Feeling melancholic – Reflections on peacebuilding

Bangkok, Friday, January 17, 2014

 Today was our last day with Michael Fryer and Rita Manchanda, I can’t believe the 1st week of class is already over! So many things we learned and many others to go back to -like a delicious buffet!

 Michael closed the week reading Jean Paul Lederach’s The Poetic Unfolding of the Human Spiritand telling us the touching story of a group of peasants from La India (Colombia), who started a non violent movement, of which Josué Vargas and his family are protagonists. Lederach introduced the book by telling us about a personal and professional crisis:

“(…) The professional crisis: after three decades of work, I had noticed that the most interesting peacebuilding emerged spontaneously and seemed to have little to do with all our peacebuilding work. Was this work worth the effort? And what, if anything, seems to be the core that holds it together?

(…) 

Here’s an excerpt of one my favorite parts of this poem…

“I learned from these people. Simple things. Simple principles that when combined create movement and echo. They were visionaries. They had the capacity to envision a web of human connections that included building relationships with their enemies. They refused to accept a dualist “you are with us or against us” approach. They embraced complexity. They held a firm belief in the human capacity for creativity. In the face of violent threat, they forged ways forward that did not depend on weapons. None of them ever picked up a gun. And of course, they took the risk to step into the unknown, armed only with love and courage in the midst of hate.”

Tears… I don’t know if it’s the melancholy of the week ending or the power of the subject that we’re discussing, but I’ve been full of emotions this week, discovering new worlds and learning about conflicts that I knew very little of and learning about myself, trying to be more aware of the situations that upset me and trying to center myself more.

The day closed with a special security briefing by Director Surichai and the Thai Violence Watch team. There were some explosions (we were told “firecrackers”) near the Tesco that we usually go to…Apparently they were targeting the opposition leader, Sunthep. This was quite scary to us, as we felt more misinformed and isolated than we have already been. We were asked to avoid protest areas.

Friday night we had our first social event of the course: a party on the 5th floor. I was in charge of mojitos (and of music for a little bit), which was fun. We met Spencer (Peace Fellow from the June 2013 class) and talked for a while. Before saying goodbye, Michael read our poem -which surprisingly was very in sync and taught us how to play a game called “Grand  National”. It was hilarious! 

Many things to remember!

 

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