Peace is an Endeavour
Peace is an Endeavour
Re-examining and rethinking Hong Kong through the peace lens
Social conflicts continue, now flanked by anxiety brought on by a pandemic. How can Hong Kong, smothered by feelings of powerlessness and hopelessness, find an open window and breathe? How can we learn to examine ourselves and the state of society with a different lens, through which we see strength and hope?
Ten students from local universities gathered for five days in the Peace Fellowship organised by Peace Generation. Using peace as their lens and working side by side, the Fellows investigated and reflected on “peace” and its relationship to a variety of social issues, exploring an alternate possibility for themselves and for Hong Kong.
Building a safe space
The first Peace Fellowship, held in early January 2021, invited local specialists in the fields of law, media, social welfare, psychology and physical and mental well-being, as well as those engaged in international peacebuilding work, to share the close relationship that exists between peace and their professions. Together with the Fellows, they discussed conflict transformation, culture of violence and nonviolence, media & hate speech, nonviolent communication, inner peace and social justice.
In addition to imparting knowledge, this five-day Fellowship incorporated a variety of personal and sensory experiences. During a trip into Hong Kong’s countryside and time spent in a forest, Fellows experienced the inner peace found in nature. In another activity, they learned to listen to their own and others’ needs in everyday exchanges. A formerly incarcerated person was also invited to share his experiences, offering a humanised perspective on how a just society can be realised.
Fellowship activities gave prominence to the younger generation’s point of view and participation. The issues mentioned above were discussed with various real-life cases as examples. Participants also took real-life examples from their own surroundings, helping them to illustrate their appreciation of the interactive relationship between conflict and peace and to reflect on ways of transforming conflict.
In the safe space for open discussion and sharing that the Peace Fellowship created, Fellows learned to express themselves and understand different and even opposing points of view. But more than this, they learned how to rebuild and strengthen confidence and trust between people — even among different communities and in society.
What are peace studies?
Those who wish to embark on the “road to peace” must keep an open mind and break through the conventional understanding of “peace work”. After multiple large-scale wars in the early 20th century, many different social sectors actively engaged in the study of the causes and impacts of war, hoping to reduce the outbreak of conflict. In the post-war 1950s, however, scholars discovered that it was equally, if not fundamentally, important to shift their research focus to peace. Just as when resolving a marital crisis, rewinding to circumstances where both parties were happy and in sympathy with one another is even more important than understanding the factors that led to the discord.
Peace can never pause. Walking this road requires a continuous joint effort that forms part of daily life, by people learning empathy in order to share others’ hurt and happiness. Only then is peace sustainable.
Johan Galtung is a Norwegian sociologist who began to advocate peace research and its practical implementation in the mid-20th century. He established the concepts of positive peace and negative peace, distinguished between direct, structural and cultural violence and developed other theories now central to peace studies. Galtung specifies “negative peace” as the lack of direct violence. Even when violence is absent from the streets, society may not be enjoying true peace. Achieving “positive peace” requires less structural and cultural violence and more justice. Otherwise, despite the outward calm, social and interpersonal conflicts will resurface, creating a vicious circle.
Peace Studies is a broad field that straddles many disciplines and encompasses diverse perspectives. Putting its concepts into practice in daily life is no simple matter, especially in today’s divided and antagonistic Hong Kong society. But with a widened perspective and some imagination, peace can be less remote than is commonly thought.
"By peace we mean the capacity to transform conflicts with empathy, without violence, and creatively — a never-ending process." Johan Galtung
"A genuinely great learning experience! I loved how interactive the sessions are, especially the nonviolent communication session where we could practice right away. The environment made me feel safe to share my feelings and felt heard by others.”
“I appreciate bringing other social issues to light, such as how social justice ties to social welfare policies which are relevant to our everyday lives, and the hate speech that is omnipresent in our immediate surroundings.”
“The introduction to peace studies allowed me to view my advocacy work with more clarity – and to see how peace and justice are interlinked, despite being opposing at times. It offered me a lot more perspective on issues that I previously considered non–controversial and straightforward.”
“I now realised that self–awareness is the first step towards conflict transformation, and it is also crucial towards improving ourselves. Being able to recognise our own privilege also makes us more aware of those in need, so I was really glad when we all came together and brainstormed future projects!”
“If I wanted to listen actively, I should focus on the other party's needs and feelings. What is more important is to listen to my own needs and feelings, which I have often neglected.”
“I especially enjoyed the constructive dialogue and personal sharing from all of the participants, including the speakers. It proved to me just how important and powerful a safe space could be. I think a non–judgemental space is quite hard to come by especially in the divisive environment of Hong Kong nowadays."
2021年1月初舉行的第一屆Peace Fellowship，邀來本地多位來自法律、傳媒、社會福利、心理學、身心靈健康，以及在國際間從事和平建設工作的專家，分享和平與這些專業之間的密切關係，共同就轉化衝突（conflict transformation）、暴力及非暴力文化（culture of violence and nonviolence） 、媒體與仇恨性言論（media & hate speech） 、非暴力溝通（nonviolent communication）、內在和平（inner peace）、社會及法律公義（social justice）多個不同議題作出探討。
一連五天的Fellowship除了知識傳授，更著用體驗和感受，不但走到郊野，在森林中親歷大自然如何帶來內心的平和； 學習如何在日常交談對話中聆聽自己和他人的需要； 更邀來前在囚人士親身分享個人經歷，以人性化角度去理解公義社會如何得以實現。
來自挪威的社會學者Johan Galtung於上世紀中開始推動有關和平的研究及實踐，並確立了包括積極和消極和平（positive & negative peace）；區分直接、結構和、文化性暴力（direct, structural, cultural violence）等多項重要理論，成為「和平學」（peace studies）的中心思想。Johan Galtung將「消極和平」規範為無直接暴力，然而社會上即使沒有街頭暴力，也未必享有真正的和平。要達致「積極和平」，便需要減少社會上結構和文化的暴力，增加公義，否則即使表面看來平靜，但衝突仍會浮現在社會或人際關係之上，惡性循環不休。
「要轉化社會、群體，以至人與人之間的衝突，我們要以非暴力的方法，並善用同理心和創意去進行。和平工作是一個永不完結的過程。」- Johan Galtung
「很欣賞 Fellowship 將社會公義和與我們日常生活相關的社會政策之間的關係，以至充斥我們身邊的仇恨性言論等議題帶出來。」