Rotary Peace Center at Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok, Thailand

Dreaming and Struggling: I want to learn from the imagination and perseverance that others could demonstrate in different conflict situations

As far as I can remember I have never taken peace for granted.  Daughter of a Turkish diplomat, I learnt very young how large and violent the world was. I worked for more than a decade as a social scientist and a civil society practitioner promoting peace initiatives in regions adjacent to Turkey, in the Caucasus and the Middle East.

The security situation has deteriorated drastically in my region. I received the happy news of my acceptance to the Rotary Peace Fellowship Program only a few days after the suicide bombing that hit my city, Ankara in October 2015. Two more followed in a very short period of time. The human toll of violence keeps on increasing. There is so much destruction, grievances are accumulating on our southern borderlands. A lot of efforts will be required to rebuild and heal relationships. The opportunity that the Rotary Peace Fellowship has provided me with couldn’t have been more timely. It seems that we can only appreciate the true value of peace once its is not here anymore.

I arrived to Bangkok only 10 days ago. The three months ahead will be a transformative experience. My fellow classmates coming from all over the world have initiated me to their own conflicts. I will have the chance to think about the tensions and conflicts of South East Asia. Our first field study will take us already next week to Pattani & Songkla. I didn’t know about about Thailand’s Deep South conflict; another separatist insurgency with a cross-border dimension. Our second field trip will take us to Cambodia; another country trying to heal the pain inflicted by a genocide.

Weren’t the conflicts I was dealing with not enough to me? I am echoing those who would be inclined to ironize. No, I am definitively not looking for more conflicts. I am searching for solutions, sound analysis tools and enhanced capacity for empathy. I know that there can’t be any recipy as each conflict is unique. I want to learn from the imagination and perseverance that others could demonstrate in different conflict situations.  Dreaming and struggling. Mr Bichai Rattakul, the person who is behind the establishment of the Rotary Peace Program at  the Chulalongkorn University we have met with today at the Rotary Orientation session, shed light very eloquently to the necessity of perseverance saying that ‘a river cuts the rock not because of its power but because of its consistency’. Yes, indeed, the challenge is to be able to show consistency in a world in flux, in a context when history is in the making. I am here to reassert that human endeavor can change destinies.

Burcu Gültekin Punsmann – Turkey

Rotary Peace Fellow – Class 21


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