Asia West Pacific

Yearnings of Our Hearts: Reflections from the Ground

By Melanie Siaw

Screenshot of participants and facilitators in the online Creating Regenerative Cultures of Peace Empowerment Workshop from Oct 4 to Nov 8, 2020 taken by Melanie. Top row (from top left): Muhammad Danial, Melanie, Stacie, Punitha, and Kins. Second row (from left): Komathi, Victoria, Saroja Devi, Aisha, and Audrey. Third row (from left): Irene, Jessica, Amir, Louis, and Anita. Last row (from left): Frence and Kleine.

Peace flourishes when a society is free from civil disorders and wars. But are we truly at peace just because physical aggression is absent?

In the recent online Creating Regenerative Cultures of Peace Empowerment Workshop, 13 Malaysians, 3 Filipinos, and 1 Singaporean journeyed together over 6 Sundays in October and November. Some were in their 20’s while others were approaching retirement age and beyond. Although they were from diverse religious and ethnic backgrounds, each of them had the same yearning for peace in themselves and in their communities. “We are different, but we all want harmonious and supportive relationships within the community,” expressed Muhammad Danial. Irene added, “Despite our differences, we are one in our aspiration for a peaceful and loving community.”

Group 3 and 4: Drawing of “Our Dream Community” (screenshot taken by Stacie and Kins)

The word “peace” in English doesn’t fully express this deep yearning that transcends across nationalities and ethnicities. The Hebrew word “shalom” comes from the root word “shalam” which means to be safe in mind, body, or estate. It refers to an inward sense of wholeness and tranquility. Shalom expresses this yearning more adequately, and is used interchangeably with peace in the biblical text.

“It is necessary that we are at peace first with ourselves before sharing this to the world,” said Kleine.

The road map in the workshop starts with friendship, followed by affirmation, communication, and cooperation. Following this sequence forms the foundation for a tangible experience of peace in the workshop. To be at peace is to become a whole and integrated person. This requires us to be reconnected with our core self, which is true and authentic. Grounding in our core self helps us journey inwardly to encounter our inner landscape that is sometimes hidden from our consciousness. When we are secure in our core self, we can easily be comfortable with our own emotions. “I can befriend my emotions instead of just running away from them,” said Vicky. We acknowledge the presence of those emotions, learn from them, and then discharge them through our bodies. “The release was freeing,” shared Komathi.

Group 1: Drawing of “Our Dream Community” (screenshot taken by Melanie)

“Peace is a collective effort and cannot be built alone,” said Kleine. We practice peace with others because we do not live in a vacuum. Through this workshop, participants are empowered with skills to bring this experience of peace to their family, friends, and coworkers. Aisha mentioned, “I realised that I have transforming power in me. We all do. So I should use that to build a culture of peace around me.” Frence added, “I realized we are capable of practicing nonviolence, and that we can always choose to be nonviolent.”

In the last session, participants affirmed their commitment to be agents of peace. Although the workshop had ended, the real work of building a culture of peace and justice had just begun. They will now journey as good companions and practice peace in their daily lives.