News & Updates
September 15, 2015
On September 9th, the Desmond Tutu Peace Foundation was invited to participate in the United Nations High Level Forum on the Culture of Peace. Executive Director Brian Rusch represented the Foundation at the invitation of Ambassador Chowdhury of Bangladesh.
The event was convened this year by His Excellency, Mr. Sam K. Kutesa, President of the General Assembly. The focus of the meeting was to recognize the need for continual support to further strengthen the global movement to promote the culture of peace.
April 29, 2015
Our work at the Desmond Tutu Peace Foundation is grounded in the South African philosophy of “ubuntu”. Many of you have asked of us, “what does ubuntu mean?” In the following video, Reverend Mpho Tutu, youngest daughter of the Archbishop and ED of the Desmond and Leah Tutu Legacy Foundation, explains.
April 23, 2015
Dharamsala, HP, India, 23 April 2015 – The Upper Tibetan Children’s Village School was host to His Holiness the Dalai Lama, his good friend Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Team Joy this afternoon. As they drove there from His Holiness’s residence the streets were lined with smiling people eager to catch a glimpse of them.
On arrival at TCV His Holiness and the Archbishop were escorted into the small library adjacent to the basketball court. Amidst the neat bookshelves and displays of projects the children had done writing about ‘joy’, several students, girls and boys, recounted their own journeys from Tibet to the school. The first, who had come with her grandmother, leaving the rest of her family behind, broke down in sobs and tears. Archbishop Tutu’s daughter, Mpho, stepped forward to hug and comfort her. She completed her tale, but when the next student too was overcome with emotion His Holiness intervened, suggesting:
“You should think about how as a result of coming here you have been able to receive not only a modern education, but also to learn about our rich culture. You’ve been able to study our language. This is the best language for explaining the profound traditions of Nalanda University. This is something to be proud of. And yours may be the generation that can rebuild Tibet.”
The final student to make a presentation spoke of his appreciation for what he had received and how he tries to take joy in everything.
The children, who filled the basketball court, sang a song in Tibetan celebrating His Holiness’s 80th birthday as he and Archbishop Tutu emerged to take their seats in the middle of the throng. They then followed it up with a Tibetan rendition of ‘If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands.’
When His Holiness was invited to address the gathering, he turned to the Archbishop and said that since he teases him so much about his English, on this occasion he would speak in Tibetan. He stated that although our various religious traditions have different philosophical viewpoints, they share a common message of love and compassion. This is clearly reflected in the Archbishop and is why he admires him.
Commenting on the hardships faced by the parents of the students who were present His Holiness said:
“We received immense help from the Indian government. The world helped us. Because of the kindness we have received you have the opportunity to study today. Please, work hard. We Tibetans are going through a very difficult time, but we still have our own language and culture. Please take full advantage of your educational opportunities.”
Archbishop Tutu acknowledged His Holiness, the beautiful children and those in the crowd who were not children.
“It’s a great honour and privilege to be here. You are beloved throughout the world and we want to say to you, young people, that it might not seem possible to you that you will one day return to a free Tibet. But we in South Africa lived for many years under a system of injustice and oppression. Many of our leaders and young people went into exile. It seemed as if the chains of oppression would never be broken, that our prisoners on Robben Island would never come home. And yet,” and he let out his characteristic high pitched chuckle, “it happened.”
“In 1995, our beloved Nelson Mandela and the others were released and the exiles came home. One day, you too, all of you, will see your beloved Tibet again. You’ll be free of the oppression that has driven you here. The Chinese government will discover that freedom is actually cheaper than oppression.”
He spoke of the deep honour he feels to count His Holiness as his friend and that the world feels the same way. He continued:
“I want to thank the Indian government and the Indian people who opened their arms to welcome you, because they preserved for us a great treasure that would otherwise have been lost.”
Looking round at the students, he exclaimed:
“Look how beautiful you are! One day you’ll be dancing and singing in the streets of Tibet.”
Students were then able to put questions to the two spiritual leaders starting with one to His Holiness asking whether we can ever hope to live in a violence free world. He replied that there are many different kinds of violence, including exploitation and corruption.
“If you are thinking about serious physical violence involving war and people killing each other, then yes, I think we can eliminate that if we make the right effort.”
Archbishop Tutu was asked his advice about the way people seek happiness in material things. He answered that more and more people are realizing that they will not get real satisfaction from things alone. He said you can have many possessions while your heart remains empty.
“I meet many young people from well-off homes who go out to help others and find a much greater satisfaction in that.”
When His Holiness was asked about how he controls his anger in daily life, he replied that when he’s angry he shouts. He told a story of an occasion in 1956 when he was watching the driver and mechanic who looked after one of the cars that had belonged to the 13th Dalai Lama. While working on it he accidentally banged his head on the car. In anger he then deliberately banged it against the car again and His Holiness wondered: “What’s the use of that?” He remarked that anger destroys our peace of mind.
“Reciting ‘manis’ won’t help, even reciting the refuge prayer won’t help. Training our minds is the only solution.”
Asked whether joy could really be a source of world peace, His Holiness replied:
“I think so and that’s why people should have a clear understanding of how to create joy. Doing to harm to others may bring some temporary satisfaction, but being helpful to them is the only real source of lasting joy.”
Archbishop Tutu was also asked how true joy and happiness can be achieved and he answered:
“If we think we want joy for ourselves that’s short-sighted and will only be short-lived. Real joy is the reward of acting to bring joy to others. Deep joy is what happens when you show love, care and compassion to others. You can’t get it any other way. You can’t buy it.”
In reply to a final question about the environment, the Archbishop said:
“We have to remind people that this is our only home and if we treat it badly we’re done for. The ice caps are melting. The summers and winters are too long. We need to say ‘Yes, something is wrong’. People are beginning to hear what many religious leaders are saying, that this is our only home and we have to care for it.”
A band on the stage led the whole crowd in singing, ‘We are the world’. Archbishop Tutu got to his feet, dancing and swaying to the music. At the end he took the microphone and led everyone in singing ‘Happy Birthday’ to His Holiness as a large cake ablaze with candles was placed before them. He called for children to come and help His Holiness blow the candles out. The cake was cut and as it was distributed among children and guests, His Holiness, the Archbishop and Team Joy returned to McLeod Ganj.
This article originally appeared on the Dalai Lama’s web site: http://www.dalailama.com/news/post/1268-his-holiness-the-dalai-lama–archbishop-tutu-at-tcv
Photos courtesy of Tenzin Choejor/OHHDL
August 31, 2014
An Interview with Kiran Singh Sirah – Executive Director of the International Storytelling Center
Kiran Singh Sirah began his career as an artist and teacher, which led him to establish a number of award winning peace and conflict resolution programs in museums and cultural centers in the UK. These initiatives address sectarian, ethnic and religious conflict, poverty, and gang violence. Kiran went on to develop arts-led projects exploring modern slavery violations, war, and issues facing socially marginalized peoples. Kiran is a graduate of the Rotary Peace Fellow program and a folklorist interested in the power of human creativity, arts and social justice, and the notion of a truly multicultural society. Kiran currently lives in Jonesborough, TN. He was selected as Executive Director of the International Storytelling Center in 2013.
I had the opportunity to talk with him recently about the power of storytelling to unite people across different cultures and belief systems.
Rebecca Popham: The 42nd Annual National Storytelling Festival for 2014 is rapidly approaching. This is already your second annual Festival. Your selection as the new Executive Director of the International Storytelling Center (ISC) in Jonesborough, TN, last year came just as the 2013 Festival was ramping up—kind of a “baptism by fire.” Tell us a little bit about why the position of Executive Director of the ISC appealed to you.
Kiran Sirah: A baptism by fire indeed! But a great one. To some extent it was like being placed in the middle of story! I still have to pinch myself everyday for this wonderful and unique opportunity. I love my job and I am grateful for the people that support storytelling. To be in this position gives me the chance to work with storytellers of all kinds, to draw from all my experiences and my education in the storytelling arts, folklore, and peace-building and global networks to contribute to our international and regional storytelling communities. What attracted me initially to this job was the chance to promote and develop our ancient art of storytelling, to bring it to new heights and to expand the role that storytelling has to enrich people’s lives here and across the world and make a real difference to people’s lives.
RP: As a graduate of the Rotary Peace Fellowship program can you describe the connection between storytelling and working toward global peace?
KS: Storytelling is a powerful social force. Telling stories opens doors to help bind and form communities and find important connections to the entire human family. In essence it helps us to holds up mirrors to ours and other cultures and establishes a sense of a global identity. Storytelling is what forms relationships with others, it is the powerful expressive realm in all its dimensions that gives voice to who we are and where we are going. Used wisely it may also be the one of greatest conflict prevention tools the world might ever know. As a Rotary Peace fellow I have had opportunities to learn not only techniques to building peace but also how complex, multifaceted and diverse our peace community is. My main thrust in peace work has been to encourage intercultural dialogue and therefore Storytelling offers what I believe is the greatest way we can do that to help us all work towards a peaceful world.
RP: Did the ISC have a history of including the concept of nonviolence and the philosophy of Ubuntu in presentations at the annual festival, or is this a new dimension that you are adding to the spectrum of human behavior already covered in stories told by the Master Storytellers who perform at the ISC Annual Festival?
KS: The tellers that have performed over the 42 history have come from all over the world and from a diverse spectrum of storytelling traditions. Many tellers draw from family, humor, local, and global traditions as well as personal narrative and experience. There is often ancient wisdom that one can hear in the stories they tell. It is not a new idea introduced by me, but something I think storytellers have been doing ever since people started telling stories around campfires or from the time when humans etched visual pictographs onto cave walls to today when NASA scientists use visual storytelling inscribed space probe and send them out into the universe. Storytelling has always connects us to indigenous ways of life. I guess what I am doing here is expanding the way we can translate the Ubuntu concept into new disciplines and arenas, to invite partnerships and collaborations, so that we can share ways as an organization to live up to this great concept of Ubuntu. By sharing ourselves with others and vice versa being open to learning from others we can ignite the belief in Ubuntu in really creative ways.
RP: On Thursday, August 21, you appeared on NPR’s Religion in Life program. What is your primary message to that audience about the role of storytelling in our culture? (Hear Kiran’s NPR interview via podcast at http://religionforlife.podomatic.com/)
KS: I have great respect for Reverend Shuck who hosts the NPR series Religion for Life, so it was honor to be interviewed by him. My primary message was that by sharing my own stories of my upbringing and how storytelling changes my life, I hope others may also think about how storytelling can play a part in their lives. Across the world the voices of young people need to be heard, and so the message was for us to think about how we can help to nurture the next generation. Certain stories may belong to different people or different groups and cultures, but the Art of Storytelling as an art form is something that belongs to us all.
RP: What projects are you working on at ISC, in addition to the annual Festival, for 2015 and beyond?
KS: Our story at ISC is constantly evolving. As the world’s oldest public storytelling festival, we are at a great time right now in our 42 year history. Right now we are developing a number of new initiatives connecting storytelling programs and establishing international storytelling programs as well as regional and national programs. We have a number of digital programs under development to reach youth, new learning programs, and we also have a long-standing relationship with the Smithsonian Institution which we are continually developing. We are also developing new strands to our key event, the annual National Storytelling Festival as well as to our Storyteller-in-Residence series that takes place between April and November. Beyond that we have some exciting work with organizations including the global Masterpeace Project and the United Nations to invite storytellers to tell their stories of peace and change.
Here at the ISC we are reigniting and discovering new ways to bring the broader Art of Live Storytelling to even more arenas and audiences. Not only is this my personal passion, it is my life’s dream to elevate this great art form to a position where it is seen as an effective tool in helping to establish intercultural dialogue. Such a dialogue would celebrate diversity and respect for life and difference, which I see as the key components for creating a more peaceful world. Part of our mission is to connect emerging Storytellers and new audiences to the great Master Storytellers who already offer so much to the world. Ultimately, everything we do here at ISC, and my life from here on in, is about the Art of Storytelling contributing to building a better world. Storytelling for all!
RP: Thank you, Kiran, for giving us more insight into the role of storytelling in the pursuit of peace. Clearly, it is a critical part of any effort to true understanding among cultures within nations, and among all of the nations of the world. And we can’t forget that Ubuntu really starts within the family unit and also between just two people. Stories are at the very root of our human experience.
April 21, 2014
Hear the term conflict resolution and it usually brings to mind parties involved in armed conflict. The violence and intensity of these situations commands our attention. The global community has evolved diplomatic, economic and other interventions to help opposing parties step back from violence and negotiate solutions to their differences. However, we are often less equipped to deal with very serious, but non-military, conflicts arising from unresolved global issues like climate change.
Perhaps it is because the events contributing to climate change and environmental degradation are more diffuse, slower moving and have consequences that are further in the future. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has warned that the economic disruptions engendered by climate change could lead to armed conflict. Yet there has been no consensus on how to move forward. Environmental conflicts play out in locales across the world, often without much media attention. We have few at our disposal to help us grasp the scope and nature of the problem. But that may be changing.
The Environmental Justice Atlas is a new online tool that maps locations where environmental conflicts currently exist (see the atlas at http://ejatlas.org/) It was introduced the week of March 17th and is invaluable for those who study environmentally-based conflicts. The Environmental Justice Atlas was funded by the European Commission and built by Environmental Justice Organisations, Liabilities and Trade (EJOLT). There are 915 conflicts currently covered. “It’s only the tip of the iceberg,” says Nick Meynen, EJOLT spokesman. The group’s goal is to expand the initial coverage to 2,000 conflicts in the coming year. (Science, 28 March 2014, Vol. 343, p. 1413)
The tool uses a global map to highlight the hotspots of environmental conflict. A set of 100 filters covering categories such as Country, Company, Commodity, and Type let even environmental novices easily pinpoint specific sites of conflict and their origins. Though easy to use, the Environmental Justice Atlas is designed with a depth of information that will be appreciated by academicians and activists alike. The tool is also available to the public. Sites of environmental conflict are color coded to make it easy for the user to discern the type of environmental threat that exists at a specific location. In the U.S. for example, there are 35 sites of environmental conflict identified and described in detail.
The genius of this tool is that it simultaneously gives us the global picture of environmental threats and also lets us quickly get to the details of situations needing our attention. It is an open tool. Academics can provide input to expand the range of cases and fill in gaps. As the tool evolves, it may become a political force that makes it more difficult for politicians around the globe to ignore or defer action on environmental issues.
The stakes are high, especially for future generations who have no voice now in the decisions being made to avert catastrophic environmental damage from climate change, as well as potential armed conflict driven by these disruptive forces. Tools like the Environmental Justice Atlas can help focus our attention, avoid indecision, and make informed choices.
March 17, 2014
Nixon Nembaware graduated with a Master’s degree in Public Administration and a Bachelor of Science undergraduate degree in Political Science and Administration, with honors from the University of Zimbabwe. He accepted his Peace Fellowship from the Innational Christian Before accepting the Rotary Peace Fellowship, Nixon was working as a Gender and Equality Advisor for Concern Worldwide, within the organization’s various programs. He focused primarily on women’s empowerment in agriculture.
Nixon is now based at the Rotary Peace Center at the International Christian University in Tokyo, Japan. But he can travel to any of the other Rotary Peace Centers. While Peace Fellows are assisigned to a specific peace center, there is sigificant travel among the centers. The whole list of Rotary Peace Fellowship programs include: Duke/UNC, NC, USA; International Christian University, Tokyo, JAPAN;
Prior to working with Concern Worldwide, Nixon worked as the Gender Advisor for Padare-Zimbabwe Men’s Gender Forum which is a leading men’s gender movement in Zimbabwe. His work focused on engaging men and boys in Zimbabwe to envision a new Zimbabwean man by curbing male violence against women and children and by redefining toxic notions of masculinity. Nixon’s work emphasized the importance of providing education on HIV/AIDS and Sexual Reproductive Health Rights.
Nixon has already built a notable career as an activist and organizer, putting together a men’s march against male violence on Women’s Day in 2009. He participated in the Silent Witness National Initiative against domestic violence organized by the Women’s Crisis Support Team located in Grants Pass, Oregon, which is in the Northwest region of the United States. While in Grants Pass, a city within Josephine County in the southern part of the state, Nixon also worked with boys in a project that focused on developing positive masculine behaviors as well as a culture of peace and tolerance.
Nixon has provided consultancy services to several organizations in Zimbabwe on “mainstreaming gender,” helping them plan strategically to achieve gender equality. He also served as an advisor on an initiative for the involvement of men, organized by the Ministry of Health, to support the Prime Minister’s campaign for child immunization in Zimbabwe.
In 2011, Nixon helped to successfully mobilize 20,000 Zimbabwean men to support a new gender-sensitive national constitution ahead of a data gathering exercise and a referendum.
Nixon’s career aspirations are to work on gender and equality issues in war torn countries around the world. He hopes to contribute positively to the creation and maintenance of an effective and progressive governance system in Zimbabwe.
We asked each Peace Fellow two interview questions. Here are Nixon’s answers:
1. What is your opinion about the prospects of an end to armed conflict in the next 50 years?
Tackling poverty, inequality, and challenging the invisible forms of structural violence will help us achieve considerable levels of peace. I believe that our generation has to lay the foundation if ever peace is to be a reality. If ever we are going to leave a meaningful inheritance for our children and grandchildren, we have to leave them peace.
2. What do you believe are the three most important contributing factors to fostering peace within and among nations?
- Respect for human life
- Putting peace on the agendas of the national governments
- Concerted efforts to fight poverty
We are very grateful to Nixon for sharing his interesting and inspiring biographical information. As he moves ahead with his career focusing on gender equality, we hope he will keep us informed of what he thinks we should be talking more about to reach the goal of full gender equality. The Rotary Centers around the world include
The Rotary Peace Fellows we have introduced to you in this series have, we hope, inspired some of you to find a part of the complex peace process that motivates you and will pursue it, whether you just learn more about it, or find local groups where you can network and do more. Keep this fundamental truth in mind as you look for a role you can play—only in a fully fair and just environment that ensures economic and gender equality for everyone will our world survive and thrive.
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