Rotary Peace Center at Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok, Thailand
The word peace is not sensational, sounds so ordinary, some say boring not hyper. Crazy, crazy, crazy it sounds to study peace.
It may sound crazy for a newly married woman to leave her husband, leave her job, leave her friends and forfeit her holidays for a 3 months peace study at the Rotary Peace Center at Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok under the sponsorship of Rotary International.
On the other hand, what a lifetime privilege to receive a Rotary Peace Fellowship?
What a life time opportunity to get the permission from your job for a 3 months sabbatical in Bangkok, combined with various field trips, home and abroad!
Currently, we are 2/3 through with our program and yes, we are a great group.
Guided by a great team and yes, we have a fantastic team leader, principled and hearty.
To be sincere with myself, I was merely in fantasy and romanticizing during the first weeks and month, just following, copying, and tried to live according to the rules and regulations. During the 2nd period, saddled with the reality, I began to understand and was no longer a copycat but was getting to know a bit more than fantasizing peace. And now, as we progress through the 3rd month, I begin to grasp and internalize the teachings, the different ideas and notions of pieces of peace. The more I come to understand, the more I come to question myself, and more vital in my soul, and more concretely, I now can ask myself:
What is peace?
And what do I understand from peace? What does it mean to me? More questions than answers!
First of all, everything is relative, so is peace. Therefore peace is relative to different people in different context, is the absence of violence positive peace? The United Nations (UN) sends people with ammunition for peacekeeping operations in different countries. Does peace need arms and ammunition?
A peace activist walking around in peaceful Switzerland, with weapon in his pocket. Peace indeed is relative, depending on where we stand.
While here in this fellowship, we have been presented with so many ideas and notions of peace and various tools for analysing conflicts around the globe.
But where does peace begin?
Doesn’t peace start just WITHIN us?
Can someone in pieces give credible peace?
How do we connect with ourselves, our inner feelings, needs, fears and happiness and shortcomings?
Do we take or have the time to breathe?
Do we take or have the time to listen?
Do we allow our inner voices and needs to speak?
Do we take the time to listen to our inner voice and needs?
A peaceful mind can respect and love oneself and, as a consequence, love and respect the other.
Where do we find these tools, to reconnect to our inner feelings?
Do we allow ourselves to be confronted by the sound of silence?
Or do we build up more, and acquire more, to have more, to use more, to spend more, and waste more, all in order to have an escape to avoid the confrontation of the sound of silence? Taking a look at the daily situation in Bangkok:
There are so many people and there is so much noise.
Everything is screaming for attention, bill boards, music, media, are all meant to attract us to desire or distract us from our fixed orientations, all has to be better, louder, supper, bigger or even mega; you just name it.
Most interesting is that we are always available for every distraction, ranging from “ like” clicks on Facebook, tweets, WhatsApp, WeChat, Hangouts, Chat ON, ping, Blackberry etc. How and where do we strike the balance?
Most importantly is where do we find the time and space to balance our inner needs to retreat and to listen to the inner voice? The voice of silence!
Could we reconnect through silence, meditation, prayer, a quiet walk, star gazing, moon watching, enjoying sunrise and sunset, listening to birds sing, the cry of the frogs, watching a dropping leaf, the trees bending and dancing to the music of the wind, the breeze stroking the grass of the fields, and opening us towards a new horizon and dimension of peace? These might strengthen our need to be heard and listened to, the need to be acknowledged in our individual ways, we might gain trust, confidence and self-respect and also share, and have it reciprocated.
Why do the apples always taste better in the neighbour’s garden?
Why do we always want to be better, faster, louder, fitter, or more attractive than the other person? Could this be a societal brainwash or a communal orientation?
Does that lead us to a healthy competition or to a negative peace?
I don’t really dare to express myself, hence my views might be too postmodern or seem too abstract to understand.
I want to conclude this reflection by asserting that no matter how much peace we study, what peace network we subscribe to, which peace work we do, we can never give positive peace unless we have inner peace ourselves. Peace is never in a hurry, it is patient. Peace is flexible, it is not anxious for a solution, but holds the process as equally important. The end does not only justify the means, but it lets the means justify the end. It is not arrogant, or rude. It does not need arms or ammunitions, for in peace, there is security. “If you adopt the right means the rest will take care of itself.” Let the peace begin not only with me, but in me. In my soul, in my mind, thoughts, words and actions, and in my heart, for charity they say begins at home.
Petra Vahle-Francis, Germany
Rotary Peace Fellow
June 2015 Session