By Kirthi Jayakumar - Red Elephant Foundation
Red Elephant Foundation’s flagship civilian peacebuilding initiative, the Building Peace Project, brings youth of India and Pakistan in a year-long exchange using the internet and digital technology as a medium. Through a curriculum-based interface comprising online dialogue, nine pairs of participants have built strong bonds of friendship with their compatriots, while deconstructing stereotypes and stepping out of the shell of mutual distrust and demonization, which rise solely because of years-old misconceptions.
A Song for Peace
Ever since August this year, we’ve been pretty busy with art advocacy and dialogue. In August, to mark the independence days of both the nations, we came out with a song, Woh Tera Jahaan. Written by our volunteer, Ashay Abbhi, the song is composed and sung by young Anushree Warrier; the music mixing is done by Gokul Eknath, and the video is crafted by Kirthi Jayakumar.
The Peace Diaries
In the months that have followed, our Indo-Pak friend pairs have been discussing some really important issues: Kashmir, terrorism, and militancy; the role of both nations in the future of regional politics; and their own dreams and aspirations. With the recent incidents of bombing at the Wagah Border and attack in Peshawar, our dreams to achieve peace have become more pressing and urgent than ever.
The Building Peace Project formally began on March 1, 2014, and regular updates on the participants’ peace journals are available online for all. Here are a few excerpts from our participants’ online journals:
Chintan and Sheharyar’s Journal
Chintan’s entry on November 13, 2014
Security, anyway, seems like such an illusion. Mumbai and Delhi have so many high security zones yet we have terrorist attacks. Lahore does too. Hearing about the recent suicide blast at the Wagah border made me really sad. This is what I wrote on that occasion:
"Lahore, it has taken all of three hours for the grief to hit me. I'm on the suburban train back home in Bombay, seated by the window, wishing with all my heart that I could be with you. A friend says a busload of students from his college have rushed off to donate blood. I'm glad such folks still live within reach. Miles away, I mourn for you, wondering when I will see you next. You've always felt like home - safe, warm, mine. I hurt knowing you're hurt. I wish all the Sufis and gurus who walked on your soil could suddenly come alive and heal what's gone so terribly wrong. I love you, Lahore. I pray for your recovery."
“I am reading up a bit about restorative justice these days, and that is making me think about these individuals differently. What leads a certain person to rape someone? Why does a young man believe that killing people will ensure him a reservation in heaven? How does someone come to believe that freedom can come only from picking up a gun? These are difficult questions. I am wondering about how one can think of peace and justice in ways that do not condone human rights violations and also create space for those who've chosen violent means to heal themselves.”
Nidhi and Sehr
Excerpts from Nidhi and Sehr’s entry for the International Day of Peace, (September 21, 2014):
“Is there anything like an Ideal Peace Process? Yes and No both because a peace process should be having some essential components and at the same time these may vary over time and circumstances. Here we present a sketches that we believe encompasses our ideas of an ‘ideal peace process’, if anything like that can exist.
1. Trust - Peace process can never take forward without trust, it will lose its way without trust which is like the foundation stone for a peace process.
2. Friendship/People - What could peace be without people? Peace is people and people are peace.
3. Civil Society/Media - Stakeholders with a larger responsibility to guide people and distinguish truth from propaganda.
4. State/Government - political will and engagement at the highest level of leadership.
5. No to arms/weapons/violence - Multiple stakeholders in this can create public pressure for the leadership to abstain from multiplying hate.
6. A South Asian Confederation - Any peace process between India and Pakistan will not succeed if a broader South Asian vision for peace, harmony and cooperation is not its part.”
As the year draws to a close, these pairs are gearing up to come together for a Peace Summit, where they will put down their strategies for sustainable peace between both countries. The “Peace Manifesto” that ensues therein will be sent out to the governments of both countries with a request for action.
The Red Elephant Foundation has plans to scale this program to include other conflicting countries– potentially looking at Israel and Palestine for the next season of the Building Peace Project.
The Red Elephant Foundation is an initiative built on the foundations of story-telling, civilian peacebuilding and activism for women and girls.