By Enda Young, a Rotary Peace Fellow and member of the E-Club of District 1100
On stage, the women shared their stories — the suffering and pain of losing loved ones or being caught up in the conflict in Northern Ireland.
As I watched, I couldn’t help notice that most of the audience was in tears. The Theatre of Witness performance was a highlight of the three-day Rotary peace conference in Derry-Londonderry in May, and the effects of the women sharing their real stories through word, music, movement, and cinematic imagery was powerful.
As a Rotary Peace Fellow, I was excited to take part in the conference, and lead a class on peacebuilding. I completed my studies at Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok in 2012, and now work as a training manager and mediator for TIDES Training & Consultancy. It was a thrill to look up during our class and see 2012-13 RI President Sakuji Tanaka attending our workshop. During Tanaka’s year of Peace Through Service, he encouraged Rotary club members all over the world to hold peace forums such as ours. I also enjoyed discussing my work with members of the Belfast West Rotary Club who sponsored my peace fellowship.
Derry-Londonderry served as an appropriate setting for the peace conference, as a city once torn by civil unrest and violence, but now thriving with culture and a popular destination. Yet even today, there is ongoing dispute over the city’s name, Derry or Londonderry, between nationalists and unionists. This serves to remind us that the work of peace is never done.
The conference brought business, community, political, and educational leaders and peace activists from around the world together to explore making, building, and embedding peace, both locally and internationally. It was an outstanding conference which I believe truly showcased Rotary’s contributions to world peace.
In the words of Irish poet, playwright, and Nobel Prize recipient Seamus Heaney:
Now is the time to come and witness
our journey from conflict, through
reconciliation towards Peace.
So hope for a great sea change
On the far side of revenge.
Believe that a farther shore
Is reachable from here.
Believe in miracles
And cures and healing wells.
Adapted with permission from Enda Young’s blog, Practical Peace.