Rotary Peace Center at Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok, Thailand
It is my first time in Thailand and after a month and a half of my Rotary Peace Fellowship not only this country keeps surprising me in many ways, but also the program itself, my dear fellows, and all the professors and staff from the Rotary Peace Center. I remember the time I was applying for this program I googled the position between Bangkok and my home state Chiapas, Mexico, and realized the possibility of being at the other side of the world in a country geographically with a similar longitude to Chiapas. How this would look like? I knew the weather was going to be familiar to me, the vegetation and landscape perhaps. However, I was so intrigued how a place with similar natural resources would look like at the other side of the world.
Finally, I am here, and definitely I have found many cultural similarities. The land of thousand smiles looks like, despite the globalized world we live in, a very unique country. A mixture between food (chili peppers, vegetables, fruits, seafood and pork), handicrafts, religion, music, dances and a special way of sense of humor with creativity (as at ‘Art in Paradise’, a museum), and of course kind smiles.
Being in this fellowship, I realized that we as fellows are here because of a higher purpose that maybe we are not even aware of yet. Speaking with many of them, I see we came here to cleanse ourselves from own prejudices, frustrations, fears, etc. During the second week of the program we had an exercise about a space odyssey, and it happens I was luckily in the group to go first to a new world in the uncertainty of the continuity of life in the current one. Our group came up with the conclusion that this new world needed a new language and a new way to see life… as beinghood, being beyond this humanity… so, this program is about seeing things from different perspectives. From PTSD to self-care, from negative peace to positive peace, from hawks to doves, from causes to effects, from equality to equity, from violence to nonviolence, from stopping fears to start new habits, from positions to common grounds, from dividers to connectors, from traditional security to human security, from facilitating to mediation, from personal working styles to group styles, from distressed systems to resolve disputes to effective systems of power… and the journey still goes on. Every day is a challenge but also a treasure to learn, share, understand and work together as a community.
So far, what I am enjoying a lot of Thailand is its organization for positive peace. This concept describes the attitudes, institutions and structures that underpin peaceful societies. In this sense when we talk about structures this can be provided by our governments. For instance, here in Thailand through providing green spaces within the cities. Parks are not only for sports but also as means to create community. It is very impressive to see large groups of youngsters laughing, playing an instrument, rehearsing performances from YouTube, or simply getting together and enjoying themselves. However, another way of creating this positive peace structure is directly from the common people from our communities. The Peace Centre founded by Dr. Sombat, in Chiang Mai, is just a great example of local heroes. Through his philosophy combining Buddhism and Aikido, a martial art, it is possible to develop communities of youth and adults learning how to do self-care, keep the balance in life, and at the same time having empathy for others.
In short, so far my thoughts every day goes to find institutions, people, spaces, and attitudes that support a peaceful society. Perhaps at this moment I can only see what’s in the visible world and still need to understand more about the values and cultural practices underneath. Thank you to this fellowship I have now clarity that what I give is what I get, and now I want to learn to give more. I’m looking forward to practice every day how to share to people the message of peace I am finding to myself. Definitely, I keep saying and feeling so much gratitude for this wonderful experience.
Erika Díaz Pascacio – Chiapas, México
Rotary Peace Fellow – Class 27