The Peace Fellowship in the summer of 2021 opened amid a new normal shaped by fast and far-reaching social and political changes. For many young people, already standing at one of life’s most significant crossroads, the changes were disorienting. Their confidence in the learning environment and their sense of purpose swayed. The Peace Fellowship offered a unique opportunity to re-examine and rethink Hong Kong through the peace lens and to find a way forward.
From Knowledge to Action
The second cohort of Peace Fellows comprised 12 university students from Hong Kong to dissect the ideas of peace and conflict.
Over the course of the five-day workshop week, Fellows examined key subjects in peace studies such as conflict transformation, violence and nonviolence, trust and dialogue, community participation, as well as transitional justice. While on a full-day visit to To Kwa Wan, Fellows met with civil society organisations and saw first-hand different forms of community engagement, such as community dialogue, field research, and social innovation projects. Sharings by the CSOs’ founders of their experiences showed how dialogue infused their work and how trust was gained and tirelessly maintained.
With new found hope and inspiration, the Fellows proceeded to the month-long Peace Lab during which they worked in teams to identify a social issue to address. Each team carried out desk-top and field research into the social issue identified and designed micro interventions with the support of a mentor from the social innovation sector. The Peace Lab allowed Fellows to put into practice what they had learned during the workshop week and test the prototypes of their micro interventions.
Fellows knew at the outset that safe space was integral to the Peace Fellowship. A safe space is not so much a physical location but a space assembled by the individuals coming together. In the safe space, Fellows learned to respect diversity, to listen to one another, to express their own feelings and needs and to be open to the challenge of different knowledge, perspectives and outlook. Their experience of the empathy and trust that ensued helped form a strong bond among them.
Prospects of peace can seem very distant and the enormity of the challenges of building sustainable peace can be unnerving. To help explain what motivates us, the Peace Generation team pointed to the concept of Cathedral Thinking. Many grand cathedrals - for instance, Cologne Cathedral, the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore in Florence and the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona - were undertakings that took hundreds of years to complete. The promoters who raised the funds, the architects who designed the structure and flourishes, the workers who levelled the ground and so many others involved in building the cathedrals knew that the results of their labour would not be fully realised within their lifetime, yet they still committed. They were sustained by the belief that they were contributing to something bigger than themselves which would benefit the community for generations to come - a place to contemplate and to celebrate, to find refuge, forgiveness and love. Sustainable peace is possible if every one of us becomes a peacebuilder in our everyday life.