During our field studies trip in Chiang Khong, we visited the Thai Lue village after almost three hours Cruise on the majestic Mekong River. What is unique about this village is that they grow cotton and use it to weave products, such as tablecloths, sauces, napkins, sue pat, which is a kind of a long – sleeved shirt with no buttons. This group of women working on the cotton fabrics was formed by Mrs. Sukhawadee Tiyatha in B.E 2527. The knowledge has been transferred from mothers to children over the years. They have been doing their job ‘professionally’ by producing clothes that no one can resist to buy. The combination of different colours brings energy and positive thinking when you wear them.
But what strikes me the most is the transfer of cotton fabric knowledge from the older generation to the next generation. I noticed that the job is mainly done by women and most of them are aging. When my mind was wrestling on the knowledge transfer, the poem ‘the Road Not Taken’ by Robert Frost popped in my brain. The poem is about choices in life. Whether it is legitimate or not for the next generation to go with the mainstream or take another direction – it is all about the choice to be made. Yes indeed, from B.E 2527 to date, it has been a long journey. And my worry is how long the journey is going to last. Two roads diverged in a yellow wood, And sorry I could not travel both And be one traveler…
I took the one less traveled by… This combined stanza kept resonating in my brain for the few hours I spent in that village. Frost talks about the choice that was not taken. But to me, I am looking at the road that probably will not be taken by the next generations in that specific village. The Thai Lue Village has been travelling one road over generations and now the road is about to diverge. Why I am saying this? Well, that day, after having a wonderful meal, the Thai Lue young and beautiful girls performed euphonious traditional songs. After the performance, everyone was approaching them – kind of running to a movie or a song star with a pen and a pad to get an autograph, or a pose for a picture, or just have a cozy conversation with the stars of the day. And I was not left behind. I was among those who approached them to get a snap shot with them.
During my conversation with them, I happen to ask them what they will do after completing high school.
Unfortunately or fortunately, all of the seven girls aspire to attend college – majoring specifically in Maths and Science and only one – mentioned language studies. From their answers, again a dozen of questions flooded my brain like: what about the cotton fabric legacy? Who will continue to work on the cotton? Are their mothers going to be buried with the knowledge? Etc.
The choice that these young girls are likely to take or have taken will affect the core value of their village that has attracted thousands of tourists who visited the village to appreciate the amazing traditional culture of making attire in a particular way. Franz Fanon once said: ‘sometimes people hold a core value that is very strong. When they are presented with evidence that works against that value, the new evidence cannot be accepted. It would create a feeling that is extremely uncomfortable, called cognitive dissonance. And because it is so important to protect the core value, they will rationalise, ignore and even deny anything that doesn’t fit in with the core value.’ Frantz’s citation translates the oomph that has kept the Thai Lue village to work on the cotton for generations and I do believe they resisted changes on several occasions.
Furthermore, the same Frantz argues that: ‘each generation must discover its mission, fulfill it or betray it, in relative opacity. By saying so, Frantz opens a leeway for the new generation of the Thai Lue girls to make a new choice.
Putting together the two quotes of Frantz Fanon, it can arguably be said that the Thai Lue village has reached a point where the road is about to diverge. And being one traveler (the next generation) – it cannot travel both.
In conclusion, following Robert Frost’s poem – if life is a journey, then during the course choices are inevitable. Whether consciously or unconsciously, the Thai Lue girls are on the verge of taking the road that is off the beaten track or only they do so because they don’t fancy the road with bend in it. It means that making cotton attire is time consuming and needs a lot of attention and care to mingle the patterns in an accurate way. Let me put it that way.
And here is the question for you my readers and I would like you to make up your own mind about my emotional state on knowledge transfer between generations in Thai Lue village: is the choice of the road less travelled a positive one for the girls?
John Mugisa – Democratic Republic of Congo
Rotary Peace Fellow – Class 28Read More
It has been six weeks since we began our Rotary Peace Fellows’ journey and I would like to reflect on what it means to learn in an environment of difference. I talk about difference rather than about diversity. Difference acknowledges that ‘diversity’ is actually different across many dimensions. While diversity can paint a simplistic, rosy picture, difference is more of a middle path term. Difference reminds us of both the joys and the difficulties of meeting, spending time, working and learning with different people. As a group, we speak so many different languages, have different nationalities and citizenships, come from different disciplines, have different communication preferences and styles, have different faiths, as well as skills, strengths, weak points and blind spots. These make our class a thrilling space to inhabit. These same differences mean that we are constantly in a learning environment that is multi-cultural, multi-disciplinary, and multi-lingual – I could go on. It is a space that lends itself to creativity and lets us step outside our comfort zone.
I think this wide array of differences is one of the strongest points of the Rotary Peace Fellows Program as a learning experience. It requires effort from us to create a space where communication and understanding can flow. What does this mean in the day-to-day of our classes and other activities? First, we are called to listen. In our classes we have learnt about deep listening, the considerate and open exercise of listening until the end, having the discipline to let silence happen, without interrupting the other person’s train of thought. It is harder than it sounds, because the tendency and the temptation to respond quickly can be strong. It is a call to be compassionate with those who speak to us. Second, we must speak in ‘international English’ free of the jargon and informal terms we use in our familiar disciplinary or cultural environments. Those from specialist backgrounds are practicing this constantly. Third, we need to maintain an open and curious attitude, but balance it with respect for the boundaries of what others may be able to share or explain. This is a fine line to walk. But we have seen some of the rewards of this in our class. There are many more skills that we are practicing or acquiring to make this a rich space. So, aside from all the very relevant content we receive and the exercises we do, we also get to practice a wide range of skills that are necessary to build peace. I am grateful for the opportunity to learn this way and to contribute to building this learning experience.
Diana Arbelaez Ruiz – Australia/Colombia
Rotary Peace Fellow – Class 28Read More
THE ARMED ETHNIC CONFLICT BETWEEN HEMA AND LENDU IN ITURI, NORTHEASTERN DRC
To be a very beautiful butterfly, it needs time and many processes to transform. To be a good Peace Builder also needs a lot of time for educating, training, dedicating and self-development to qualify as well. Since I have got the fellowship from The Rotary Foundation I knew this is the big step to transform myself to be a good Peace Builder.
Is three months enough to transform? I can say that it’s enough and it’s not enough. It’s enough because everyone, who was selected to this program has worked for promoting world peace for a long time in different areas around the world. They all have great experiences before joining this program. That’s why I said three months is enough to qualify and encourage them to be even better Peace Builder. On the other hand, it’s not enough due to we still cannot find the way that everyone can work together practically to build the world peace in reality. Truly peaceful world seems to be something untouchable and idealistic because all mankind are struggling with finding peace to their families, societies and the world since the ancient time, which the countless wars happened. However, the real world peace has never happened on the Earth.
As my major is the focus on inner peace by practicing meditation, in Buddhism the root causes of all kinds of sufferings and problems are desire (greed), anger and delusions, these are defilements in human minds. These are individual inner conflicts, which occur in each one’s mind and affect each other until it becomes a problem in families, societies and the world. If we don’t know how to control these defilements in our mind to not harm others, the world peace will never happen.
Using the concept of ‘World Peace through Inner Peace’ is my journey as a Peace Builder. I strongly believe that I will be able to transform myself little by little to be a beautiful butterfly that can make changes to the world. I wish my flying wings, which only cause the gentle wind as the first time will become powerful winds that can truly drive world peace to happen.
Dr. Suchada Thongmalai – Thailand
Rotary Peace Fellow – Class 28Read More
Being a Christian priest anywhere in the world is not an easy task, and it is especially challenging in a non-Christian country. Prolonged stay in Thailand, a devoted Buddhist country, is at the same time a rewarding experience and a challenging pastoral task. Veneration of Buddhist monks in Thailand is huge, sometimes incomprehensible for a cleric from the Abrahamic religions (Judaism, Christianity, Islam). At the same time, in Theravada classical Buddhism, monks are expected to pray and give general advice, but not to be engaged in worldly matters. This is also different from preaching and acting synergy in Christianity. And here I am, an Orthodox Old-Catholic priest in faraway Thailand, together with 22 fellows from 18 countries, out of which many Christians. What should a priest do in such circumstances?
History teaches us that Christianity was from the beginning free to incarnate different cultures, accepting truly human values of others. Today we also have to incorporate Christian values in pluralist societies, loyal to its aims but at the dame time free to accept the values of others. There is a clear danger to simply denounce others by their nationality or nominal religion. At the point when a priest becomes “a lantern on a table”, he is open to every human being regardless of his or her nationality or race, social positions, philosophical or political orientation. It is difficult to expect a long-term success through traditional acceptance of faith through the socialisation model because there is no ideal status of Christianity anywhere in the world, and pastoral care is often directed primarily to adults.
My pastoral care and religious duties are also under many challenges. This work is almost paralysed as a basic liturgical space is not present, I am isolated from the Church’s hierarchy, there is no regularity in the liturgy. However, even the smallest nucleus of pastoral care become in time core of a new Church life and new space of freedom and peace. It is very nice to have support in Finnish and Macedonian Orthodox believers among the fellows, together with conservative Anglicans and Catholics from African countries. I feel deeply that every fellow has a sense for religious matters, as peace cannot be understood in its entirety without inner peace and spiritual balance. To accept these values and to consider all religions and religious/spiritual identities as peace-loving and deeply personal matters is a moral and civilisational imperative of contemporary world. For me, it also includes a pastoral preparedness and strength to answer all these challenges.
Thankfully, class 28 began in January, time when Christians from all around the world unite in the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. This year’s topic was particularly helpful for us to get together, to pray and contemplate in many ways about eight main topics which can be so easily tied to peace. To understand the role of inner peace is often difficult without some sort of religious belief or spiritual understanding and the topics have been very instrumental for me and helpful to fellows.
The eight topics are Reconciliation (throwing the cargo overboard, any cargo which keeps holding us back in our pursuit of right doing); Enlightenment (seeking and showing forth God’s light, as this light is a sense of mercy and clear understanding of everything we do); Hope (incorporated here primarily as Paul’s message to his fellow travellers, but which was greatly visible at one of our facilitators’ class, when we were listening to beautiful verses of the Greek poet Cavafy, recited by Sean Connery); Trust (Do not be afraid, believe; with fear we can do little, and with faith we can reach the farthest points in cosmos); Strength (as visible in breaking bread for the journey to the unknown); Hospitality (show unusual kindness; so important in today’s world full of refugees, migrants and people who need real hospitality, where the guest or passer-by is always welcomed with respect and whom help should be given, no matter the circumstances); Conversion (not converting one’s religion, nationhood, or any particular identity, but changing our hearts and minds); Generosity (receiving and giving, without asking for it).
These eight topics made us aware of our work, but also made us closer as fellows. As such, this experience will not only contribute to my knowledge of peacemaking, it will also make me, God willing, unusually kind.
Vedran Obućina – Croatia
Rotary Peace Fellow – Class 28Read More
It is one month since I arrived in Bangkok, ready to join Class 28 of the Rotary Peace Fellowship at Chulalongkorn University. A few days ago, I had my first moment of feeling what I can only describe as impending nostalgia. The program is only just staring, and yet it feels like it is flying by. That sentimental wistfulness I foresee in my future, comes from a place of appreciation and hope: Appreciation for the opportunity to spend three months learning with a community of Rotarians, Expert Instructors, Rotary Peace Centre Staff, Fellows, and our guide through it all, Dr. Vitoon; Hope springing from the already burgeoning collaborations being made for post-program action.
Resilience researchers (and peace-builders) are often drawn to the fields, because of our own experiences of conflict, marginalization, displacement, poverty or personal suffering. Many of us are carrying our traumas with us, the impacts of which are stored deep within our bodies and passed on to next generations. Given the right conditions and intent, we can channel our deep knowledge of adversity and resilience, into a peace-building super-power. This requires understanding how external physical events take on internal psychological significance. It demands attention to the deeply rooted perceptions, structures and systems that buttress inequities, insecurity and conflict. These conditions spawn traumatic experiences, and shape one’s agency to draw on resilience-enabling resources.
Our ways of being in, and seeing the world, have impact. I was inspired this week by Natasha Myers’ (2020) opinion piece called “How to grow liveable worlds: Ten (not-so-easy) steps for life in the Planthroposcene” (https://www.abc.net.au/religion/natasha-myers-how-to-grow-liveable-worlds:-ten-not-so-easy-step/11906548). The article is a provocative call to dismantle the Athroposcenic neo-colonial, extraction-focused worldviews on which our global relationships are built. It is a radical conjuring of a new world (the Planthroposcene), where humans see themselves as one with, and take guidance from, plants as liveable world-makers. Our three month Rotary Peace Fellowship places us in a privileged position. We have the opportunity to collectively foster imaginations that could,as Myers (2020) writes, “call other Worlds into being.” What do I mean by other Worlds? For me, this means cultivating societies that thrive on values and behaviours that benefit others’ welfare. Worlds where people courageously integrate ancient ways of knowing with new knowledge and innovation, to transform violent conflict into positive social changes. Where we go beyond just tolerance of others, to find connection and beauty in the absurd, the strange, the confronting, the diverse. Where there is deep-seated reverence that we are inseparably part of the natural world, not rulers over it. Yes, it sounds idealistic, but as Dr. Irene Santiago said in class, “People without imagination cannot be peace-builders.”
There is power in dreaming, but only if we also organize, innovate and ACT. As Dr. Santiago reminded us, those who wage peace need to organize better than those who wage war. So I commit to being compassionate but tenacious. To fight for my rights, your rights, and the rights of others. Even if the barriers seem insurmountable. Let’s find our allies, those powerful movers of social change, those people who can thrust our collective movements forward. There is power in numbers, but only if we are systematic, courageous, innovative and organized.
Nora Didkowsky – USA
Rotary Peace Fellow – Class 28Read More
The week 3 of our Rotary Peace Fellowship at the Rotary Peace Center at Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok was dedicated to the diagnosis and analysis of conflicts. With the guidance of the week’s guest speaker, Martine Miller, we were introduced to the basic conflict analysis tools like ABC triangle, conflict tree, and force field analysis. The week turned out to be an intensive one: We did a lot of readings, carried out several group work exercises and digested new concepts. We also started contemplating our individual conflict analysis papers. On Friday evening after the class, there was a special treat waiting for us: One of the local Rotary host counselors had kindly invited a small group of Peace Fellows to the classical music concert at the Thailand Cultural Center.
We dressed up. We wore face masks which protected us from air pollution and hopefully also from the Corona virus that reached Thailand just days before our Peace Fellowship started. When we got to the Thailand Cultural Center’s entrance our body temperature was measured. We passed the test. As the concert was about to start, we discovered that one of the princesses of the Royal Thai Family would also be attending the occasion. When she arrived, we all stood up. The Royal Bangkok Symphony Orchestra played the national anthem. The princess waved in a royal fashion from the balcony and as she sat down the concert started.
The concert hall was filled with Beethoven’s Rage over a Lost Penny in G major. Beethoven was followed by Bruch’s Scottish Fantasy, Op. 46 and R. Schumann’s Symphony No. 3 in E-flat major, Op. 97. The music was incredibly beautiful, uplifting, and energizing. I felt happy. The tones of the music took me back to over 30 decades in my time as a Rotary exchange student in Stevens Point, Wisconsin. I was fortunate to be hosted there by a wonderful Rotary family, who shared with me the love of classical music, and with whom I attended many, many great concerts. As I was listening to the symphony play, memories filled my mind of experiences of my exchange student year, as well as, the lifelong friendships established back then.
I recall that the aim of the Rotary Youth Exchange Program is to ‘build peace one person at the time’. Looking back on my life now, I wonder whether I would have chosen to study human rights and ended up having an international career dedicated to improving the lives of migrants and refugees without my Rotary exchange student year. Maybe not. Thus, it seems that my Rotary “peace programming” started decades ago with the exchange student experience and now this ongoing Peace Fellowship is only a natural “program update”. It makes sense and feels right to be here. I enjoy the classical music in the company of my like-minded Peace Fellows. New lifelong friendships and professional partnerships are being formed right here and right now. I feel inner peace. After the course, I will continue building peace one person at the time.
Tiina Miskala – Finland
Rotary Peace Fellow – Class 28Read More
What an eye-opening and life-changing experience I’ve had visiting Mekong River communities in Thailand and Laos with my Rotary Peace Fellows Class of 28 and on my own! I feel very blessed to have gotten to experience the deep wisdom connected to tradition, culture, land and water that the local communities we visited in Chiang Khong and surrounding areas possessed. While villagers hosted us with picnics in the forest, home-made meals and cultural dances, and beautiful traditional crafts, we saw the concern on their faces and heard the emotion in their voices when they talked about their dear Mekong River and its ecosystem dying before their eyes. We experienced their courage and dedication seeking ways to save their river against great odds and powers (the intersection between man-made damns upstream in China and Laos and impacts of climate change). We heard about their use of community education, consciousness-raising, grassroots organizing, and advocacy to impact and reach key decision makers.
Save the Mekong River School, co-founded by an amazing grassroots leader, Mr. Niwat Roikeaw, better known as Kru Tee, trains local community members, builds capacity of local researchers, and partners with international scholars to work together to gather data and research for evidence-based solutions and strategies. I was honored to meet him on a panel and spend additional time discussing and exchanging views at the site of the Mekong community school. Other community members are mobilizing people in women’s village cooperatives, local forest coalitions, school children, local fisherman and farmers groups, business alliances, and local village officials to fight for Saving the Mekong. We know based on research and studies in the field of nonviolent people power that numbers matter (Why Civil Resistance Works). Mobilizing and community education and consciousness raising to gain those members is key to movement success. The Save the Mekong movement clearly understands this and its grassroots members across the region are working hard to build their grassroots power.
While we were in Chiang Khong with them, we celebrated the exciting news of a major win for People Power! The Thai Parliament passed unexpected legislation blocking a major river rock blasting project that had looked all but certain to move ahead. Local organizers, partnered with national and international allies such as International Rivers, the National Thai Human Rights Commission, and even Thai military officials worried about the impact on national security unified for a common objective to win.
I used my three free days after our Chiang Khong trip to travel on to Laos and view more communities connected to the Mekong River system. First, I visited the historical and lovely city of Luang Prabang, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, that is built on a peninsula where two mighty rivers–the Mekong and Nam Khan–meet. The cityhas numerous glittering Buddhist temples and monasteries and its name literally means Royal Buddha Image. According to archaeologists, Luang Prabang has been inhabited since 8,000 BC and was the center of the first Lao kingdom, Lane Xang, in the 14th century. It was the royal capital and seat of government of the Kingdom of Laos, until the Pathet Lao takeover in 1975. There is also a strong French influence from the colonial past in the 19th and 20th centuries. I was able to sit and eat quiche and French baguettes at a French Bistro while watching the Buddhist monks meditate across the street at Wat Sensoukaram—what a remarkable and peaceful place.
However, even in the peacefulness of this historic city, the struggle for the survival of the Mekong River and communities continues. Luang Prabang is the site of the next planned dam in Laos and I could see yellow markers and evidence of beginning dam construction. Many people question the negative impact on environment and local livelihoods the dam will bring, but there is fear that the dam’s developers are discounting citizens groups arguing for a delay to the 1,400-megawatt hydropower project and that construction could begin as early as April. Unfortunately, although downstream countries and communities will be severely affected, based on the 1995 Mekong Agreement signed by Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam, no country can veto the other’s project. (China and Myanmar were not even signatories).
After leaving Luang Prabang, I flew to Pakse, the most populous city in southern Laos. Once again, I was struck by the centrality of this river system to the lives of the people. In Pakse, the powerful Mekong River meets another–the Xe Don River. We drove three hours from Pakse to Si Phan Don, or 4,000 Islands, a massive river archipelago in the Mekong River Delta on the border with Cambodia where many rivers converge. I was traveling with a Laotian family and we took a river boat across the huge river delta scattered with many tiny islands to one of the larger populated islands—Don Det. We viewed the fishermen and women loading fish into their boats to sell at the local markets. We toured several impressive waterfalls nearby and walked beneath large bamboo groves. But once again, the whispers and concerns of local people for the river’s future stood out. They talked about fewer fish in the rivers, lower water levels than in any local memory during the dry season, and serious concerns about what the interaction of man-made dams and climate change would do to the ecosystem and livelihoods of local communities in Laos and across the border in Cambodia. Due to undemocratic systems and repressive governments, it is much harder to speak out and organize there than in Thailand. To mitigate this, activists and organizers are seeking to link with and support each other through formal and informal coalitions across the various countries that are part of the Mekong River system.
Upon my return to Thailand, going overland through a border crossing between Laos and Thailand and flying out of Upon Ratchathani to Bangkok, I have continued to stay engaged with the Save the Mekong River initiative. I’m learning about the many people, organizations, and governments around the world who are seeking to Save the Mekong, including through panels and films at the Foreign Correspondents Club and our own local expert—Rotary Peace Fellow Class of 28, Andy Stone. The Mekong is the first major river system in the world to be close to destruction due to negative interaction between human unsustainable development and climate change. I think of other major river systems such as the Amazon, the Nile, the Brahmaputra and their vast communities that are also at-risk and the terrible impact on human, animal, and environmental ecosystems around the world that their ends would entail.
And just when I’m feeling overwhelmed, I think of the grassroots people power that I’ve experienced in every region of the world growing and challenging the status quo of “power over”. And the possibility of people uniting and mobilizing in the millions across borders and regions and countries to struggle for the common objective of Saving Our Rivers and countering abuses of power and poor decision making in the interest of a few for the interest of the many. And that vision is what gives me hope and keeps me going.
Katherine Hughes-Fraitekh – USA
Rotary Peace Fellow – Class 28Read More
It has been over a month already, yet the excitement of having gotten into this transformational course feels like I am still going thru day 1. Coming from South India, there are many things that fascinated me here in Thailand; some of them seemed very familiar to me. Without getting into too much of analysis, here are the similarities that I could see between Indian and Thai cultures
- Greeting someone with joined palms and folded hands before chest and bending forward. While Thai say Sawadti kaa/krap, Indians say Namaste.
- Respecting elders and teachers with polite vocal tone and body language.
- Common mythological story of Ramayana, which is also sculpted or painted, depicting many characters in most of the temples. Characters like Naga, Garuda, are commonly seen sculpted in many temples.
- Huge respect for ‘Budha’, Respect for Budha that I see in India and in Thailand is more than what one gives God. While most Indian Hidhu’s believe in many Gods and worship, it is deeper respect than just faith that comes to one’s heart when we think of Budha.
- Thai massage – Marma shastra in Ayurveda. Having studied Ayurveda medicine, I was amused to learn how much similar is this Thai massage science to Indian Ayurvedic science describing ‘Marma Vignana’. Knowledge of all vital points in body (marma vignana) demands good anatomical knowledge, so that one knows what the effect of pressing that point, also the consequence if such vital points are damaged (with over pressure or other accidents).
- Apart from Vital points, Yoga postures are sculpted in some temples which again left me stunned. Yoga and Ayurveda sciences seem to be so strongly embedded in Thai culture, so much so that many women know those herbal home remedies which are described in Ayurveda science.
- Sanskrit derivation for many of the Thai words can be easily identified, sometimes I thought the person was miss-pronouncing the Sanskrit word. Name of the city ‘Ayuthaya’ which is derived from ‘Ayodhya’, ‘Sawasti’ greeting from ‘Swasti’ which means welfare/goodness.
- Culture of removing footwear while entering temples, and homes. Wearing non proactive clothing, covering body appropriately in places of worship, enabling a positive space to connect to faith, and higher conscious.
- Culture or ‘take it easy/ sabai-sabai’, not being aggressive in approaching almost anything; may it be a conversation, short term goals or a career oriented choice; it is more obvious when compared to other Asian countries like Japan, Korea, and China which are known for their aggressive workaholic culture. Indo-Thai culture seem to endorse “slow and steady wins the race” concept.
- Religious beliefs, doctrines, philosophies of the major religion in both India and Thailand, i.e., Hindhu and Budhism seem quite similar in so many ways.
I also got to see so much of cultural adaptations among Indian and Thai cultures, I must admit that western culture has equally influenced both the countries and both the countries have slightly adopted western culture too.
Spurana H G – India
Rotary Peace Fellow – Class 28Read More
I am Jason Lee from Taipei, Taiwan. I have been an active Rotarian member in The Rotary Club of Taipei Tung-Teh for 12 years and served as Club President in 2018-2019. I am very grateful and proud to be a Rotary Peace Fellow and joining the Class 28 of the Rotary Peace Fellowship Program with a group of talented classmates whom have been selected as best candidates from 18 countries around the world with capabilities, ideas and the passion for promoting peace. I am here, as the first Rotarian from Taiwan to join this program which has given me a valuable opportunity to explore and study further on the importance of Rotary’s six areas of focus which are Disease Prevention and Treatment, Water and Sanitation, Maternal and Child Health, Basic Education and Literacy, Economic and Community Development, Peace and Conflict Prevention/ Resolution. It has been a month now that I am here at the Rotary Peace Center at Chulalongkorn University, I realized that “Peace through Service” is by supporting and doing well for all the other Rotary’s areas of focus.
I strongly believe that the Rotary Peace Fellowship will strengthen the impact of my work as a peace and development professional because I want to become a good peace builder, Rotary being the inspiration and also Rotary connecting the world and all our peace fellows here. This is one of the major reasons that I joined the Rotary International when I returned to Taiwan from Honolulu, Hawaii, USA. Because I believe that with sincerity and unity, together we can make the world a better place. Of course, being a great peace maker, I need to gain more knowledge, enhance my skills, learning to implement professional tools, idea sharing, international relationship and to build up a good foundation.
This way I can always improve myself and be prepared when facing different situations. This is the best choice of training for me to strengthen my interpersonal skills and developing deeper insights through group discussions regarding many world issues as well as simulations on handling conflicts. I hope that one day I can represent my country in the UN, local government and working with other peace fellows closely to achieve my ultimate goal in peace. Playing an important role to help solve many conflicts between Taiwan and China for many issues especially on peace education. It’s the history that has made the past.
For the future, it will need good peace making to build up a bridge for effective communication and conflict solving to move forward for progressive development. When I returned home, I will be a speaker on Peace and continue to share my experiences and knowledge, hoping that it can inspire our fellow Rotarians and many others to do the right things and to do things right. I will also continue to contribute my time and support as a proud Rotarian to volunteer in many meaningful projects towards achieving Rotary International mission and vision. When everyone plays our part, we can all move towards a great positive change and harmony.
Finally, I would like to express my appreciation and special thanks to all Rotary Peace Center staff, Deputy Director Dr. Vitoon, Director Professor Surichai, Ms. Thita, Ms. Krittika, Mrs. Oy, Ms. Ying and so many others that have been taking care of us fellows everyday, making me feel warmth and comfortable here in Bangkok and to our friendship forever. My host counselor Past District Governor Dr. Chairat, Rotarian friends and Co-counselor Past President Jongkoldee, the current RI 3350 District Governor Thanongsak’s spouse, thank you very much for your warm and welcoming hospitality to me. I also deeply respect the man who has founded this meaningful Rotary Peace Fellowship Program since 14 years ago, RI Past President Bhichai Rattakul. He is also a former Foreign Minister, First Deputy Prime Minister and President of Parliament with great leadership and vision. PRIP believes that peace comes from deep inside everyone and we are the one who knows and can promote and build peace. People like you and me are the basic to peace and when more people getting involved and playing our role, it will be the key to make peace in the world. I believe peace can be adapted into our daily lives and brings greater meaning when there is understanding, Peace begins with a smile.
JASON LEE (Rainboii) – TAIWAN
Rotary Peace Fellow – Class 28
Club President 2018-2019 of District 3522
Rotary International Rotary Club of Taipei Tung-Teh
Chair 2020-2022 of District 3522, Rotary Foundation Peace FellowshipsRead More
Just after a weeklong class on Conflict Resolution Skills, Approaches and Strategies, Saturday, 8th February 2020 was the day few of us Peace Fellows visited the World Peace Initiative’s Office in Bangkok, Thailand for a quick visit and short meditation before the Magha Puja 2020.
Interesting as it was at the Peace Center, I surprisingly met a longtime friend who had once visited me in my organization’s country office to partner on peace programs. Discussing with this young man at the Peace Center created an intrapersonal conflict in my mind because on his shirt whether by coincidence, consciousness or sub consciousness was written “BLIND FOR LOVE” and indeed his right eye was seen covered as if an ophthalmologist had done an eye surgery on him. In my thinking, I failed to handle my intrapersonal conflict which somehow can lead to trauma because I didn’t ask the victim with the eye infection what actually happened.
Then came lunch period at the Peace Center; inside the compound of the World Peace Initiative referred to as the Peace Center where peace is expected to be sought, we saw two birds fighting. Birds as we know can be used as pet; bringing a bird into a family as with any pet is a huge responsibility, and it’s something that some families don’t take lightly.
It’s difficult to imagine but birds are loved by many families like the love of cattle or domestic animals by most families.
Seeing the birds as they fight, a friend told me jokingly “…but Mohamed, why should that bother us? They’re just birds and not human…” This statement created a worrying metal picture in my mind especially when the bird fight occurred at the Peace Center in front of Peace Fellows. What else must we have done in such scenario? Should we throw stones at the bullying bird and eventually become a party to their conflict? Was it good that we only looked and made fun of the situation without intervention as Peace Fellows?
People talk to their birds, whistle with them, play games, let them cuddle under their chin, etc. Following countries where animals such as cattle have created a whole community conflict that led to the loss of lives, in my thinking we should have acted! I keep asking myself; what if those two birds were pets, highly loved by their owners who are at a perceived stage of a conflict and eventually one bird killed the other?
Remember, the fighting birds we saw at the Peace Center might someday represent conflict societies where we think are very far away from us but it effects due to our inaction can someday somehow come closer to us. The world’s deadliest conflict is not one that involves arms and ammunitions but the one that many people don’t even know exists.
As Peace Fellows, it’s important to look at those two birds as representatives of two conflicting parties be it humans, communities or countries.
Mohamed Kanneh – Sierra Leone
Rotary Peace Fellow – Class 28Read More