Be inspired, challenged, educated by contributions from our guest bloggers.

Please note the views expressed here are the contributers' own and do not necessarily represent the views of the little big peace event.

Start a New Conversation

Ishreen Bradley2

Ishreen Bradley

My commitment in life is and has for many years, been that each human being gets to live their life in peace – peace for the individual, peace for the family, peace within neighbourhoods and peace for the world.  Recently I have found myself dealing with the absence of peace in the world.

As a practicing Muslim, I am upset at the ease with which our youngsters are brainwashed into thinking they can go abroad and fight in order to become heroes without a full education of what they are committing to. They don’t seem to understand that ‘Islam’ means ‘Peace’.  On the other hand, I am upset by the automatic reaction of some people in the UK – some of whom tar all Muslims with the same brush.  I am also upset by the amount of conversation on the News media that propagates all of this.  Do they not understand that talking about it keeps it alive and makes it a bigger problem for our society?

My husband and I went to Patisserie Valerie in Brent Cross the other day to have some cake and tea.  I was dressed in my usual casual western clothes with a batik square around my head.  The looks I got from some of the Jewish patrons there really scared me.   I could see them look at me and I could hear them whisper to each other.  I guess they believed I could not hear them and that I was not aware of what they were saying.

Really, it is time to start a new conversation.  A conversation for what is right in the world and create opportunities for these youngsters that inspire them and give them a future to look forward to.  It is time that people of different faiths and cultures get to know about other faiths and cultures than their own  – understand what they are dealing with and not assume that the whole world is against them – whether that faith be Muslim, Jewish, Christian, Hindu, Buddhist…whether that culture be British, Pakistani, Israeli or Indian.

Thank God for organisations like the Little Big Peace Event that create a new conversation in the world to go beyond our prior assumptions and beliefs.

Let’s turn this ocean liner around and point it in the direction ‘Peace.’

Ishreen Bradley is an award winning Executive Coach and Founding Director at Bizas Coaching & Consulting Ltd.  Her passion is to  support business leaders and senior women to perform at their best with grace and ease.  www.ishreenbradley.com

Schools for the future

Anna Lubelska

Anna Lubelska

It is time to take a radical look at what kind of schools we need for the 21st Century. I believe that schools should be places where pupils learn how to be peaceful and how to help make the world a more peaceful place.

What is a Peaceful School?

The Peaceful Schools Movement has developed the concept of a peaceful school that is peaceful but not boring and where peace is a dynamic force.  Our aim is not just to create peaceful institutions, but to bring about social change!

Peace at any price?

Peaceful schools are not all about keeping the peace at any price eg through strict discipline!  Peaceful schools are about building positive, peaceful relationships within the school and spreading peace into the local community.

Four levels of peace

Peaceful schools work on four levels: the individual’s inner peace, peaceful relationships, peaceful school communities and peace in the world.

Being at peace

The foundation level for creating a peaceful school is the peacefulness of the individuals within the school. There are too many pupils being bullied, stressed and suffering mental health problems.  The aim is to help pupils and all school staff to develop their ability to be at peace through things like yoga and meditation.

Peaceful relationships

There are lots of tried and tested peace-building activities that schools can pick from to suit their needs and interests.  ‘Peacemakers’ in Birmingham are leading the way in this.  Also, the ‘Peace Mala’ scheme is a great way to build relationships between pupils of different faiths.

Peaceful ethos

The ethos of a school is almost instantly felt when you enter a school and it influences the way everyone in the school behaves.  A proven approach to creating a peaceful whole school ethos is the ‘Values-based Education’ approach pioneered by Dr Neil Hawkes.

Peaceful places inside and outside

Organisations like  ‘Learning Through Landscapes’ work with schools to help them create peaceful gardens. The Woodheys Primary School in Cheshire is a great example of a peaceful school with wonderful schools grounds.  Peaceful rooms within schools can be created to supplement the peace of the school library. Such rooms can be used for therapeutic help for children as well as places where children and teachers can escape from the noise and bustle of the school day.  Organisations like A Quiet Place’ in Liverpool are pioneering this.
Taking peace out into the world

School can equip pupils to go out into the community as peace ambassadors. A great example of this is the Freedom Writers’ programme in the States.

To find out more

Check out the resources and information on the Peaceful Schools website

SHALOM!

From Anna Lubelska, Coordinator of the Peaceful Schools Movement

 

Streatham Community Comes Together

quote singleOn Thursday 23rd May 2013, Hyderi Islamic Centre, Streatham held a special interactive programme, open for neighbours and members of the public, in response to the horrific murder that occurred in Woolwich. Panellists included the resident Imam Sheikh Mohammed Abbas Panju, Dr. Sayed Ammar Nakshwani, Cllr Judy Best, Tom Chigbo from Citizens UK and Jonathan Bartley – Chair of St Leonards Safer Neighbourhood.

The event began with strong condemnation of the heinous activity, and reiterated the message that the barbaric actions of a few are not reflective of the beliefs and actions of Islam as a religion. Verses from the Holy Qur’an were looked at, in particular Chapter 5, Verse 32 which states that whosoever takes the life of one, it is as though he has slain all of mankind.

A moment of silence was requested, to honour and remember Drummer Lee Rigby, and all those across the globe who have been killed unjustly. The attendees, in their hundreds, were reminded that the Prophet Muhammad was sent as a mercy to all of mankind, and promoted the message of peace, justice and equality – the core tenets each Muslim lives their life by.

This event coincided with the birth anniversary of the great Muslim leader and son-in-law of the Prophet Muhammad, Ali ibn Abi Talib who once declared: “Remember that people are of two kinds; they are either your brothers in religion or your brothers in mankind.” The presentations from panellists reinforced the commonality of the morals of humanity – irrespective of faith, race or culture – and the pride and patriotism members of the Islamic centre felt at being British Muslims who contributed to civic society.

Jonathan Bartley, in his blog commented “The Centre deserves great credit in showing leadership. Not only did this send an important and unequivocal sign of condemnation…It moved beyond the bland platitudes and simplistic commentary that we have seen in a lot of public debate in the last two days.”

There was diversity in the range of opinions expressed, and a clear message that we need to contribute and engage with public conversation in order to challenge stereotypes and together tackle the issue of terrorism. Dr. Sayed Nakshwani actively encouraged those present to try and look through the lenses of others and stated “We need to be more proactive to ensure the true face of Islam rises.”

Islam lays great importance on community cohesion, and ensuring that Muslims build and maintain positive social and civic relationships with the communities in which they live in. The event ended with a strong reflection from Ali ibn Abi Talib “He who has mercy on creation, the creator will have mercy on him.”

The programme is now available on youtube click here and you can interact with Hyderi Islamic Centre via Twitter HyderiCentre

Opportunity of a Lifetime

Michael Kolawole

When I contemplate the future, and wonder about the legacy this generation of young people are creating, I’m faced with mixed emotions. On one side I’m frustrated by the external influences outside of our control, i.e., a weakened economy, reduced job opportunities, poor social mobility and erroneous emphasis on material possession, which adversely affect not only our everyday lives but our long-term aspirations, culminating in our cohort being labelled as ‘The Lost Generation’.

On the other hand, I see this as a great opportunity, a test of character, a chance to demonstrate to the world the substance that we possess. There’s an English proverb that springs to mind – ‘Cometh the hour, Cometh the man’ (or woman!). Most of the greatest and most revered historical figures have been immortalised because of their admirable reaction to adversity coupled with opportunity. That being said I truly feel we cannot say we’re bored or fed up; this time, today, now is without a doubt the most exciting time we could have possibly hoped to be alive.

Happiness and peace can be found via various paths and journeys, from enriching and improving oneself through study; to exposing yourself to various life experiences to achieve a greater understanding of who you are, but in my humble opinion nothing compares to the inner tranquillity that results from the development of love, compassion and caring for the happiness of others.

It is this belief that brought me to the Little Big Peace event – Seeding The Future : How Can We Support and Inspire Young People in our Community? It was truly inspiring to find others in the community who were so keen to not just prove wrong the negative stereotypes placed upon young people but to prove right those who never stopped believing that the younger members of our community have a central part to play in all our lives. The panel of guests of all ages and backgrounds acted as a microcosm for the solidarity present in the community, and showing that together, when motivated we can make extraordinary progress.

If I wasn’t already thankful for the chance to enjoy life to the fullest and work for peace (inner and outer), I definitely was after hearing the stories of the mothers Grace Idowu and Margarent Mizen, whose sons were fatally stabbed in 2008. I’m currently working with a group of volunteers with the help of vInspired Team V to run three campaigns and be a positive force in the local community, echoing the potential of young people for the world to see! To follow our progress you can like and follow us on Facebook Team V – Lambeth, and Twitter @TeamVLambeth. Thanks for reading  : )

Release the Peace!!!

Michael Kolawole, 7/10/12

How we hope to continue

A couple of months ago I was lucky enough to be given the opportunity to visit Auschwitz Birkenau with the Holocaust Memorial Trust after being selected by my school. The trip was unsurprisingly one of the most educational experiences of my life, leaving me with a multitude of questions and thoughts to consider and ponder.

The Holocaust Memorial Trust runs a ‘follow up’ seminar to allow you to discuss your ideas with fellow students as part of the trip experience. During the seminar we explored whether or not the trip had matched our expectations and what we felt would be the most important message to carry forward from the trip should be. These discussions were eye opening; a very quick consensus was reached where we agreed that society had progressed greatly since the Second World War, however, in what was possibly a saddening turn of events the general body of opinion also felt that there was still a long way to go in battling inequality, racism and prejudices within society. So yet again I left the eclectic community that surrounds the Holocaust Memorial Trust with more questions than answers.

I have remained in contact with many of my fellow students who were on the trip with me; setting up an exhibition as part of our agreement to spread what we had learnt, and personally to go some way to carrying through a commitment that I made when I returned from the trip: to encourage people to remain conscious of discrimination and to remain active in their attempts to build a fair and more equal society

Jack Sanderson, 22/09/12

Supporting young people to be peaceful

Wendy Phillips

Peace to me means helping young people to visualise their future, acknowledge what has occurred in the past and embrace the offer of support to deal with and manage the present.

I very much believe in communities raising the child, in my own childhood I knew my neighbours and my neighbours knew me. I had the freedom to play, express myself to a degree at home, friendships that made me feel safe and aspirations that were nurtured by my parents.

No matter where you work and situations in life you have to know how to communicate, a big part of my work in play settings, main stream schools and pupil referral units has been encouraging and modelling positive communication.

I teach young people that there are no wrong feelings but it is how you express them. This requires understanding themselves, acknowledging their limitations and channelling negative emotions through appropriate outlets.

I believe honesty and discussion gives young people an insight into choices of lifestyle, education and health.

Peace is about reflecting on situations, deciding which steps to take next and learning from those experiences.

Early intervention, nurturing, supporting families and embracing professional, voluntary and life experiences help our young people.

This has been a big part of the work that I have undertaken as a delivery partner for the Mayor’s Fund for London. They are striving to improve the lives and experiences of young people from conception, through school, into work, training and further education.

If young people are aware of the risks they can manage them, seek help and stay safe. As a trainer for Kids Taskforce I work with educators, parents, voluntary and statutory organisations to work in partnership to keep young people safe.

If a young person feels safe then they can reach their full potential and feel that inner peace.

Wendy Phillips, London, 19th September 2012

Wendy is one of the panel speakers at our Seeding the Future event at Streatham Library on Thursday 20th September, 7-9pm. Book free tickets here

 

Choosing to make peace

Cheryl Mendes

When I was asked to speak at a local event in Streatham on peace and young people, I was delighted. Streatham means a lot to me as I grew up near Streatham Common and have many happy memories there, both at St Andrew’s school and then Bishop Thomas Grant. More than that, helping young people achieve their potential has always been a passion of mine.

So here we are at the Little Big Peace week. Peace is a funny kind of concept. Peace can mean calm, inner contentment and also just quietness. I can honestly say that when I was a teenager, I don’t think I had really actively given thought to peace. Like most, I probably associated it with wars rather than on a smaller scale. But having two younger sisters with all of us living in one room and being the eldest, I guess without even knowing it, I automatically became the mediator and the peace-maker in our household.

I am sure that if asked, my friends and family would say that I am a calm and measured person but, embarrassed as I am, even I have hit someone in anger. Yes, me, slight in frame, 5 foot 3 inches and normally wouldn’t say boo to a goose. I was 19 years old in the Dominican Republic with my two younger sisters in a merengue bar. My youngest sister, then aged 14 had a guy dancing with her who I thought was a getting a bit too fresh. So my sisterly protective instinct kicked in, I walked up to the guy and  gave him a big thump on the shoulder accompanied by a loud holler ‘get off my sister’.

So my point is that in the right situation and when emotions are running high, all of us have the potential to explode and do things which are normally out of character. But I am glad that I haven’t been in another situation like that and am indeed lucky it didn’t escalate. And this is exactly where things can get out of hand and consequences can be significant and damaging.

Consequences of violence are not just physical and emotional impacts for the individuals involved but can be damaging to families and the wider communities. In the most extreme cases, this can be the loss of a loved one. In less extreme cases, violence can lead to a general sense of fear, a lack of community and worst of all, possible retaliation, which then perpetuates the cycle.

I don’t believe that any of us are born violent. It is our situation and circumstances that might make us more or less so. But at the end of the day, we all have a choice and will have to live with the consequences of the choices we make. It is about taking responsibility for our actions. Or as I like to see it ‘response-ability’. We all have the ability to respond. No matter what someone has done to us or how provoking they have been, we can always choose to be the peace-maker and restore calm to a volatile situation.

Cheryl Mendes, London, 17th Sept 2012

Cheryl is one of the panel speakers at our ‘Seeding the Future’ event on Thursday 20th September. Book free tickets here.

Thoughts on Yoga, Kindness and Peace

Joanna Tisell

“I have to ask you…does practicing Yoga make you a…kinder person?”

It was a few years ago, but I still remember this question from one of my students. We were all having a cup of warm tea after an invigorating yoga session. I could see she was not sure of how to ask, or if she was being silly. This was only her fifth class ever. She explained she had noticed how much nicer she was to people around her on the days she had been to Yoga class. After a few days the effect inevitably wore off and her impatience and irritation towards her surroundings came back, until the next time she stepped onto her yoga mat. The result of the hour and a half she spent in class lasted for days.

I loved her question and think about it often. The thing I love is that she had not tried to become nice, or expected to become more considerate or more heart centered – it just happened! It happened simply because it is one of the many great side effects of practicing yoga.

If you have ever been to a Yoga class you know that it can be very challenging physically. Often times though, it is the mental hurdles that are the hardest to get past. We might have to accept that we cannot get into a difficult yoga position despite the fact that we used to be able to do it. And to make matters worse our friend is doing it just fine. This can be really frustrating. I remember how I used to get annoyed in class when we had to hold a position for longer then a few minutes. My mind would race and my nervous system would be ”lit up”. These instances would come with less and less frequency as I learned to keep my mind calm and my breath even and steady throughout the exercises.

It seems like such a personal and small thing to be able to breath through a yoga pose, or to be able to stay calm while standing on one leg. But, these small things are precious gifts. As we step off the yoga mat and walk out into the world we will be faced with many challenging situations and personalities. What if we could keep our mind calm and peaceful, and breathe while dealing with the task at hand? The peace and calm we cultivate in class is not only a gift to ourselves. It spreads to our friends and family, and well beyond that. If you want to change the world around you, your own self is a great place to start.

The observation my student made is also a reminder of how you have to keep working actively at keeping peace alive and strong.

By continuously nurturing our inner peace we nurture everyone around us. This to me is also what the Little Big Peace Event is about. Celebrating peace in one community leads to ideas and changes well beyond that specific neighborhood.

I believe yoga makes you kinder, and I believe The Little Big Peace Event makes the world a better place.

Joanna Tisell, 05/09/12, Sweden

Thoughts on Peace

Tanya J. Dotson

When I turn my thoughts to peace, I can’t help but to think in categories; personal, community, city-wide, State, Country, Nation and ultimately, World. It’s kind of like that old question, “How DOES one eat an elephant?!” One bite at a time.

I think that most of us when confronted with the enormity of world peace and the media images of wars, of just how poorly we are progressing on this front, become overwhelmed by the entire prospect. We have a tendency to shake our heads and throw up our hands in resignation over the sheer size of the task. I mean, WORLD peace – you must be joking…

It is then that the elephant analogy is particularly useful. What if we (just) started with our own personal wars: family disputes and decades-old grudges and proclaimed, “Right, I’m declaring an end to THIS war right now and I vow to never, ever  engage in it again” ? And what if, after successfully ending our own wars peaceably, we turned our attention, experience and new-found expertise towards neighbourhood disputes- making the same declaration and employing similar techniques? After all, neighbourhoods are made of people, right?

Until ultimately, what if you built enough momentum, experience and confidence to hold a Community Peace Festival and to successfully repeat it, year for year (wink!) ?!  Imagine, if you will, each community worldwide holding a community Peace Festival successfully year for year. And then each city, State, Nation, Country….

Now THAT’S how you eat an elephant!

Tanya J. Dotson

Sitges, Spain, August, 2012

www.synergypeople.dk

 

Making Peace

John-Paul Flintoff. John-Paul will be running our ‘How to Change the World’ workshop on Tuesday 18th September.

I like to think I’m a decent, friendly person, but a few years ago I lost my temper and punched a man in the stomach with all my strength.

I had known Paul since childhood. From as early as either of us could remember, we were close – like brothers. But he grew up to be a big drinker, and when he was drunk he tended to be unpleasant. We had tetchy conversations, in which he said things that were unreasonable. Instead of ignoring them or laughing them off I argued back. In short, we wound each other up – inviting the very behaviours we hated in each other. (This is why conflict resolution specialists speak of enemies as being in collusion, rather than merely in conflict.)

I can’t remember exactly what caused me, eventually, to lose my temper, one evening soon after Christmas. But it started with his accusation that I was not sufficiently grateful for a gift. He was very drunk, he was shouting, and then – well, you know the rest.

When we talk about conflict, it’s tempting to think of big-scale battles, with tanks, jets and snipers. But even the biggest armed conflicts start at the level of small-scale resentment. If nothing is done to dismantle that, they escalate. That’s why even a small initiative to bring people together is as important as full-scale international peacekeeping efforts, which always come too late.

And that’s why I’m delighted to be able to support the Little Big Peace Event.

As a writer, I’ve done a lot of research into peace, war and conflict resolution, but my own practical contribution has been pitifully modest. That falling out with Paul is probably the biggest conflict of my life. For years, we didn’t speak. It would be nice to report that I nobly reached out to him – but in fact Paul called me, one Saturday afternoon. He was desperate, he said, and wanted to kill himself.

Magically, by reaching out, he made it possible for me to feel compassion for him. In fact, I think it would have been very hard, in the circumstances, not to show compassion.

I urged him not to do anything rash and after hanging up I found a phone number for Alcoholics Anonymous. I drove to see him. I was shocked by the squalor of his bedsit, a single room overlooking a busy main road, and the powerful odour of alcohol he gave off – but I tried to hide these feelings. Over the next hour or two, I assured him that I, for one, cared for him and couldn’t bear the idea of his suicide – and that I was sure many other friends felt the same way. That was only half-true: his behaviour, over the years, had reduced those “many other” friends to just a few.

As I left, I pressed into Paul’s hand the AA’s phone number, scribbled on a Post-It note. I doubted that he would call. And for a week, he didn’t: people don’t always do what we want them to do. But then he did. He went to one meeting, then another. Suddenly he was going every day, and talking at length about the AA and its celebrated 12-step programme. With support from strangers who have been through a similar experience, he stayed sober for a week, then a month, and now nearly ten years. He met someone else, moved into a house, and they had a child – a little girl.

We are close friends again, and he has since returned the favour by giving me support when I needed it. I didn’t do much, to help him, but it may be the best thing I ever did.

By John-Paul Flintoff, 21/08/12
www.flintoff.org