Asia West Pacific

Practicing Peace in Times of Lockdown: an Initiative in Malaysia

By Melanie Siaw

Participants in the evening session on April 22 (screenshot by Melanie)
Upper left to right: Kai Ye, Melanie, Yann; Lower left to right: Kedar, Charles

Beginning March 18, Malaysia closed her borders and forced millions of people into self-quarantine at home to contain the spread of coronavirus in the community. People were generally anxious about the risk of contracting the dreaded disease and passing it on to their loved ones. As the pandemic progressed, the level of anxiety among the people increased due to the escalating number of deaths and infected cases reported in the media and the rapid spreading of misinformation and fake news. During the lockdown period, many were fearful over the loss of livelihoods as most businesses close. People get stressed about working from homes and sharing confined spaces with those living with them. Others were lonely as they were isolated from their family or friends.

Most people experienced different levels of distress, and thus an idea to organize online sessions to build human connections in fun and light way came about. We conducted a total of 5 online courses in April and May. The participants were from Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, United States, Bangladesh, and Nepal. Of the 19 participants, 18 had participated in an Alternatives to Violence Project (AVP) session for the first time.

Various activities include stopping, positive words, affirming names, and affirmation. Throughout the sessions, the participants felt relaxed, peaceful, and connected. They enjoyed the “Big Wind Blows” and “You are Amazing” light and livelies. Those who were initially reserved expressed that they were pleasantly surprised that they felt comfortable being with strangers. They had no qualms in sharing openly or making the first move to speak. Overall, the participants’ feedback after the sessions were positive.

Participants in the morning session on May 3 (screenshot by Melanie)
Upper left to right: Jesmine, Melanie.
Lower left to right: Joey, Kabbo

Some of the highlights of participants’ experiences: 

The session was lively, enriching, and well presented.  What I have learned and realized are how important being positive is and to be generous with affirmation beginning with self.  When I am at peace with myself, I will pass on that peace-loving attitude to others, especially if there is conflict.  Each person is valuable and deserves respect, and learning to see goodness first before reacting is an alternative path that AVP is about and wish to manifest.  Mercie

I enjoyed a good start this morning on a positive note with new friends.  Sharing about myself to total strangers about my self was motivating as I had nothing to up myself or down myself but just be myself.  My main take away was on the Roadmap.  It reminded me why some of my networks at work and my relationships are not as strong as I would like them to be.  Going to try this out!  Jesmine

I’m glad that I joined the session at this time, where there has been a lot of anxiety around us.  It’s healthy for us to step back and isolate ourselves to slow down our minds.  Mohammad Iqbal

The AVP session was illuminating.  The tool of stopping reminded me that I could stop when life got too rushed for me.  Starting the day with an AVP session made me feel mindful and peaceful, and I loved the cooperative agreements that I could follow through every day.  Joey

The coronavirus pandemic is an opportunity for facilitators to tap into their creative energy and practice being flexible and adaptable during this crisis.  Engaging others using an electronic screen may require facilitators to use different approaches such as:

  1. Instruct participants by email about the physical set up of their working spaces, wearing comfortable clothes for the session proper, and the light and livelies.  Participants must get used to working through a screen set up as a stage for openness and curiosity.
  2. The facilitator and participants come 10-15 minutes before the session starts with the video switched on to greet each person and make the person feel welcomed as soon as the person joins.
  3. Be available for technical assistance via telephone in case of difficulties in accessing the session’s online platform.   

All of the above approaches helped make online sessions engaging, lively, and enriching.