Former Rotary Peace Fellows start their own peace studies programs
Prakash Tewari, a former Rotary Peace Fellow, is developing a course to help New Delhi’s civil servants prevent and resolve conflicts. Photo courtesy of Prakash Tewari
Many former Rotary Peace Fellows are at work around the world, promoting peace in their communities through education. Some are creating their own programs, aimed at achieving far-reaching goals. Among those fellows in Asia are Maria Saifuddin Effendi, Jianrong Chen, and Prakash Tewari.
Acting on convictions
Maria Saifuddin Effendi is assistant professor in the Department of Peace and Conflict Studies at National Defence University in Islamabad, Pakistan. She and some of her colleagues established the department in 2009, the first of its kind in the country, in spite of opposition.
“There was criticism and resistance from [academics] to close down the department,” who considered it “useless,” says Effendi, a 2007-09 peace fellow at the University of Bradford in England. “But we have survived with dignity. It’s a great pleasure and satisfaction seeing [the department] grow in my country.”
Effendi’s book, Understanding Ripeness in Kashmir, is based on the master’s dissertation she wrote as a peace fellow. The book explores the South Asian region’s readiness for dialogue and peacemaking to address longstanding conflict.
Effendi also participates in conflict prevention/resolution symposiums and workshops sponsored by universities and nongovernmental organizations like the International Peace and Security Institute in Washington, D.C., founded by friend and former peace fellow Cameron Chisholm. These events, she says, “encourage me to work in the field of peace and for peace in Pakistan.”
Dealing with conflict
Jianrong Chen believes that China has a special need for peace studies because of the diversity of its people. With a population of 1.3 billion and 56 different ethnic groups, interethnic conflict is common. Chen, a lecturer in the Department of International Relations at Jinan University in Guangzhou, China, wanted to equip the younger generation of Chinese with tools for dealing with conflict.
“In the past, we stressed harmony and we almost forgot that we have conflict,” he says. “If we cannot look at conflict in a way that it should be, how can we have peace?”
After completing the professional development program at the Rotary Peace Center at Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok, Thailand, Chen began teaching an introduction to peace and conflict course at Jinan University. He is hoping to recruit other academics working on conflict issues at the university to create a peace teaching team. He also plans to hold a peace workshop at his university on China-Africa relations in July.
“What I am doing now is just the very beginning of this long-term journey in my dream,” Chen says.
Prakash Tewari works in the defense ministry in India and is a former army colonel. After attending the Rotary Peace Center at Chulalongkorn University, he received a request from the president of his sponsor club, the Rotary Club of New Delhi, to create a peace studies course based on his peace fellow experience.
Tewari says the course, projected to start at a university in New Delhi in September, will offer the city’s large number of civil servants an opportunity to receive training in conflict prevention and resolution. He hopes the course will “get different sparring groups together to work on dialogue skills -- government workers, activist groups, and civil society groups.”
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