Nineteen participants – nine women and ten men, including three Buddhist monks – received from ICF their certificates of completion of two-month School of Peace course on November 20, 2019, in Chiangmai, Thailand.
The nineteen participants come from eleven countries, namely: Bangladesh, Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Laos, Myanmar, Nepal, Philippines, Sri Lanka, Thailand, and Timor Leste. They were recommended by their respective national YMCAs, and some were recommended by their respective Peace Organizations. These participants represented four religions, specifically Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism, and Islam. The program ran from September 23, 2019, until November 21, 2019, inclusive of arrival and departures. The SoP held its sessions in Thailand, at the YMCA Chiangmai and Chiangrai facilities.
The Interfaith Cooperation Forum of APAY organized this 60-day School of Peace (SoP) as its flagship. This program invests in the youth of Asia to create peaceable interfaith communities in their local contexts by providing them opportunities to cultivate peaceable values and attitudes and to gain knowledge and skills for peacebuilding.
The School of Peace curriculum has five main sections.
- Conflict, Peace, and Peacebuilding Frameworks. This section includes conflict studies and conflict analysis, peacebuilding frameworks (Lederach, Galtung, RPP), and skills, including nonviolent communication.
- Religions, Practices, and their Teachings on Peace. This section includes indigenous spiritualities and indigenous people’s struggles, and feminist perspectives of these religions’ teachings that have implications on the role of women in religion. The participants studied religions such as Baha’i, Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, and Sikhism.
- Making Connections and Identifying situations as Peace Issues. This section challenges participants to examine issues such as terrorism, political economy and neoliberalism, alternative tourism, ecological crisis, human rights, and women’s rights and grounding gender justice work on feminist theory and ethics. This also includes a session on health and disability as peace issues, but due to lack of time, the session was canceled.
- Practical Skills. This section includes trauma healing, mediation and conciliation, peace education – pedagogies and module writing, basic news writing in English, and designing Workable plans (proposal writing) – anchored on conflict maps and theory of change. The participants are expected to implement their doable plans in their localities.
|↑ Phra Somrak with his making presentation of their conflict analysis using the Onion Ring||↑ Men’s group preparing the Loy Krathong|
Week-end quizzes supplemented the above four sections. To enhance the studies on religions, the participants visited the mosque and church, had sessions in the Sikh temple, joined the Hindu ceremony in the Hindu temple, attended the celebration of the 200 year anniversary of Baha’i, and went to several Buddhist temples including Wat Phra That Doi Suthep. They also had the opportunity to celebrate Loy Krathong, the Buddhist festival of lights –both floating in the bodies of water and floating lanterns up in the sky – to honor the Buddha, and also, from the Hindu tradition – of thanking the Goddess of Water, Ganga, or in Thai, Phra Mae Kongkha.
A two-week community immersion and visits to different non-government organizations are important components of the School of Peace. The SoP 2019 participants visited the women’s organization of the Foundation for Education and Development of Rural Areas (FEDRA), Sao Hin YMCA. In Chiangrai, the group stayed in Had Bai village along Mekong River, where women produced hand-woven cloths. They visited the Network of Mekong School –Institute of Local Wisdom in Ngam Mueng village that preserves the wetland area, and the Song Phee Nong village where the participants experienced an interfaith ritual of tree ordination in the forest. The SoP participants also visited the Development Education for Daughters and Communities, a non-government organization that provides education for rescued girls and boys from human trafficking activities along the Mekong border. To further supplement the learning experience in the classrooms, the participants also visited museums such as the Underground Ancient City, the first capital of the Lanna Kingdom. They went to Mae Teng Elephant Park to learn about the life of the elephants, the issue of their survival and how they are being treated by the tourism industry. Furthermore, the group visited the Doi Pue Hmong Tribal and Hill Tribe villages.
In their own voices, here are what some participants said of the SoP2019:
“School of Peace is not only a school, but it is like a house teaching children to grow up and become a good resource person in society, ready to help each other… I feel very happy.” – Thippachanh Phommavong, Laos
“This program is very important for the young generation . . .to have compassion, have knowledge about peace to reduce violence in society.” – Farid Serpara, Jayapura
“All of the subjects were very useful for personal experience and as tools for the development of our home country.” – Pye Ei Nyein, Myanmar
“I would like other monks to have an experience like I have, and share with their own community, at least, even for their own personal growth. – Phra Somrak, Thailand
|↑ Photo taken after the Opening Ceremony on Sep 24, 2019||↑ Photo taken after the Graduation Ceremony on Nov 20, 2019|
~Muriel Orevillo-Montenegro, ICF Coordinator