By Ximena Murillo
As peace fellows, we have been talking about inspirational world leaders and extraordinary peace makers such as Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela, and Mother Theresa, among others. All of these great leaders achieved peace and reconciliation with persuasion rather than force — making what seemed impossible, in reality possible. As a peace fellow, I continuously wonder how these extraordinary men and women were able to gracefully employ non-violent solutions to complex global conflicts. How their ideologies, peaceful and humble natures overcame social and political might of powerful nations. There is no doubt their legacy is still inspiring the world and their experiences are still guiding us in the quest to peace. In fact, the very manner in which they responded to human suffering, injustice, and conflict has served as the essence of sustainable peaceful existence.
During the last two months, I have often reflected on how I might evolve into an effective peace builder in a world that is continuously challenged by conflict and violence… While studying principles of peace building, mediation and conflict resolution, so many new tragedies emerged around the world. This included a very sad event in my own home country, where 17 innocent students and teachers were murdered by a mentally ill gunman. Contemporaneously, more than 500 people lost their lives in Syria, leaving many innocent civilians with a sense of desperation and frustration. People in so many parts of the world are fighting for basic human freedoms and are sacrificing their lives for human rights and democracy. It is very easy to become discouraged, disillusioned, powerless and hopeless. It is inevitable that we would question ourselves, how are prospects for peace possible if problems are so complex, factions are intractable, and solutions are so elusive?
As a peace fellow, I have chosen to be optimistic, not only because of the exemplary legacy of the world leaders I so heartily admire, but because I find that every day, in every country, in every community and in every group around the world, there are men or women who are willing to attempt to build peace, and in doing so, are making the impossible, possible. I have realized that no matter how bad things are, a genuine passion for making a positive difference can overcome challenges that seem all but impossible to overcome. None of the heroes mentioned earlier allowed the impossible circumstances to overwhelm them to the point of disabling their resolve. How does a prisoner evolve into the presidency of a prominent nation? How does a humble, poor advocate take on one of the most powerful nations in the history of the world? How does a preacher challenge hate and violence with grace and charity in his heart? How does a poor religious woman change the terrible circumstances for the poor attracting the world’s attention by her humble example? Greatness seems vested in conviction, humility, principle, resolve, personal sacrifice, creativity and persistence.
For the past two months, I’ve been meeting incredible peace builders, for example, Kru T, an environmental educator and leader of the Mekong River movement, who is protecting the river and surrounding forests in the Northern region of Thailand with a non-violent approach. I also found similar qualities in my professors and Peace fellows/friends, who come from all over the world, representing 20 different countries. Even though we have different backgrounds, cultures and religions, a strong mutual commitment to peace binds us together for the purpose of a better world with harmony and justice. Each of them have inspired me in so many ways, helping me to realize that we have so much in common, that we share deeply held values, and that we are not alone in this journey. This support system will enable us to become even better peace builders and have a greater positive impact when we go back to our countries and communities.
The most important quality is that we are all idealists, who envision greater things and work hard to make them happen. Some think that we are ‘dreamers’ but we do everything possible toward realizing our goals; we share the vision of a future in which peace and justice exist; we are not afraid to go out of our comfort zone in order to learn and act, while remaining sufficiently patient given that peace often takes much time to achieve; we embrace our humility; we believe in compassion and forgiveness; we are creative and benefit from the ability to imagine the possibilities; we are risk-takers and live our lives as adventures. Finally, we are not only willing to take risk in order to achieve meaningful change, but we have the determination, courage and unshakable optimism that we can be instrumental in making the impossible, possible.
U4C was born with those ideals and values. Today we feel more inspired than ever and we remain firm in our commitment to sustainable peace. Thank you for following our journey, our mission and our work. www.united4changecenter.org
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...