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1st Jan, 1970

Lucy Collins: International Peace Summit

Posted: September 14, 2017 14:17 by Neal Stirk

Tags: International.

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When I first heard I was attending JCI's first-ever International Summit on Peace, I was excited but really didn't know what to expect.  I felt I would be completely out of my depth but, at the same time, I had a feeling that I needed to be there.  My place was sponsored by JCI UK as the current JCI UK President was unable to attend, and my application was selected after a number of people applied. The sponsorship included 3 nights' accommodation at The Hilton, Kuching as well as $400 towards the cost of the flight.  In total, there were three of us from the UK who attended as well as around 600 delegates from the rest of the world.

The focus of the International Summit on Peace was to create a concerted effort to develop local community initiatives across the globe that address the 16 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG's) set out by the United Nations. Each of the SDG's affect communities globally to a greater or lesser extent and are designed to address issues such as food poverty, protection of the environment, justice, access to economic opportunity, clean water and education in order to create a more stable, just and peaceful world.

The Summit was funded by the Government of Sarawak - the largest state in Malaysia, which is actually in Malaysian Borneo.  To make sure as much of the world as possible was included in the Summit, the Government of Sarawak provided sponsorship towards the cost of the flights and accommodation for delegates from 102 countries.  It meant that people who normally wouldn't have the chance to go to something like this could actually attend.  People literally came from all over the world (Europe, Asia, Africa, and the Americas) including from countries as far flung as Lesotho, Mauritius, Curaçao and Myanmar. It was truly an international experience. 

One thing that particularly stands out about Kuching is that everybody, no matter where they came from, felt welcome.  At first I did wonder why little-known Kuching was chosen to host the very first Peace Summit.  After spending time there, it's clear that it really couldn't have been anywhere else. Firstly, Sarawak is home to 28 different ethnicities as well as Buddhist, Christian, Muslim and Hindu communities that have lived peacefully alongside each other for many years. The mixture of cultures in Sarawak also means that the food is really quite something else.  Secondly, as a large city with a population of around 350,000 people, Kuching is making a name for itself as a go-to destination for international conferences, and it certainly has the world-class facilities and infrastructure to support this as well as to tourism to the wider Borneo region. 

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The Peace Summit was a unique experience. The hundreds who attended did so in the spirit of openness, tolerance and cooperation.  Conversation flowed easily as the delegates were eager to make friends and contacts all over the world.  It doesn't happen often that 102 nationalities are together in the same room. Everyone I met was optimistic and excited for what will happen next in terms of projects and initiatives as so many creative ideas and opportunities for international cooperation that came up as a result of the Summit.  During one of the sessions I was at on 'Creating a Positive Narrative in the Media', I happened to sit at a table with delegates from Singapore, Canada, Denmark and Cameroon.  Together we came up with a fun project that will take place on our respective continents and is planned to coincide with World Peace Day 2018. All I can say is keep your eyes peeled! 

There were also so many inspirational speakers such as Emmanuel Jal from South Sudan who gave a candid speech on how he was forced to become a child soldier after his mother and many of his relatives were killed when he was just seven years old.  Whilst children in other parts of the world were learning to read and write, he was learning how to fight.   At times he was so hungry that people began to smell like food.  He spoke openly about how he overcame severe trauma and a deep hatred for the kinds of people who murdered his family.  It's certainly worth taking the time to look into his story.  Emmanuel was eventually rescued by a charity and went onto become a recording artist and campaigner for peace.  In 2014, he appeared in a feature film called The Good Lie based, starring Reese Witherspoon.  Emmanuel saw things as a child that no human should ever experience and has gone on to create a life beyond what most people can imagine.  

What some people go through in life is just unimaginable and it makes you realise how lucky we are, even though the UK has its issues like anywhere else, to have the security and standard of living that we do in our country.  However, in this interconnected world, a threat to peace anywhere is a threat to peace everywhere and war happening in faraway places will soon arrive at your door (in the form of refugees, threats to national security, terror attacks and even lack of peace of mind) if we turn a blind eye and fail to act to ensure the welfare of others. This is why the Peace Summit was created so that we can protect and improve our welfare as communities and countries and also help others to do the same.  

As much as the speakers were incredible, the stories from JCI members were just as inspiring - ordinary people doing extraordinary things. I met Hawwa Hanjara from JCI India who has been the subject of death threats due to her fight against child trafficking.  So far, she has rescued 30 children from what can barely be described as a trade.  Things like this make you realise that one person taking a stand can make such a huge difference in the world and to other people's lives.  It just takes one.  If not you, then who? 

So, as we are all flying back to the four corners of the Earth, I'm sure that most of us left with a piece of Kuching still with us and, most of all, the feeling of peace in our hearts. We are excited to implement the projects and initiatives in our own communities that we discussed at the Summit in order to make peace possible.  It has already begun.  Will you join us to make your mark on the world?

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Posted: September 14, 2017 14:17 by Neal Stirk with .

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