|The 60-day School of Peace 2019 organized by the Interfaith Cooperation Forum is approaching its last two weeks. It started with the arrival of participants on September 23, 2019, and will culminate on November 20, 2019, a day before the participants depart for their respective home countries. The nineteen participants – nine women and ten men including three monks – coming from the eleven countries, namely: Bangladesh, Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Laos, Myanmar, Nepal, Philippines, Sri Lanka, Thailand, and Timor Leste. They come from four different religious backgrounds, specifically Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism, and Islam. The School of Peace is hosted by Chiangmai and Chiangrai YMCA in Thailand. This program aims to empower the youth of Asia to create peaceable interfaith communities in Asia by nurturing peaceable values, gaining knowledge and skills for peacebuilding. Thus, they are expected, as peacebuilders, to contribute to the peace efforts in their respective localities.
The curriculum of the School of Peace is divided into five main sections. The first section is on Conflict, Peace, and Peacebuilding Frameworks, which include conflict studies, peacebuilding theories, and skills, including nonviolent communication. All these subjects were facilitated by the ICF Coordinator.
The second section on Religion and its Teachings on Peace helps participants to get to know and understand better their religions, indigenous spiritualities, and other religions, such as Baha’i, Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, and Sikhism. Most of the sessions on religions were held in the location of the religious centers. The facilitators for this section include Dr. Suchart Seethamalinee (Islam), Fr. Niphot Theinwihan (Christianity), Tim and Diana Schafter (Baha’i), Dr. Pramaha Boonchuay (Buddhism), and Frank Sethi (Sikhism), and Muriel Orevillo-Montenegro (Buddhism, Islam, Hinduism from Women’s perspectives).
The third section, Making Connection and Identifying situations usually not regarded as Peace Issues, challenges participants to examine issues such as the political economy, neoliberalism, alternative tourism, ecological crisis, human rights, and women’s rights, and grounding gender justice work on feminist theory and ethics. The facilitators for this section are Dr. Tirmizy Abdullah (human rights), Chan Beng Seng (neoliberal economy, ecological crisis, and tourism), Retha Andoea (rights of women and children), and the ICF Coordinator (feminist theory and ethics).
The fourth section on Skills towards Peacebuilding, includes trauma healing, mediation, conciliation, writing news articles, and peace education. The facilitators are Baidido Saganding, the ICF Program Officer (Trauma), Josefina Villanueva (Mediation, Conciliation and Peace Education), and the ICF Coordinator (news writing and designing workable plans). The last section on the Preparation for Re-entry and Application of Learnings requires the participants to design doable plans that they can implement in their localities. Community visits and immersion in relation to the abovementioned subjects, both in Chiangmai and Chiangrai were coordinated by Phanomwan Yoodee. Check-up quizzes were also done at the end of each weekend.
Mr. Christian Fischer, Program Officer of Bread for the World, Germany met with the participants of the SoP on 14th October. He shared with them the program activities and policies of BftW. The participants also shared with him their experiences at the SoP and about their aspirations as alumni of SoP.
We hope and pray that after the conclusion of the School of Peace, the participants will be returned home with a renewed vision and commitment towards promoting peace and justice in their own communities. They will also be closely working with the ICF for further augmenting the work of ICF in the area of peace and justice.
~ Muriel Orevillo-Montenegro