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Defining global peace

Aung San Suu Kyi received the Hawaii Peace Award from Rotary International President Sakuji Tanaka of Japan at the recent Rotary Global Peace Forum in Hawaii. David Livingston Photo.

Peace can be described as a lifetime journey that individuals travel through in the quest to achieve harmony — a personal expedition in search of harmony that could extend to the cosmos, our environment, the relations between each other and harmony with oneself. Peace could include a world free from violence and suffering, full of tolerance and love.

In a world that has become clouded with the complexities of globalization and a consistent fight between regions, cultures, religions, ethnic groups and communities, we must look to our own life to encourage change through peace.

Hawaii extends the "spirit of aloha" as a tolerance for strangers and a welcome without conflict. What can we learn from another culture? How can we incorporate friendship, understanding and healing among groups in struggle?

Youth offer us this hope.

I was fortunate to participate in a Rotary Global Peace Forum in Honolulu, Hawaii, recently where the forum placed a heightened emphasis on young people as catalysts for peace. Workshops brought together participants from around the world to discuss and engage in peace education, technology, intercultural understanding, peace through humanitarianism and world peace through personal health, among many other topics. Young people offer us the greatest opportunity to move towards world peace.

Aung San Suu Kyi, a Nobel Peace Prize recipient and member of parliament in Burma (Myanmar), was the keynote speaker.

"Young men and women should not need to think about peace. If they need to think about peace, there is something wrong with society; there is something wrong with their family situation or their social situation," described Daw Suu Kyi when I asked, "What encourages people to believe in peace and especially youth in this process?"

Suu Kyi continued in her response, saying, "The young must also understand the sedative for peace and the drive for peace ... and because there is so much turmoil in the world we live in, that more and more young people understand the value of peace."

Youth must gain access to the opportunity to broaden their horizons and cultural understanding through experiences such as a Rotary Youth Exchange. Rotary International sends more than 8,000 secondary school students each year to over 80 countries where students live with host families and bridge international friendships over a year-long exchange.

There are many opportunities for young people to study abroad, live in another country with host families and engage in a new culture and language. These experiences through high school or during college and university develop international relationships between two similar yet different cultures. These exchanges precipitate peace.

As Aung San Suu Kyi stated, "We depend on our young people to take us forward."

This could be significant in the quest to achieve world peace; however, we must look to organizations such as Rotary International and educational institutions to promote this shift in international experience and ensure greater accessibility. Everyone has a role in peace, but we must empower youth to grow as peacemakers.

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An introduction to Aung San Suu Kyi

FRIDAY, JANUARY 18, 2013  
Photo courtesy peaceforumhawaii.com: Aung San Suu Kyi will be the keynote speaker at the Rotary International Rotary Global Peace Forum in Hawaii Jan. 25. Sechelt’s Kai Nestman will be attending through a partnership with the Rotary Club of the Sunshine Coast.

Aung San Suu Kyi is known by many people for having spent much of the past 20 years under house arrest in Myanmar. As the chairperson of a pro-democracy party, Suu Kyi is a symbol in her efforts of non-violence and peace while engaging with the repressive military-backed government in Myanmar, also known as Burma.

In 1991, she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for her “non-violent struggle for democracy and human rights” — a prize that was accepted by her two sons and British husband. Suu Kyi was held under house arrest in Burma and could not risk leaving the country to claim her prize.

She was released from house arrest in November 2010, following bouts of freedom and detention, but full restrictions on Suu Kyi’s movement and associations were not relaxed until 2011.

Last year in a landslide by-election victory, Suu Kyi was elected to sit in parliament along with other members from her National League for Democracy Party. This marked significant progress for a military power that had denied Suu Kyi’s previous victory as a member of parliament. The military junta has enforced a strong influence over the country since its 1962 coup d’état.

Myanmar has experienced significant change over the past year. Canada’s foreign minister visited the country in a first-of-its-kind stopover, and most notably U.S. President Barack Obama became the first U.S. president to visit Myanmar following a preparatory visit by U.S. Secretary of State Hilary Clinton in 2011.

Obama’s visit marked progressive announcements by the government of Myanmar to ease border conflict, allow the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) greater access to prisons, and investigate political detainees. The change of pace in Myanmar brought forth statements by the governments of Canada and the U.S. to begin slowly easing strict sanctions meant to apply political pressure to Myanmar and its military-backed government.

Conflict has been ongoing in Myanmar and most recently has continued in the northern state of Kachin where internal struggles have existed between ethnic minorities and the government.

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