My Peace Camp experience and my new role as a Partner for Peace. YES!
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“The most satisfying thing in life is to have been able to give a large part of one’s self to others.” -- Pierre de Chardin
For a long time, I have wanted to make a positive change in people’s lives and to talk about the causes of the violence occurring in the Niger Delta. So when the opportunity to attend the Peace Camp presented itself, I applied to be a camper. My experiences there were life-changing.
Camping is about having the opportunity to exchange ideas, viewpoints, and knowledge, and to learn from each other. It creates an atmosphere to unlearn retrogressive myths, make new friends and build lifelong friendships and partnerships. Mr. Nate summed it up that we were here for capacity building and learning; to tell our personal stories about our involvement in peace building activities; and to draft a terms of reference for the Partners for Peace Network. It was on the first night that we first learned how to chant the P4P slogan, “Peace. Yes!”
At the Peace Camp, it became ever clearer to me that an important first step toward peace is having an open dialogue about the causes of violence and about the realization of peace that we are working toward. After registration, all campers assembled in the conference hall to begin our discussion. Different speakers addressed us in turn.
The first keynote speaker, after giving a detailed explanation of what PIND is about and of its partnership with the P4P Network, recounted bitterly how he had once witnessed a man dig and be buried in his own grave; the sense in the room after his personal account was that of sympathy for those who were victims of such horrors. Afterward, the charismatic, eloquent and very intelligent Rev. Fr. Dr. Edward Obi, MSP, began his lecture with a thought experiment. He requested that we close our eyes, sit still and think about how we were uniquely created. He took us through the works of various writers and philosophers on peace building, of the atrocities that have precipitated conflicts everywhere including the Niger Delta.
According to Dr. Edward Obi, peace is the just, stable and predictable condition where people live fully in equity for the good of all society and the environment that support their needs. Too, peace is a public good, but no one person can provide that good – there has to be harmony among and within communities to actualize it. He blamed the existence of conflict on the lack of appropriate information, traditional enmities, retrogressive narratives, injustice, injustice, lack of economic development, gender inequality, and many other factors.
When it was time to pose questions to Dr. Edward, views were polarized as to the causes of conflicts in the Niger Delta region, but I am glad that in the end, everyone seemed to agree that apportioning blames and encouraging violence is not the answer to conflicts. Peace begins with dialogue.
While in the camp I was amazed and impressed by the level of awareness among campers, the enthusiasm displayed by both the young and the old during sessions, and the fact that almost everyone was eager to contribute not only during sessions and group meetings, but also outside of them. During tea-breaks, meal times, and in our hostels, we had countless interactions respecting peace-building. In the camp I learned to respect the viewpoints of others, and during breakouts, I had the privilege of holding conversations with our educators, professionals from various fields, representatives of foreign and local organizations, and the bloggers and social media experts who were present. We made vital connections that I am certain will lead to sustained peace in the Niger Delta and the rest of the world.
I learned many of the causes of conflict, and that conflict can manifest in various forms and at various levels, even in the family. At all times, we should tolerate the views of others and embrace dialogue because it is the only panacea for peace. It is necessary to take to history, analysis and have an understanding of the problem for peace-building efforts to be successful.
At the camp, I was given the opportunity to tell my story regarding my personal efforts at resolving conflicts. In the words of Professor Mark Aniekpo, the guest speaker on the day the P4P network was officially launched, at anytime the process of peace-building has to go on, and if we assume that there is already enough peace-building, the effect on our efforts it would be disastrous. He ended by saying that our goal toward lasting peace transcends chanting Peace. Yes!
That Friday, the Partners for Peace network was inaugurated and the camp meeting was brought to a close. But for me and my fellow campers, the work has just begun. I have acquired the requisite skills to teach and preach the message of peace in the Niger Delta and beyond, and I cannot wait to see my efforts and that of my fellow campers yield fruit. I am so thankful to the PIND Foundation for giving me the opportunity to change my world and serve humanity.