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Building a Platform for Peace: UPYF

12th Dec 2015 by admin - , (0) Comment


Creation of #UPYF’s Harvesting Team of Students.

Photo Courtesy: Oscar Åkerberg

Peace is an overused term. It has become a phraseology that we slip into a discussion without any consideration of context. The hackneyed use dilutes the significance and complexity of the term, and we lose the root of what is at the very core of our UWC values.

The understanding of peace was one of the main goals of the Uniting for Peace Youth Festival, commonly referred to as UPYF, held at UWCMC in November.  Students, teachers and volunteers from the campus and all the way from Sri Lanka and Afghanistan gathered to share their conceptions of peace, methodologies to achieve peace, and discuss factors hindering peace. The festival sought to create a platform for individuals to share and understand the global and political contexts of peace, and the complexities it entails.

The festival itself was successful in that it left everyone with something to think about. Benjamin Howells, one of the chief coordinators of the festival, stated that the effect of UPYF cannot be assessed through traditional means, but rather through the seeds of thought that the festival planted in participant’s minds and the ideas that the festival caused participants to embrace and challenge.

But what fascinated me most as an observer was not the event itself but rather the organization of the event. Both first and second year students played a large role in the event’s organization and execution. Oscar Åkerberg, Head of Triveni and chief coordinator of the event, stated that without student participation in the organization of the event, the festival would have been wholly unsuccessful. The work that students accomplished whether in logistics, content, marketing, or design was instrumental to the structural integrity of the event. Like bees buzzing all around campus, the students achieved the large feat of creating a structurally complex event together.

A great example of student participation is the student harvesters. The role of harvesting, in the context of this festival, was the centralized gathering of ideas from each and every activity of the festival. A team of 5 students attended each and every activity and discussion in order to capture significant moments, ideas, and quotes. As an end product, a graphic representation of the entire festival was created, which helped to visually showcase what the festival accomplished. These students had never dabbled in such graphic design before, but the festival enabled them to broaden their horizons and abilities.

Peace and love chants from all over the world, performed by our students and faculty (Sound Engineer: Gabriel Girard, Current Volunteer from Canada/France).

The same personal growth is true of the storytellers and listeners. The Sunday morning story telling involved first and second year students sharing their stories of war and conflict in their homes. Students stepped out of their comfort zones to narrate the horrific effect that violence has had on them personally. Minhanh Nguyen, a second year student from Vietnam, spoke of the horrors of the Vietnam War, and the cost of victory in a conflict. During her presentation, she stated that no ideal or doctrine justifies the loss of lives, a statement that received praise as it resonated with several of the audience members from inside and outside of India. Metehan Fidan, a first year student from Turkey, also spoke of the situation in his home country. He put emphasis on humanizing the horrors of the world and not using violence:

“If people just hear about conflict on the news, they will forget it the next day. You need to make it meaningful to them. Turkey has been using military power for the last 30 years (or more actually). We didn’t have any progress so I’ve been telling people the only way to solve conflict is to try to understand each other through tolerance. Violence always brings more violence. And violence also brings hatred. This is what I wanted to emphasise at UPYF – no violence. After UPYF people came up to me and said that they didn’t know the situation in Turkey was that bad.”

Stories of Conflict: Turkey by Mete (Turkey, Class of ’17) (Video Courtesy: Zuri Camille de Souza (India, Class of 2010))

The festival as a whole demonstrated what we as students are capable of doing through passion; how we can peacefully create the platform for understanding peace, while learning from so many people affected by the lack of it. But more than this, the majority of us learned that after we set up the platform, we should listen, take notes, and learn that peace is more than just a 5-letter word.

– Aditya Hariharan (Class of ’16)



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