Why conflicts occur?
People from diverse cultures have diverse beliefs. At times, holding on to fixed ideas lead to conflicts. Conflicts arise from contrasting perceptions, goals, agendas and pressures. No two individuals behave the same. This becomes problematic especially when it comes to teamwork. Conflicts also occur from discordant values and inequitable resources. Furthermore, existing myths and prevalent stereotypes become the source of conflict and violence some of which are stated below:
Gender Violence and Stereotypes
Myths surrounding gender violence and stereotyping lead to disturbance in society. Some myths lead to gender violence and must be debunked. Instances which perpetuate these myths are a practice of ‘chhaupadi’ in Nepal and the issue of Sabarimala temple in Kerala, where women of menstruating age were not permitted. Also, the stereotype that domestic abuse is faced only by women is often untrue.
Communal Violence and Stereotypes
Even though South Asia has historically been home to numerous communities, there have been certain instances of communal violence. Freedom of thought and expression is essential for a liberal democracy, but repeatedly minority communities across India have been exposed to atrocities, highlighting how vulnerable they are. Also, mob lynching has been a common phenomenon, especially with the upsurge of religious extremism.
Societies consist of people hailing from manifold backgrounds. Every person has a different role to play. In a certain society, people may be grouped into categories like upstanders, bystanders and victims. While an upstander would intervene to prevent abuse, the bystander would either stand and do nothing or look away, thus facilitating support to the perpetrator. Often individuals cease to act as a upstander due to fear, personal gain or prejudice. However, as Former United States Senator, Margaret Chase Smith rightly pointed out, “Standing for right when it is unpopular is true test of moral character.” This section on ‘Good Practices’, highlights different measures of peace-building through angles such as reconciling with the past, cultural awareness about minority rights and knowing and accepting others.
Reconciliation with the Past
Coming to terms with difficult past is often referred to as a process of reconciliation. Following instances and severe human rights violation, there is the need for peace-building. Here, peace is not merely the absence of conflict, but an atmosphere of harmony that prevails in society – harmony that is sustainable. Working towards this end might sometimes entail long term efforts as public memory is surprisingly short while reconciling with past injustices, as has been observed.
Truth and Reconciliation Commission
Forgiveness does not come cheaply; it comes deeply from the heart. Nelson Mandela formed the Truth and Reconciliation Commission as an aftermath of apartheid. The leaders that evolved in the camp decided to forgive instead of prosecuting. The nation thought it was immensely important to heal than to punish. They opened their arms and welcomed individuals to admit their crime fully. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission was created to investigate gross human rights violations that were perpetrated during the period of the Apartheid regime from 1960 to 1994, including abductions, killings, and torture. Following South Africa’s example, many more truth commissions have emerged.
Sustainable peace for survivors of conflict
The ten year long civil war in Nepal that ended in November 2006 had a huge impact on the country leading to political and social unrest. There was human rights violation, citizen victimization, turmoil and loss of loved ones. Conflict Victim National Alliance, a body made of activist groups seeking reparations organized an interactive program with students of Kathmandu, Nepal on sustainable peace-building. Documentaries were shown to spread awareness of the harmful effects of war. As students are the future of the nation, to move forward together in the campaign for justice and to prevent the recurrence of similar events, this program played a vital role amongst students and teachers.
Empowering to Negotiate Rights
Self-empowerment of minorities is essential for peace. There are several peace-building organisations that are working to empower women and other minorities around the world.
Bangladesh Hindu Buddhist Christian Unity Council (BHBCUC)
The BHBCUC is a human rights organization, which works for minority and religious rights in Bangladesh. It is a non-political organization formed in solidarity by Hindu, Buddhist and Christian citizens. They try to achieve the perfect conditions for the harmonious life of all people regardless of which religion they belong to. They work towards freedom from discrimination, deprivation, communalism in Bangladesh, and in promoting values of equality. The BHBCUC informs foreign agencies about the situation of minorities in Bangladesh. The role of the group is to advocate awareness on behalf of minorities, who often face job discrimination or discrimination on religious grounds.
Internet radio as a tool
Radio from its very beginning has always been a medium for social change. It has always reached to a larger mass to spread positive messages. In today’s world, where internet has become the primary tool for communication, Peace Waves initiative used internet radio as a medium to spread the word of peace and cohesion. Peace Waves initiative in collaboration with Radio BongOnet produced 25 radio episodes where personalities from various backgrounds and interests shared their views on peace. The internet radio also captured voices of how music is used to build peace. The internet radio was also used by the Peace Champions as a platform to celebrate the power of peace. To listen to the various episodes of Peace Waves radio program go through www.bongonet.net
“Music does not just speak to your ears but to your feelings”
Annette Bellaoui, the coordinator and co-founder of the Copenhagen World Peace Music Festival – an annual Danish music festival, also directs the organization ‘Missing Voices’, a musical consortium that empowers both Muslim and non-Muslim women to live independently and promotes their self-growth through music which is more than just entertainment. Annette’s work has impacted peace in two vital ways. One through her company, which serves as a music school for children and teenagers that offers free musical education to them and two, this has opened up a new avenue for them to express their emotions and obtain inner peace which eluded them for years.
Music for Peace – Democracy and peace
“I don’t have an organization working on peace but peace is a colour I always include in my life.’ Georgios Markakis from Greece, who runs a radio channel for the last 40 years, is trying to build a platform where youth can coexist. Todays generation needs to learn and empathise on peace so that occurrences of violence do not happen in the future. Georgios feels one has to be open to changes and beliefs. He has been instrumental in setting up a radio channel with the broadcasting wing of the European Union where the idea is to play music from across the globe. He spreads a message to the youth – to be open to and absorb different cultures. There will also be a lot of things about cultures that seem attractive but may not work for you. Keep your mind open and pick what suits you best but at the same time having respect is the most important.
Learning and Accepting Others
Accepting differences is one of the main foundations on which peace is built. In order to promote tolerance and respect for people from different backgrounds, various social influencers have organised themselves to bring about change for a peaceful society.
Positivity for Peace
Talking about cultural diversity through the ages is Liona Hotta, a singer, musician and composer from Spain. She thinks that for lasting peace, we must have basic respect and love for other people. She makes a crucial point about how peace cannot be made looking backwards, rather one must be forward- looking.
Know your neighbours
Urban living is often so busy that we don’t get to connect with the people living close by. Research shows that emotional wellbeing is higher among people who have regular contact with their neighbors. It is convenient to have a support system for when you need something handy or face an emergency.
Aware, Engaged and Invested
Prantakatha is an organization working on youth development with deep focus on excluded sections of youth. It has worked for the transgender community by generating awareness, engaging multi-stakeholders and bringing in investment. It believes in curating non-judgemental spaces where youth can organically flourish and turn their inner pain into power. After the NALSA verdict, Prantakatha started focusing on how to stop victimization and exclusion of trans-youth. Jiya Das has become the first transgender OT technician of India. Opening grant-opportunities to transgender social entrepreneurs and the first ever transgender clinic are their achievements.
Cultural tools to address social issues
Peace Waves members, Roshan Kumar and Rajesh Kumar from Jharkhand, conducted several workshops on social issues like gender discrimination, child marriage and child rights. Cultural tools like tableau theatre, street plays and role plays were used to convey social messages and make children aware. In one of the discussions, a short video was also made by young boys where they included slogans like standing against molestation; creating a safe space, and standing up against online trolling as the promises on Raksha Bandhan.
All flowers in the same garden
Nepal, the land of Himalayas is also the land of a decade-long civil war and violent natural disasters. The natural disasters and the political unrest have snatched the happiness of the locals and especially the children who became victims of the war losing their parents. The trauma yet has not washed away. Initiated by Anil Gandharba, a member of Peace Waves, a music and art workshop was conducted in a remote area in Gorkha aiming to bring back peace and promote higher levels of human aspiration and artistic integrity through the composition, documentation and performance of music.
Preaching with puppets
According to the Plan International Organisation, Bangladesh has one of the highest rates of child marriage in the world. Around two-thirds of women aged 20 to 24 marry before the age of 18, despite the minimum legal age being 18 for females. Also, dowry like elsewhere in South Asia, is a serious and growing problem in Bangladesh. According to Daily Star news, “every year 1200 women receives injuries and 600 get killed by their husband and reason behind is the dowry”. Keeping in mind the background, Nusrat Jahan Sakee from Chittagong, Bangladesh worked with the children of Hafeznagar Urban Slum Ananda School where the students developed a puppet show on child marriage and dowry system. Nusrat, a Peace Waves participant, implemented her learning from the Peace Waves workshop on Art in Digital Space which was about making masks and puppets to share stories on social issues.
Standing up for non-violence
Crimes against women are relatively high in Assam. Of a total of 329067 cases in India in 2016, 7% of them were from Assam (NCRB, 2016). Implementing tools like graphic storytelling and puppetry, an event was conducted in collaboration with the Women’s Studies Department of Gauhati University on 10th May 2019, where anti-trafficking was a focal topic. Students were the primary audience in this event apart from professors and research scholars who also took part. Other than this, a Women’s March was held on 4th April. Also, a field visit to Panchmile H.S. School was made. The objectives of the visit were two-fold — helping girls find their own voice and helping girls solve their own social problems. They are now much more aware and inequality has decreased. Girls take part in sports, studying and boys take the initiative to clean.
The Mass Communication department of the Tezpur University organised a North East Youth Conclave on 6-8th September 2019 in New Delhi. The theme of the conclave was ‘Role of youth in contributing towards a culture of peace and non-violence’, an issue of immense relevance during the current times. About 150 youth participants from most the states of the North East region like Tripura, Meghalaya, Manipur, Mizoram, Sikkim and Assam participated in the conclave which also organised a cultural exchange programme.
People for Peace
A workshop on peace was organised by JU Community Radio on 7th September, 2019 in Jadavpur University. Around 40 school and college students participated in this workshop. The workshop began with a session on knowing one’s own identity. This was followed by other activities. While half of them were engaged in ‘Painting on Peace’, the other half participated in ‘Theatre on Peace’.
On 9th August 2019, Deep Bhattacharya, a participant of the Peace Waves initiative, participated as a volunteer in a programme called the World’s Largest Lesson (WLL), which is organised by AISEC a non-profit organisation and in association with UNICEF. The purpose of the program is to teach kids about the 17 sustainable development goals of UNICEF, and inspire them to achieve it as global citizen. Deep highlighted the importance of peace building throughout the world and the role of youth in it. He used techniques that he learnt in the Peace Waves Workshops to host his session, which was extremely fruitful.
Theatre in Digital Space
Theatre has always been a strong medium of communication to deliver the message of peace. Peace Waves initiative has used theatre alongside with other mediums like puppets and graphic narration. U.S. based theatre expert, Raymond Caldwell engaged the peace champions and used theatre as a tool for community building, process of critical thinking and discussions. He taught the participants to create image in the form of tableau. They were also oriented on forum theatre where the artists may involve the audience to play their roles.
Peace Waves participants have planned to create a cross border media dialogue where they will interview people on their perception of peace. They will further make tableau of the images and develop a story. Each region will create a tableau to share a certain part of the story as part of the Peace Waves movement.