Today was the final day of the training for the Olympic Truce Youth Peace Ambassadors, it was nonetheless a day filled with important lessons and valuable advice on how to carry out our mission as Peace Ambassador’s.
Manal Kelig an important player of the Tourism Industry in Egypt spoke to us about Tourism and Peace.
We may not realise it but we need peace for tourism to be successful but right now the industry is not paying attention to peace rather they are only focusing on the commercial aspect of it. Manal Kelig thinks that if tourism is adjusted in a better model it will be possible to encourage equality and peace
Giving an example Manal explained that an Iranian passport holder is not allowed to travel to countries occupied by the Palestine’s, but at that moment Egypt, Israel and Iran were sitting on the same table discussing issues regarding peace. This is an example of what we as peace ambassador’s can do, we need to speak peace and change everyone’s perceptions.
So what can we do to promote peace through tourism? “Be a Verb, not a Noun!” said Manal, “be an ethical traveller and a positive traveller.” We need to choose sustainable tourism and make sure that we don’t add to the negativity but most definitely add to the positivity.
Yesterday the Youth Peace Ambassador’s were out in the streets of London (Stratford Olympic Park and Central London) conducting a survey to determine the figures of how many people have actually heard of the Olympic Truce. We went around asking people if they have heard of the Olympic Truce. Out of the 1035 respondents only 59 have heard of the Olympic Truce. Out of the 600 British respondents 3.8% have heard of the Olympic Truce, whilst 8.3% of the respondents from 69 other countries have heard of the Truce.
These results go straight to the point we were trying to make before, it is quite disappointing that The Olympic Truce has such little significance. The other day, David Wardrop – Chairman of United Nations Association Westminster said: “You can’t have an Olympic Games without having an Olympic Truce. We’re only celebrating the games because the Ancient Greeks decided that sports are greater than war.”
One of the main learnings of today was the importance of finding common ground to promote peace.
Dolapo Fakuade, UNESCO Looking Beyond Disaster & Peace Ambassador emphasised that an important factor for peace is finding common interests, this is what brings us together. At most instances people tend to look at the negative, focusing on differences rather establishing what we have in common.
Dolapo gave us an excellent example of how mutual understanding created a truce which has been on for the past 10 years among two Yoruba Tribes in the Western part of Nigeria.
The Ife-Modakeke conflict which was going on for more than a century was devastating not only for the tribes but to anyone who tried to cross the area. People were killed, schools closed and inter-married families were broken.
Today the Peace Ambassador’s visited the Imperial War Memorial to take a look at the ‘Build the Truce’ exhibition which was created to commemorate the Olympic Truce. As you enter, on the left side is a small section dedicated to this exhibition. This goes to show that governments and other organisations spend more money on war than on promoting peace.
Even though the ‘Build the Truce’ exhibition was small the message given in the film was effective. It highlighted that the world sees peace as the absence of violence but it actually goes much deeper. It displayed a message of the struggles in many war inflicted countries and even though war maybe over in some places there is still need for economic and human development.
Peace building is a long and hard process… “It needs a lot of work. It needs a generation or two. It needs a lot of people to work in the right direction, never give up or loose their patience” says Abas Al Janabi an Iraqi who was interviewed for the exhibition. This the greatest message we as Peace Ambassador’s can take home. It’s surprising and disheartening to see the lack of interest in promoting peace, I’m sure it costs a fraction of what it costs for war… so why not do it? The answer is not simple, and on our journey we will learn why everyday. But having a strong support network will help us start somewhere.
Truce: An agreement between enemies or opponents to stop fighting for a certain time.
Peacemaking: Reducing the risk of lapsing or relapsing into conflict: laying the foundations for sustainable peace.
Today I learnt that Sri Lanka has it good compared to the extreme struggles and conflict some other countries go through. The Youth Peace Ambassador’s shared their stories and the situation in their countries. I was fortunate enough to hear their stories first hand and I think it’s important that the world knows some of these stories too, so here I am about to share them with you.
Lilach from Israel lives 40km from the Gaza Strip. Lilach, her family and neighbours face the terrors of missiles and bombs on a daily basis. She know that it’s not good for this to feel normal, but that is the reality, this is the norm. They also have shelter’s that protect them, since they are so close to the Gaza Strip they have to run to the shelter’s within 15 seconds. Added to this constant state of conflict, every Israeli has to join the army at the age of 18. Girl’s must serve in the army for 2 years whilst boys serve longer.
Today was the first day of the UNESCO Youth Peace Ambassador Training in which I’m representing Sri Lanka. The exciting part is that at the end of the 9 day training I would be appointed as a Youth Peace Ambassador.
So let me give you some background on the whole purpose of this training initiative. This was first and foremost organised to promote the Olympic Truce and make it more meaningful and to also come up with action plans to promote the Olympic Truce for Rio 2016. The Olympic Truce is a call for six weeks of global peace from the start of the Olympics to the end of Paralympics. And I feel extremely privileged to be a part of this exciting initiative.
Today the Youth Ambassadors’ met each other for the first time, there were representatives of Israel, Iran, Nigeria, Gambia, France, South Africa and England. We were also expecting youth from Afghanistan, Iraq, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Somalia however due to not been granted visa on time they couldn’t make it.
We met with Lord Michael Bates at the House of Lords to discuss the Olympic Truce and learn from his amazing determination in promoting peace. He tried very hard to get the government and Olympic Officials to promote the Olympic Truce in a bigger way since the Olympic Truce was a central part of the Olympic Games and the real reason for the Olympics. There were discussions about it and the UN resolution declaring the London 2012 Olympic Truce was signed by 197 countries. Months before the resolution was passed Lord Bates had the idea of doing something more, something that required a lot of physical and mental determination.