Asia West Pacific – January 2019 Update

International Peace Training: Creating Cultures of Peace

by Nadine Hoover, Co-Coordinator Asia West Pacific 

The International Peace Training: Creating Cultures of Peace had over 40 participants from 11 countries!

We had over 40 participants from eleven countries for the second year in a row, except this year we turned away over a dozen seriously engaged peace workers, seven of them from Africa. Some participants have begun practicing the tools in their daily lives and work. The results they experience have dramatically increased their dedication to inviting others in their communities to practice with them, establishing these practices at home. Other participants attended for the first time.

This range of experience is widening beyond our current team’s capacity to manage. The team feels the need for regional leadership trainings, both mono-lingual local groups and multi-lingual global groups, as well as open training for newcomers. The team also plans to collaborate in an online training for facilitators in 2019 to increase our skills in conducting these trainings independently.

We had participants from Indonesia, including Sumatra, Java and West Papua, Singapore, Malaysia, the Philippines, Nepal, Korea, Chechnya, USA, England, Aotearoa/NZ, and Australia. The wealth of experience and exchange among participants is beyond our capacity to put into words. We describe some of the richness in detail separately.

Participants were interested in interfaith dialogue and peace activities to prevent radicalization among young adults; supporting students with special needs and their families; producing wooden toys and puzzles and children’s storybooks, including new stories for the Power of Goodness; standing up to unjust violence against the West Papuan people and extrajudicial killings in the Philippines; ending domestic violence; supporting isolated Christian communities in the Mentawai Islands; standing up for land rights in Nepal, Java and Sumatra and human rights in Korea; ending exploitation and violence against the earth; learning to approach our relationship with the natural world based on permaculture; spreading peace through Power of Goodness story events; supporting people of all backgrounds and sexual orientation in Russia; offering psychosocial supports to children and adults recovering from war; working with children, teenagers, young adults, women, men, and families. It was a very rich experience.

This year we faced some stress in the group we had not felt before. Last year we had over 40 participants, but it went very well. We interpreted into five languages with highly skilled simultaneous interpreters (English to Indonesian, Russian, Korean, Nepali or Hindi) and only three participants who spoke English only. This year half spoke Indonesian and half spoke English with nine who spoke English only.

We covered four topics plus two special topics:

  1. Nonviolence and transforming power
  2. Trauma resiliency
  3. Liberation from oppression
  4. Discerning a consensus of conscience
  5. Special Topics: the Power of Goodness and Permaculture

In the past we have picked three of these four core topics plus one special topic. Permaculture required more work and attention over the week than our usual special topics, but was of tremendous interest. In addition, a mid-week heat wave became excruciating and many of the English-speakers became dehydrated or got heat stroke.

The critical mass of English speakers drew the group into a speed and ease of English speaking we have not experienced before. Non-English speaking facilitators would give instructions multiple times because the group was not listening to them, and most interpreters gave up. Nadine noted to the group that when we spoke Indonesian first they waited for the English, but when we spoke in English first the group began talking and acting and did not wait for the Indonesian translation.

Pointing out such a dynamic usually is enough to correct it. But between the heat, increased activity, single-language interpretation, for the first time we were not able to maintain our multi-lingual commitment with ease and grace. The Indonesians increasingly relied on Nadine, who was just recovering from a concussion and an embolism. She became annoyed in the last couple days at a sense of disregard for the interpreter and the group. She began calling attention in terse ways that did not feel peaceful or respectful either at a time the group was tired and stretched thin. For this, Nadine deeply apologies. We gained a new respect of the challenges of our commitment to multi-lingual-rich environments.

To prevent this “perfect storm” in the future, the team decided to:
  1. Require heat management at Peace Place before any future international trainings.
  2. Post multi-lingual group agreements during the logistics on the first day and assign a companion to the interpreter(s) to speak up when the language goes too quickly.
  3. Hold advanced and beginning participants’ workshops rather than mixing these groups.
  4. Welcome a limited number of guests of other languages in mono-lingual workshops and limit English speakers to one quarter or less in multi-lingual workshops.

We hope the stress over this dynamic did not diminish the tremendous value of the incredible training in peace, nonviolence, storytelling and permaculture and gracious sharing among amazing participants!