are needed for flowers to bloom”. As peacebuilders, identifying where and when to build peace is crucial.
  • Conflict is not good or bad it just is.
  • We need to leave room for the unexpected and untangle what it is not in order to communicate and perform more efficiently.
  • Forgiveness is abandoning all for the hope of a better past.
  • Do not create inequality, create equality

While we discussed the origin and evolution of conflict revolution and understood violence, I was reminded of something I often heard when growing up. My parents used to say that ‘you can see the colors depending on the glasses you are wearing”. The same concept applies in this field as to others, the same reality could be seen in many different ways, depending on the lenses you use.

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