LISTEN TO THE VOICES OF VETERANS
In most developed countries Veterans are celebrated and appreciated always.
Some ways in which these nations celebrate their veterans is by having special seat from seniors on the trains and public buses.
Leaders of these country speak well of their veterans during national days and memorials.
There are other benefits that veterans get from their country which make their statues of being veteran a thing of pride and joy
During the session on Veterans for peace by Dr. Philip Butler who narrated his experience during the Vietnam War, spoke so passionately that I felled the pains of separation from a family for eight years and the pains of torture as a prisoner of war. What baffles me was why should a country with this type of history and witnesses still supports war in any form? Can’t we learn from these veterans?
It is not good enough for our Nations to make a public show of celebrating veterans when same Nations do not take the advice of these men and women to stop wars that is causing more families pains and separating love once from one another.
Veterans speak from a bitter experience and wish that nobody should pass through their type of experience.
I urge our leaders to pay more attention to the voices of our veterans, our veterans do not need our remembrance services or been honored during National days. What they want is peace in the world so that no one will ever be tortured again or become a prisoner of war.
Our world is in Disarray
People often think that what can bring destruction to them must be mightier than them. How true is this understanding?
During one of the session on A World in Disarray, facilitated by Amy Sands, participants at the 2017 Summer Peace building Program were asked to name one thing each of them feel is a threat to world peace. Their responses make me think deep and I am still pondering on how many of the things we see as good for our development are also the likely things or issues that are threatening the peace of our world today.
Science and technology has made the movement of people from one part of the earth to another very smooth but the poor management of refugees who are compel to move to other safer areas either by forceful deportation or dehumanizing them is threatening the peace of the world.
Social media that is seen to have bring people closer and make information available on our finger tips is also another threat to world peace with terrorist using it as a medium to recruit young people and how fake news and inciting messages is causing escalation of violent conflict in many parts of the world. It is sad to note that many lives and properties worth Millions to Billions of dollars have been lost due to incitement or fake news from social media.
Despite the claims from some quarters and reports from world Bank of the progress in reducing the gap between the rich and the poor, addressing the challenges of epidemics and disease, the reality is that the rich are only getting richer and the poor are still dying of diseases .Our multinational have not help in reducing the gap.
What can we say about ignorance, climate change and denials, authoritarian governments in Africa, Europe and America? Can these styles of leadership bring about peace? When we force our brand of Democracy on others and think that conducting a so called free and fair election will bring peace and reduce poverty, what do we see afterwards, more fighting, more corruption, leadership with evil ideology etc.
Trafficking in human and Arms is growing big every day. No deliberate efforts to stop or address the challenges, instead countries with serious records of terrorism are having a better Arm deal.
Is our world not in Disarray? Who will help to make this world a safe and peaceful place for us and our children to live and enjoy it?
I therefore call on peace builders, peace makers, and peace actors to come with practical ways of intervention.
The movie Parzania that we watched on the first day of SPP left me shocked, powerless, and confused. However, it introduced me to the what I had read about direct, structural and cultural violence. The violence that was shown in the movie did not happen just like that. It was planned, the existing political structures and institutions supported it. Similarly, the dominant Hindu culture that has been dehumanizing the Muslims since India-Pakistan partition had endorsed the genocide of Muslim minorities. The ending of the movie did not leave me hopeful either. Although the Human Rights Commission was able to get the truth from the victims, I am still questioning about the forgiveness and justice aspect of the peacebuilding. India as one of the largest democracy getting away with massacring its Muslim minority does not leave one hopeful. The victims of the violence are still living in the camps that is isolating them further. Such confinement is only making the structures stronger to break and dreams of social, economical, and political mobility difficult to attain.
I am still struggling to understand, the role of media and civil society organizations. Are they part of the sub-systems that feeds the system that Dr. Iyer talked about? Should they take responsibilities for the deaths of innocent lives? What is independent media and does it exit? Dr. Iyer also mentioned that systems are made of humans not bricks. I kept asking are we changing it?
Dr. Iyer in her session asked us to take a small test that helped me determine my conflict management styles. I scored high on accommodating. I scored well on collaborating. However, I am realizing that I am more of a teddy bear than an owl. I easily negotiate and accommodate when there is conflict or dispute or disagreement. I should work more towards becoming a owl in terms of my conflict management style.
I signed up for summer peace building program after my initial introductory conflict resolution course last year. Despite learning a great deal, everything was blurry in my head and nothing quite made sense to me. I learned theories, we practiced through simulations in class, we had discussions, but every time I thought of a conflict, I didn’t really understand and it was difficult for me to apply a theory to the conflict and pinpoint the root of the conflict.
I came into SPP program to clear these confusions and to understand conflicts and learn about peacebuilding. I wanted to find concrete answers for some of the current conflicts. I have this tendency where I organize information in boxes in my head and that’s how I make sense of things. The first week of SPP has passed and even though I learned a lot and it all makes sense on their own; but I am confused where to put these chunks of information and overall it has become even more blurry than it was.
In one of the sessions with Richard Rubenstein, he said” it is ok to be confused and have these difficult questions that no one can answer because conflict resolution and peacebuilding is complex. It is not easy.” In this one week of our program so far, I have learned so many different aspects and approaches to peacebuilding. But I have also realized that peacebuilding is complex where an interdisciplinary effort is needed.
In the first few days, we had different sessions with practitioners and professors about different aspects of peacebuilding and sometimes it was hard for me to follow and organize this information. But towards the end of the week, I appreciated this and realized that looking into different aspects of peacebuilding is extremely important for understanding the complexities of conflicts. And for these complex conflicts, a multi faceted interdisciplinary effort is required to tackle these conflicts.
In our first session, Dr. Iyer mentioned that peacebuilding is not an idealistic notion; in fact, it is very real. It is a political notion and requires strategic efforts. One week into our program and it is only a validation of this theory for me. For peacebuilding, people need to come together, it requires effort and long term commitment.
Prior to watching the movie Parzania, I was aware that religious conflicts exist in India, but I was not aware of the extent of how divided religious communities are in India. For those not familiar with the film, Parzania is a movie based on a true story of a young Parsi boy named Azhar Mody who disappeared during the 2002 Gujarat riots. It was not until watching and discussing the movie Parzania that I realized that conflicts are much more complicated as well as hostile. In addition, I learned from class that religious riots have plagued Indian society for many years. It begs the question why communities still continue to fight even after all the bloodshed and pain. Parzania showed the family’s pain and suffering during the Gujarat riots. All I could think was how unimaginable and unbearable the pain must have been to witness and experience such chaos.
After watching the movie Parzania, I have become more familiar with religious conflicts in India. However, I have yet to understand how a peacebuilder can bring rival religious groups together in order to create peace or hope that the communities can learn to at least tolerate one another. Parzania reminded me of the controversy around another film called “My Name is Khan”. The movie addresses the issues of being muslim in America. “My Name is Khan” is about Rizwan Khan, a muslim adult with autism, who experiences racism in the United States after 9-11. The movie shows Rizwan’s journey to meet the President of the United States in order to tell him that “He is not a terrorist.” Even though this film does not discuss religious conflicts in India, it was the reception of this film that I first learned about the religious conflicts that exist in India. When the filmed was released in India back in 2010, I remember reading news articles about how there were protests around this film. There were many Indians who disliked the main actor, Shah Rukh Khan, for being muslim but loved him for being Indian. I then learned that there was a deep division between Muslim Indians and Hindu Indians. Personally, I have a hard time understanding why anyone would hate another because of their religion, but, from what I understand, the religious conflicts have existed for many years and unfortunately continue to this day. From watching the Parzania film, I did not know that the Gujarat riots were planned.
In addition, to the films, these movies also reminded me of two different experiences: one when I was in Nigeria and the other is a personal experience of being Catholic in the United States. First, when I was in Nigeria working on a medical nonprofit project, I was aware that there was a divide between the Muslims and Christians. However, I did not realize the animosity between both groups. While in Nigeria, it was impossible to have a discussion about religion. Anyone who was Christian or Muslim would automatically refer to the other religion as “evil” and that would be the end of discussion. I also learned from individuals living in Nigeria that the violence between both communities is only getting worse and that there will never be peace between Muslims and Christians. Second, being Catholic in the United States can be complicated to say the least. I have had “personal conflicts” with Christians treating me poorly because I am Catholic. It also can be tiresome whenever I am in a group setting and so many Christians start insulting Catholics and the Catholic Church. Even though I did not experience any physical violence, I realize that religious conflicts can easily exist in the United States like anywhere else in the world. Also, sometimes I wonder why anyone would want to follow any religion, because it almost seems better to be an atheist or agnostic.
Overall, the film Parzania was an eye opener and important to show. I just hope religion can one day stop being the reason for such misery.
I have always been struggling with storytelling. The concept sounds somewhat easy but it is actually something that takes a really long time to become comfortable with, there are so many things to consider. Telling story about myself is much easier for me to do than telling the story of other people, I do not know where to put my opinion or if I should even evaluate what I experience; I am not sure if that is my place for me to do so. From some of the case studies Amy Hill shared with us; there is a project that lasts five days. I was very interested in how does the Story Center build trust with the victim, how do they break the ice as the victim is not familiar with the organization and especially some victims do not talk about their experience for years. For example, the victim of domestic violence would not share their story until much later, until they are sure that there is a safe place to do so.
The presentation of the language was also very interesting to me. As a non-native speaker of English, I found it very difficult to translate something into English while trying to keep the meaning of the original version. I was very surprised that the organization chooses to represent some stories in their original languages, even not everyone would understand. Furthermore, one question that was asked by a classmate was also stuck in my head; would it not be better for the victim to keep the story personal? For me, I so strongly believe that telling traumatized story makes it easier for the victim to overcome the obstacle. The organization such as Story Center is not only connecting the world together through storytelling but also providing the victim the safe place to share.
The discussion we had after the movie Parzania was one of my favorite moments during the first week. The movie shows a lot of struggles the family had to go through in order to find their missing son after the attack. I was very interested in what the victim and those who were there during that time dealing with trauma. Can we, as a peace builder, but as well as an outsider be involved in such situation? As Dr.Pushpa has mentioned, a lot of people do not want to talk about it and they want to move on with their lives. While, the other people (such as, us, peace builder) want this to be learned, studied and remembered. In this case, where can we find the balance? How long should we wait before we start to learn about what happened without making the locals uncomfortable? I think of something similar, the movie The Impossible, which is about the 2004 Tsunami; the movie did not come out until 2012 which is nearly 10 years after what happened. After the movie I could think of was United 93, the movie came out in 2006, about 5 years after 9/11 attack. What was the victim and their families thinking of the movies? did the producer ask their comments or opinions while the movie is being made? While we are studying about peace, I do believe that it is important for us to study from the past; But because of there are victims; my question is that how to we do this properly? are we actually doing this in the right way? What if the victims do not want to talk about it, how can we make the process without creating anymore conflicts? and most importantly, should we take the victim wants into our consideration?
On July 28, we had a session on Transitional Justice which I find extremely interesting. The part that I find most interesting is its component of trauma healing. Professor Rubenstein brought up the case in the Philippines where they used local healing as part of trauma healing in their “post-conflict”. This suggests that it is extremely important to take local conditions into account and it is extremely important to know see peacebuilders as “expertise” who bring peace but rather use local traditions as a source of expertise and take it from there. It also tells us that transitional justices can take place in and should take into account so many different forms. We also touched upon the importance of memories. Rubenstein pointed out that the act of mourning (and thus reinforcing the memories) could also prolong the process of trauma healing, especially for people who are directly affected by the conflict. This poses an interesting dilemma – how do individuals heal and remember without simply forgetting?
The conversations we had in class about different violent injustices done by the government kept make me thinking about China and the Cultural Revolution that took place more than 30 years ago. The violent ten years of pure chaos completely destroyed many families and the futures of many people. Yet, China never truly achieved or even attempt to achieve “positive peace”. The histories of cultural revolution were simply left behind and many direct victims never received the justice that they deserved. While China praises today itself for its “economic development”, it almost felt to me that the government is using development as a way to buy off “peace” (similar to many other countries).
Storytelling has been and continues to be an integral part of the two cultures that I grew up in, and has always been an important way for me to not only get to know others on a deeper level, but also to get to know myself. Every time I tell a story I find myself telling it a little differently based on where I am, who I’m with and what has changed in my life since the last time I told the story. It’s never easy to talk about something personal especially when it has to do with a conflict in your life or a crisis relating to ones needs. However, it is one of the best ways to empathize with the situation that someone has been through and also learn from a first person perspective. I’ve always thought the importance of storytelling is absolutely invaluable in many situations.
When Amy Hill from Story Center came to talk to us about storytelling in the context of peacebuilding, I was already aware of a lot of what she was describing about the process, as I took a storytelling workshop when I attended United World College. Even though everything she was saying seemed very familiar, it made me think back on the story that I had told almost four years ago very differently than how I had viewed it at the time that I had recorded it with Audio Revolution at Warehouse 21 in Santa Fe. It was a personal story about my identity growing up as a mixed child in a predominantly mono-racial society and my struggle with finding my identity. When we were instructed to write a short story about ourselves in our group discussion I decided to reflect on this story and realized that my identity could never be decided until what society has to say about who I am did not have such a strong value in how I identified myself. It is difficult to be at peace with yourself and your identity when you come from two polarized opposites and I have learned from my two experiences with storytelling that talking about these difficulties can helping in healing.
From my experience with storytelling, I believe it is a key tool in understanding conflict and definitely the other party’s ideals and morals and how many conflicts have affected their lives and their stories. Telling stories can also help in facilitating intimacy between parties and encouraging honest conversation that can lead to healing. Understanding those ties has further sparked my interests in storytelling through media such as music. Music has been, since the beginning of humanity a unifying factor for many different groups and incorporating the making of music and its enjoyment to promote further unity could be a key grassroots campaign that could help in reducing conflict.
After the lecture given by Dr.Siddharth Shah, I started to ask so many questions in my mind. Not only the victims of any conflicts that go through trauma but it is us; people who are in this field, also experiencing trauma both directly and indirectly. This is a major theme added on to my knowledge that how much behind the scenes work the change maker really has to do; we have to be aware of this potential risk.
I read the book Trauma Stewardship by Connie Burk and Laura van Dernoot Lipsky which discusses the exact issue (and I highly recommend the book to people who are working in this field). During one part of the books, the writer talks about the experience of Diane Tatum, one of the author’s social worker friends, that she does not feel comfortable telling the people she works with about how great her life is. For example, when she goes back to work from weekend and the victim that she works with would ask the question how was your weekend? She feels obilgated to tell them how great her weekend was, hence she would always answer “it’s okay” regardless how amazing her weekend actually was. She mentioned that “She downplayed her happiness because she felt guilty that her life was going well, and she didn’t want to flaunt it in front of people who were having a difficult time”. Thinking about this book and what Dr.Saddharth Shah shares with us; this is definitely something we all will experience and I was surprised that I have never thought of this seriously before. My SPP fellows are very passionate about what they are doing and enjoy what they are doing, but when it comes to working with conflict; can we really say that we are happy with our jobs? What care we do to support each other? Peace buidling takes a life time to acheive, will we be happy to work for something that we might not even see the result? This is a question that I will have to explore deeply into. It has not been long since the program started but I have already felt that it has changed my whole perspective towards trauma (especially from the perspective of change makers). I can feel myself stepping outside of my comfort zone and exploring all these new perspectives, and I am truly excited to learn more about it.