Read the press release in your web browser here
We would like to share a copy of this letter of appreciation from The Prem Rawat Foundation about Peace Partners supporters' contributions to the Opening Possibilities Appeal.
July 18, 2019
Dear Peace Partners,
On behalf of The Prem Rawat Foundation (TPRF), I would like to thank you for your donations toward the “Opening Possibilities" appeal.
Your April 15 wire transfer of US$3,075 was received and deposited. At your request, the donation was used for matching funds and allocated to the “Opening Possibilities” appeal accordingly:
Your July 1 wire transfer of US$5,000 was received and deposited. At your request, the donation was applied to the “Opening Possibilities” appeal and allocated accordingly:
Peace Partners’ donations were a large factor in making the appeal such a success. TPRF supporters really appreciate their contributions being matched, and your $3,075 was helpful in receiving many donations from others. Your second contribution of $5,000 was huge in the Foundation surpassing the goal of $150,000. The appeal total raised ended up at $169,996, just under $20,000 over the goal!!!
TPRF’s second (and final) major appeal of the year will launch December 2 and end December 31. If Peace Partners would like to be part of the December appeal match, please let me know.
To each and every one of you donating to Peace Partners, your kind, generous, ongoing donations make an incredible difference in lives around the world. On behalf of these people and the Foundation, thank you so very much.
Marci Klein Development Director
A report by Alan Plummer
Finishing with celebratory cake and the presentation of attendance certificates the first Peace Education Programme in Cornwall concluded at the end of May. The programme was presented at the Fish Factory Arts Space in Penryn.
It has been a valuable learning experience for the team in Cornwall, and has given them the confidence to present the programme again in different settings. As one team member remarked "It's an inspiration to see how the material speaks for itself and needs no embellishment. People come, listen, and by and large go home happy. And come again the next week".
Overall 31 people attended at least a part of the 10 week programme, ten of whom were consistent attenders throughout. From a nil base, with promotion largely through the Eventbrite website, this was felt by the team to be a good outcome.
There were many positive comments made by attendees and one of them is planning to put on a Peace Education Programme for her employees as part of her company's health and wellbeing policy. Another commented "I got lots out of the programme, ultimately that happiness is a choice and that life is worth it. It's short, keeps things simple”.
The Peace Education team in Cornwall has already approached Falmouth University (CUC) to promote a showing of the documentary Inside Peace in the Autumn. This will be followed by a further Peace Education Programme on campus beginning in January.
Through promotion at the University it feels like an exciting new chapter is beginning with the potential to reach a wider and younger audience in the future.
It was so exciting, and such a big step forward in recognition for Peace Partners, to receive the news in March of the award of a grant of £10,000 from the National Lottery Community Fund. This grant continues to enable Peace Partners to extend its support of community and youth projects and for the facilitation of Peace Education Programmes.
Coincidently this year is also the 25th anniversary of the National Lottery and a UK-wide series of celebratory and awareness raising events is planned, leading up to the actual Lottery birthday on 19th November. Since 1994 more than £40 billion has been raised by the Lottery Fund and used to support an enormously diverse range of community activities throughout the UK.
It is a great opportunity to remind everyone of our grant and what it is being used for. Ways in which Peace Partners is becoming involved in the celebrations include:
As grateful recipients of lottery funding we are very happy to join in with the National Lottery 25th birthday celebrations and to raise awareness of the National Lottery.
A quarterly report by Didge Hatcher and Chris Waite, UK Community PEP Advisers
In early March 2019, Peace Partners charity received almost £10K of National Lottery funding to help work with community and youth organisations to enable them to organise and facilitate the TPRF Peace Education Programme (PEP), throughout the UK. As a result, we are making the PEP workshops more widely available to the community irrespective of religion, age, gender, race, or any issues they may be experiencing such as poor mental health or homelessness. This is in collaboration with our partners and organisations who have a similar purpose; for them to share across their networks and social media; on the Peace Partners’ website and through e-bulletins and mailings.
Peace Partners has been working closely with communities affected by gang violence in South London and this is an area where we have recently concentrated our efforts to facilitate and run the Peace Education Programme. We have appealed to members of the wider community, youth leaders and organisations working with vulnerable people and community projects, to talk to us about becoming involved and for them to find out more about setting up this programme in their own organisations. To this end, in April we ran an event in Croydon with three different workshops, of which an introduction to the PEP was one. Several representatives were invited to attend and some spoke about their own efforts in their communities, including the Tutu Foundation, Ubuntu Round Table Project and Shanika Benjamin’s Young People Insight. There was a lot of enthusiastic interest in the PEP presentation from these people and from many other representatives and attendees.
Called a Conflict Resolution Workshop, this event led on to a five-week Training PEP, held specifically for those organisations who had shown interest. Several attendees from these organisations signed up and two completed the course after attending most of the ten workshops. This training PEP was also attended by participants who were familiar with the material and wanted to be clear about how to facilitate a PEP. We are very pleased to be able to expand our PEP teams to cope with the expected demand.
St Mungos is a UK charity that has three recovery colleges, offering a wide range of courses, they cater for adults who are vulnerable to homelessness and mental health issues. The PEP collection was trialled at one of their London bases in the Spring Term and was deemed to be the most popular course at the college. A second course is now running during the summer term and we hope to continue these courses into the future. Organisers at the college are encouraging us to take the PEP to their other London base, also into their hostels. At the same time the base in Bristol is very interested in running the PEP in the Autumn term. An experienced facilitator will set up an introduction to PEP for staff and some potential students. This partly came about through a recommendation from a London based St Mungos worker. We plan to offer the PEP to other homeless charities and have already had an enthusiastic response from a branch in Croydon.
Other UK wide efforts have included reaching out to people in different areas who have put on their own PEP or would like to do so. Cornwall is notable in that a small team put in a lot of work promoting the PEP to communities in the Falmouth area by showing the film ‘Peace is Possible’ which 80 people attended, followed up with a successful Peace Education Programme with 9 regular attendees. They hope to repeat this success at Falmouth University (Combined Universities of Cornwall) later this year.
Peace Partners offers information about TPRF resources and financial support where needed. The Trustees have developed an application process for small requests for money and a more in-depth process for larger amounts, such as the grant awarded to Celebrate Life Events in May. This money supported their efforts to introduce PEPs to a younger audience in London through music, art and dance. Peace Partners have contributed smaller amounts towards PEP materials costs to individuals running PEPs in prisons and in the community such as the St Mungo’s PEP.
In May we screened ‘Peace is Inevitable’ at a small cinema in Croydon with approx. 40 attendees, some of the interested organisations from the Conflict Resolution Workshop attended. A tutor from Goldsmiths Teacher Training College saw the film and is now considering the PEP as a course for teachers, she also commented that she would let her MP know that the PEP is vital to help with knife crime. This is typical of the regular comments and enquiries we receive from many parts of the UK.
Quotes from a PEP participant from the homeless community at St Mungos:
“Life is sacred; when I realise that life is special, when I come from gratitude to be alive, I welcome every moment. I see the world differently. Life is beautiful. I realise I have a gift which needs to be cherished, this realisation is empowering. Life is worth living.”
“Today I woke up brimming with happiness; I looked forward to attending the 2nd week of the Peace Education Programme. I shared my poem with the group and it was well received.”
An account of the screening event at the David Lean Cinema in Croydon on the 29th May. Many thanks to Maneesh Bharadia and Alan Plummer.
A very special screening of the film, Peace is Inevitable, took place in Croydon at the end of May, attended by forty six interested people from the local community.
Barbara welcomed the audience and outlined the agenda for the evening, which began with an introduction to the Ubuntu Roundtable by Kheron Kenardo, a motivational speaker who works to facilitate dialogue between the Police and young people at risk in pupil referral units, young offender units and prisons across the country.
Kheron very movingly recounted his personal experiences of struggling with dyslexia, challenges at school and the violent death of a relative in Jamaica which had a profound effect on him. Kheron's life appeared to be spiralling inevitably into gang membership and crime. However, after the violent deaths of numerous friends in his community he had an epiphany to break the cycle of violence, and became inspired by motivational videos he encountered online. His new understanding, that we all have an innate desire for peace, led to a dramatic change of direction in his life. He is now dedicated to spreading this message and he has subsequently become a championship boxer.
Kheron's personal story led seamlessly into the showing of Peace is Inevitable, which documents the work of The Prem Rawat Foundation in Ecuador. Focusing primarily on former child members of the Bloods gang, the film explores their personal experiences of gang membership and the culture of gang rivalry and violence, against a backdrop of a poverty stricken neighbourhood. The young people being filmed described the transformative effect that The Peace Education Programme has had on their lives; numerous success stories were shared and the view was expressed that this programme would be of immense benefit to other communities facing similar problems. The film also included inspirational footage of Prem Rawat during his visit to Ecuador, with excerpts from his addresses and interviews with local media.
The film was followed by a powerful message of support from members of the Bloods gang, who described the beneficial effects of the Peace Education Programme, and felt strongly that it should be made available in all educational settings worldwide.
The evening concluded with a Q & A session during which Christian, a former gang member, participated via a live Skype session with the audience. Christian strongly emphasised that young people at risk needed to be approached with respect, love, humility and kindness. He also described how as part of the transforming process local government in Ecuador had assisted in the creation of workshops in the arts and sport, and with vocational training.
Kheron then responded to questions about the Ubuntu Roundtable project, describing how the Police in Brixton repeatedly stopped him and his friends, with mistrust and misunderstanding on both sides. These negative experiences were the impetus for the Roundtable initiative to set up a regular face-to-face forum, which has been successful in building rapport between the police and local young people.
A personal account of the evening by Kathy Miller, a further education teacher and Peace Partners volunteer who helped organise the event:
What a Moving Movie!
The David Lean cinema saw a different kind of evening when 46 people, of all backgrounds it must be noted, gathered to view an award winning film made by Simon and Marianne who graciously talked with the audience and did a fascinating Q and A session afterwards, on Wednesday 28th May.
The keynote speaker Kheron, gave a genuinely personal address which in itself demonstrated how a life can be transformed. An astonishing young man, he deeply connected with and impressed the audience with his story of tragedy to triumph.
This film, in a word, was about transformation. And about life. About how peace can be looked for and peace can be found and that a young group of people found that Peace is Inevitable. The film was made in Ecuador and is very realistic in its portrayal about the difficulties young people find themselves in through no fault of their own, including lack of resources, even food at times and violence leads individuals into gangs which thrive on conflict.
The message conveyed by Prem Rawat, which the gang members listened to - a little reluctantly at first - led to the transformation of many lives to the point where opposing gangs put down their weapons to work together.
The evidence was here on screen and in the words and actions of those featured in the documentary Peace is Inevitable, and the audience members left reflecting on their own lives and how to inevitably find peace in themselves.
Watch these video excerpts from the event:
A trailer for Peace is Inevitable can be viewed here:
Following his interview with Max Whittle about the Kifubon project, Nick Crabb in Japan reports about the new era which was recently the subject of a public announcement there.
On May 1, 2019, Emperor Akihito ascended the throne and Japan christened its new era as "Reiwa". Compared with the royal surnames associated with eras of British history, such as "Victorian" or "Edwardian", a specific name is chosen for each era ushered in by a new Emperor of Japan. The kanji characters chosen for each name are intended to portray Japan's hopes for the coming years, with Reiwa (令和) translating to "beautiful harmony" or "peace". Of course this name only serves as an aspiration, as it would be unrealistic for a few words to predict a nation's history from a certain point in time (though "war" and "conflict" could probably do so for most of the UK’s and many other countries’). Nevertheless, looking back on previous eras' names and their eventual outcomes may help forecast the likelihood of Reiwa's aspirations for peace.
The reign of Emperor Hirohito (1926–1989) was referred to as the "Shōwa" (昭和) era, which shares a second character with Reiwa (令和) and translates to "enlightened harmony".
Unfortunately, both enlightenment and harmony appeared in short supply at the start of this era. Japan entered into wars with its Asian neighbors throughout the 1930s and the allied nations in the Second World War.
As part of the post-war 1947 constitution, the Emperor was redefined as "the symbol of the State and of the unity of the people", and Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution outlawed war as a means to settle international disputes. The US occupation of Japan ended peacefully in 1952, and the nation set to rebuild itself and its place on the world stage. Memorials were erected to commemorate those who lost their lives in the atomic bombings of Hiroshima (150,000 estimated dead) and Nagasaki (75,000 estimated dead), and spread a message of peace around the world during the climate of the Cold War. Japan soon rose to the world's second largest economy in 1968 and almost overtook the US in the late 1980's. While this rise was accompanied by dissent from a displaced US still paying for Japan's defense, Japan proved what could be achieved by a nation with a pacifist constitution, without nuclear posturing and without a single bullet being fired. You could say that an enlightened harmony was reached.
The ascension of Emperor Akihito (1989–2019) was christened the "Heisei" (平成) era, which translates to a similar theme of "achieving peace". However, peace was tested immediately in the First Gulf War with repeated calls for Japan to provide troops for the international coalition in spite of its pacifist constitution. Instead Japan contributed $13 billion to help fund the military operation, some still felt humiliated as Japanese troops sculpted ice figures at a snow festival on local TV, while coalition troops fought live on CNN. In contrast, voices from the rest of Asia have increasingly spoken out against wartime atrocities such as the Nanjing massacre (more than 200,000 estimated dead) and of fears of a remilitarised Japan. In response, Japan appears to have wrangled over apologies and reverted to historical revisionism, adding layers of gloss to school textbooks, to the point where some Japanese now question whether the Nanjing massacre even took place. Despite Heisei ending peacefully, Japan appears to have been pushed and pulled further from achieving peace in the future.
On May 3rd 2019, two days after Emperor Akihito's ascension, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe called to amend the pacifist constitution in 2020 with support from the US. As the sun rises on Reiwa, shadows are already cast on its peaceful aspirations, although the day is not through yet.
Can you help with this valuable project? If so, you will receive a £25 Amazon voucher.
Researcher Cathy Watts is a mature student at King’s College, London on the MSc in War & Psychiatry. As a BACP accredited counsellor currently employed by an Employee Assistance Provider, she also provides counselling for private clients.
She has been a student of Prem Rawat for many years, and has completed his learning programmes: The Peace Education Programme (PEP) and Peace Education And Knowledge (PEAK). For her research dissertation Cathy has gained ethical approval from King’s College to explore the Peace Education Programme’s effect on resilience and trauma, as ‘being aware of one’s inner strength is one of the principal objectives of the program’ (Damooei Global Research, 2014). She will address this subject by exploring the question:
★ Does participation in the Peace Education Programme (of The Prem Rawat Foundation) have any impact on resilience in individuals who have been exposed to conflict-related trauma?
To be eligible for participation in this research project you will need to have:
a) completed the Peace Education Programme
b) be over 18 years of age
c) been exposed to some kind of conflict-related trauma during your lifetime, this could include for example:
As a research participant, your identity will be anonymised as far as possible. You will be assigned a unique code so that you do not have to give your name. The researcher will email you in return with her phone number and a variety of available slots for a phone interview lasting up to 60 minutes. If you are not comfortable to give your phone number, you can call her instead, using an ID blocking code to retain your anonymity. The researcher will record this confidential interview with you. You do not have to respond to any questions that you do not wish to, and you can end the call at any time without having to give a reason. The recording will be kept confidential and securely stored by the researcher, to be analysed solely for this project. The recording will be transcribed and deleted by 31st July 2019, and at no time will Peace Partners or anyone else have access to these recordings or transcripts.
The first 6 participants who apply and fit the criteria requested above will be selected, and for those who complete the phone call, the researcher will email an Amazon voucher worth £25 to compensate you for your time. You will still have 14 days after your phone interview in which to withdraw from the project if you wish.
To apply for this role or for any further information or questions please feel welcome to contact the researcher directly at firstname.lastname@example.org
Applicants will be emailed a detailed Information Sheet to read and will be required to complete and return a Consent Form. Participants can be assured that their part in this research will not only be valuable, but will be kept as simple and enjoyable as possible.
Background and Aims of the Research Project:
The Ubuntu Roundtable Project aims to help young people meet with local police officers to discuss issues of concern in the area. ‘Ubuntu’ is a traditional Southern African philosophy that emphasizes our common humanity, our connectedness and interdependence as fellow human beings. Here Nick Crabb talks to Mark Murray, Blair Adderley and Kheron Kenardo about this unique project and their reflections from it on gang culture and knife crime in the UK today.
What made you start the Unbuntu Roundtable Project?
Mark: My brother, my friend Blair and me where walking through Brixton one night, where we grew up, when police officers jump suddenly jumped out of a van, man handled and slammed us against the wall. I just remember this horrific, negative feeling of oppression, like I was a victim or a target. They'd stopped us us for various reasons, and none of them added up. The way they talked to and treated us was horrific as well. I couldn't understand why I was treated this way, because I don't act in a rash or a negative way. This got me thinking about how many other young people go through this regularly and young people don't like the police. However, I also knew that not all police officers acted this way, or pushed negative agendas or abused their power. So I thought there needed to be someway of showing that not all police officers are hostile, and that not all young people are criminals. I wanted to find a way to teach this to both sides, and in turn enable both sides to learn from each other.
Kheron: I've also felt wrongly accused and tense towards the police. I've also been around a lot of other people with similar feelings, including law-abiding young people who have gone to school and done everything right, yet still hate the police. I was grateful to be part of this project and conversation about why this tension exists and what we can do about it.
What did you hope to achieve with Roundtable Project?
Mark: For it to be a place where people are on an equal footing, can meet and learn about each other and have their thoughts and views represented. We wanted it to be a place of experience-based learning and knowledge sharing.
Kheron: To break down the social barriers between young people and police officers, break down the tension, and make a more cohesive and calm community. We also wanted to strip away the layers of prejudice from young people and police officers, and for them to have human-to-human conversations.
Blair: To create a sense of unity between young people and police officers, so they can see each other as people. Hopefully, this will reduce the incidence of crime and alleged police brutality. Also, for young people know their rights when dealing with the police, and to transfer this project to different walks of life, such as education.
How did the project start, and where is it now?
Mark: Our first Roundtable was at a youth club in Camberwell. There were young people from the community and police officers sat together for the first time. The tension in the room was incredible. The young people were so open and didn't hold back. The police officers were told some astounding things that night, and they knew they were there to learn and not enforce. Similarly, the young people felt they were in a situation where they could talk to and understand the police officers.
Blair: At first, the Roundtable was more of meeting to discuss the viewpoints of young people and police officers. Now, the Roundtable is a programme consisting of training sessions and two Roundtable sessions. It's become more structured, and we do a range of exercises to pull opinions out of young people and police officers.
Mark: The Tutu Foundation also became involved, which helped the Unbuntu Rountable Project take shape. Now, we first meet police officers and youth service providers, such as youth clubs and schools, and explain the programme and process. We then get people to sign-up, set a date and explain the Unbuntu core values. There are then two Roundtable meetings. The first is more hard hitting and focused on confronting the key issues in an area. The second is more relaxed and focused on bonding, with role-plays and drama. We then follow-up after three months and run more roundtables if needed. These workshops have moved out ten boroughs in London, involving many different young people, police officers and issues. We are now expanding to the Midlands.
What have the outcomes of the Roundtable Project been so far?
Kheron: What people take away tends to be interpersonal and varies from person to person. Most people say they've learnt something new. It has shown that younger people can teach older people, such as police officers saying they now understand the stigma currently facing young people. Similarly, young people have said that they would now like to be police officers. Young people also have learnt that they have a voice and the power to change their communities.
Mark: The project has provided a safe space where young people and police officers can have an enriching conversation. Police officers have begun to understand that young people may enter crime due to peer pressure, family circumstances, not having parents at home, and then take a more measured and mindful approach. The project has also made young people think about their sense of responsibility in the community and encouraged them to co-operate with police officers. This has strengthened the relationship between police officers, young people and youth service providers.
Blair: We've had police officers say that they didn't know how hard it is being a young person today, and how scared they are. While we've heard young people say that they didn't realize police officers are real people. We've had young people who didn't even want to be in the same room as police officers, saying that they'd like to join the police. A greater understanding is the greatest outcome you can ask for. We also did a Roundtable session in a school and teachers said they now want to hold similar sessions between students and teachers.
Has the Roundtable Project encountered any challenges?
Blair: The main challenge is getting young people who've offended and who don't like the police to come. We also have to get young people to talk anecdotally, so they don't incriminate themselves. We also have to stop police officers from asking certain questions, remind them that this isn't an investigation and get them to hand their authority to the facilitator.
Kheron: I'd say mitigating both parties' preconceptions, and having an uncomfortable conversation about prejudice and the effect it's had on us over the years. As lot of this prejudice is based on the news, stories and what people have heard from others rather that our own experience. One of the greatest challenges was to create open-mindedness between the two parties.
How did you solve these challenges?
Mark: We have a series of activities that help people open up, breakdown their barriers and bond by discussing local issues and topics. An example is "speak and truth", where everyone has to take off their young-person's or professional's hat and be honest. We have seen police officers disagreeing with each other and agreeing with young people and vice versa. When people have to stand with whom they agree, you often see young people and police officers standing next to each other on either side of the room. So people are compartmentalized by their commonality instead of their prejudice.
Blair: We have youth facilitators, who we incentivise by giving them a paid apprenticeship and responsibility. These young people really want to seize this opportunity, more than older people, and they do an outstanding job.
Kheron: The youth facilitators have been trained in the Unbuntu values, such as listen to understand and don't listen to respond, respect everyone and treat them like a human being, allow everyone to have a say, take responsibility, challenge anything inappropriate and to hold others to account. These values are important in establishing that this is not an arena where we attack anybody. So the youth facilitators challenge the young people over their language and the police officers over their approach or way of conveying a message. In turn, young people then correct other young people and police officers do the same, stripping away any "us versus them" mentality.
Mark: Participants have also offered their own solutions to diffusing tension. From smiling more and being mindful that your facial expression that may be based on a negative, preconceived ideas, to having events to celebrate the achievements of young people and police officers, community events and games between young people and police officers.
What are your hopes for the Roundtable project?
Mark: We'd like to get to a point where the project is self-sustaining. So we can train young people and communities to set-up and run the Roundtable sessions themselves around the country. We also have the goal of making this international and bringing it to places like the US, where there are serious issues with policing.
Based on your experience with the Roundtable project, what are your reflections on gang culture and knife crime in the UK today?
Mark: I have mixed feelings, knowing friends and family who grew up in gangs and and seeing the consequences. Sometimes, it's never as black and white as "don't be in a gang". Sometimes, if you're not in a gang, you're still a victim of gang crime. I want to tell young people to not join gangs and focus on school, but that's not the reality. The reality is that when you leave your house you can be a victim or a target. It's very unfortunate the state we're in and that young people do the things that they do. But telling young people not do it isn't the solution. We need to incentivise young people not to join gangs.
A huge part of the problem is of course financial. Growing up in an environment where you don't have a lot is going to make you more likely to end up in a gang. Living standards are key, and a huge part of gang culture for me is poverty. Another part of the problem is the media. There are a lot of young people doing positive things in their community that isn't reported. The media focuses too much on the negative aspects of young people, so they don't believe that there are good things out there for them. If the media focused more on the positive, then it may encourage young people to take part in positive activities in their communities.
We need to focus on a positive agenda more. Taking things away, like their music, just gives young people another reason to be angry at the world. We need to create more ways to help young people develop. In Sweden, they're closing down prisons, because they've focused on reforming and helping people. I think we're lacking this in our society. It's easier to say they're a criminal and throw them in jail than to say they're someone who needs help.
Blair: As you know, we have a huge knife crime epidemic in the UK right now. People dying left, right and centre, and I don't think it's being dealt with correctly. In the government's eyes, the answer to more people carrying knifes is more police officers carrying guns. To create a police presence when the police are already understaffed, instead of preventative measures. Glasgow had a huge problem with knife crime, and they treated it as a problem related to health, not only crime. They used early rehabilitation, created more opportunities for people to find work and looked at education, mental health and the circumstances of each individual. A lot of the problems we're facing now are down to a lack of financial opportunity. I have a lot of friends who are now either not with us or in prison. Many have never had the opportunity to get out. Many feel like London is now a war zone. What you see now is that innocent friends or family who are in the same photo as a gang member are being targeted via social media, hunted down and stabbed. Similarly, you hear about people who've left their location on or were live streaming falling victim to stabbing attacks.
Knife crime in Glasgow was labeled as a community problem, but in London it's a black problem. I find this hard to stomach, and for me it's mostly a financial problem. It now takes six months to get referred to mental health services on the NHS in London. Wealthier people can obviously pay for private health care. Universal credit and benefits makes this problem even worse. Giving people a month's worth of money and expecting them to manage it when they've not received a monthly salary for years, if ever. It's like throwing meat in a lion's den and telling the Lion the meat has to last them a whole month. Rented council houses are another problem, why would you rent to someone who is struggling to pay rent when you can sell with London house prices? I understand the economic arguments, but there are humanitarian issues at stake. It all hinges on lack of opportunity. If we focused on preventing the real causes of gang culture and knife crime then we'd really solve the problem and we wouldn't have to spend tax payers' money on trying to treat the symptoms.
If you are interested in the Ubuntu Roundtable Project, then please visit:
Video excerpts about the project from Peace Partners' recent Waves of Change Workshop:
Several Peace Partners volunteers attended the Summit. This is a personal report by one of them:
Earlier this month I was very pleased to be invited to the Fourth Annual Desmond Tutu International Peace Summit, a day long conference and forum held on a sunny spring day in the beautiful oasis of the Regent’s University campus, situated in London’s lovely Regents Park, though just a stone’s throw from the full hustle and bustle of the UK capital.
The Summit’s theme was ‘’Hate: causes , consequences and cures”. The introductory keynote was a conversation between Michael Palin, documentary maker and member of the Monty Python comedy team, and the broadcaster Carole Stone. Michael remarked on the unfailing generosity of ordinary people in North Korea, where he had travelled recently. The contrast between this grassroots reality and the current political tensions associated with the country could not have been more stark. Each themed session, two in the morning and two in the afternoon, consisted of a chairperson and three or four panellists, with each panellist then giving a short talk, with a final period for questions and discussion from the floor. The talks were from a variety of well informed professionals, academics and activists, including Peter Taylor, well known for his reporting on Northern Ireland, the MP Andrew Mitchell, and Nomatemba Tambo, the South African High Commissioner to the UK. The closing keynote was given by Shaun Bailey, who as Conservative candidate for the next Mayor of London election is aiming to be the city’s first black Mayor.
I had attended last year’s Summit and remembered how inspired that day had left me feeling. What on the surface could have been a serious and dreary debate (about providing mediation in severe conflict situations), became something much more enlightening: if the principles of conflict resolution can be understood at a person to person level, why can they not be applied at collective and social levels as well. Again this year I felt the same way. The conference seems to be uniquely valuable in addressing how public crisis and conflict situations, such as those today in Syria and the Middle East and in parts of Africa, are also personal crises where the level of anger and hate spills over into a violence that is catastrophic for both its victims and perpetrators.
I was especially inspired by the second session in the afternoon 'Youth and Gang Gun and Knife Violence - Hate Crimes'. The contributions from Natalia Morgan - an eloquent 17 year old - and Mark Murray from Youth Futures spoke powerfully from their own experience of knife crime, and their naturally urgent response seemed to speak directly to the audience, many of whom commended the personal initiatives taken by these two young people. Without expressly trying to achieve it they seemed to articulate clearly the very human message of Ubuntu espoused by Desmond Tutu.
At lunchtime in the courtyard the sun was still beating down, it must have been one of the warmest days of the year to date. I was able to meet up with my fellow volunteers from Peace Partners who were attending, and a very enjoyable and inspiring lunch ensued, including spending some time with Ella Matheson, one of the trustees of the Tutu Foundation, and someone closely involved with the Ubuntu Roundtable project (highlighted in Peace Partners' recent Waves of Change Workshop).
The Tutu Foundation UK was set up to use and promote the idea of Ubuntu in the UK because “Ubuntu encourages us to recognise our common humanity, our connectedness and inter-dependence as fellow human beings. It emphasises what we have in common rather than our differences." ... " Desmond Tutu explains it like this ‘We believe that a person is a person through another person, that my humanity is caught up, bound up, inextricably, with yours. When I dehumanise you, I inexorably dehumanise myself.' “
Walking through the surrounding park on my way home the sun was still shining. I found myself reflecting on the truth of Ubuntu, and feeling that to be an effective actor on any level: personal, communal or wider, I really needed to know my own humanity; only then could I recognise the humanity in others. Some will take this as a simple truism, but in my view it contains the kernel of a real wisdom. In a different tradition, and many years ago, Socrates taught that a city state could only be truly governed wisely when the governors themselves possessed wisdom! The personal work to reject anger and accept tolerance can be challenging, and is ongoing, but the rewards are wonderful: being able to see and connect with someone else just as yourself, an individual person. This message has an incredible potential.
To say it again, I was extremely appreciative of the invitation to attend this year’s Peace Summit. Although it had been quite a long and tiring day I wasn’t concerned: for now the most important kind of sunshine was shining, the sunshine in my life and in my heart.
Written by Robin Watkins