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Reflections from the Uniting for Peace Youth Festival

"I think the entire festival role modeled the spirit of a peaceful and united global family. Everyone went away with their hearts filled with hope that those around them consider them friends."

  Last Friday we posted a blog about the Uniting for Peace Youth Festival, which took place at the Mahindra United Work College in Pune, India (MUWCI) from November 27th - 29th. At the festival, several PFP sessions were offered by some of our trainers and our facilitators: Aditya Vaishampayan, Abha Jeurkar, Javeed Ansari, Ishita Dharap and Nisha Sharma. Yesterday we were able to catch-up with Aditya, who was kind enough to participate in an interview both before and after the festival. Below is a short Q & A, where Aditya shares some of his reflections on the event. PFP: Tell us about the demographics of the event. Was the turnout good? The turnout was great: about 140 people of mixed genders from over 70 countries came. Approximately 80 students were from the MUWCI, and 60 were from other places, such as Afghanistan and Sri Lanka. There was a lot of story sharing, and this was very powerful. Everyone was moved by it. The host MUWCI students had prepared stories, and there also an open slot for others to tell their stories. We heard tales of conflicts from Israel and Palestine, Vietnam, Turkey, Venezuela and Sierra Leone. In the session that I participated in, we heard stories around the Berlin wall, the Nazi regime and the everyday struggles of the youth in Afghanistan. PFP: Tell us about the PFP sessions. Were they well-received? We offered 5 sessions of 2.5 hours each. All of them were well received, and each one progressed with the other PFP events. The first session was about the play experience and core values. The following sessions progressed into providing an understanding PFP and its application in three domains, namely: social exclusion, youth leadership and education. Finally all of it was brought together by the last session which focused on how to design a PFP program and take it back home. I was one of the leading co-facilitators for the core values session, the PFP in education session and the session on designing a PFP program. I felt that it was really well received. There were people who knew exactly where they could apply PFP, and there were also people who didn’t. Those who had an audience in mind and asked a lot of questions got a lot out of the sessions. Those who didn’t simply enjoyed the play and the laughter, despite the struggle to envision the practical usages of these sessions. PFP: What were participants saying about the festival? Was it a positive atmosphere? The atmosphere was absolutely positive. People were excited to meet others from all over the world. There were stories shared: empathy and listening were exercised by all. People also enjoyed the power of the Non-Violent Communication sessions and got insights into the needs of others and the nature of fulfillment. Many felt that the 7 young adults from Afghanistan were one of the highlights of the festival. These participants were highly energetic and outspoken: they shared their stories with many people and on many platforms. I think everyone at the conference went home convinced that the youth and the civilians of Afghanistan want nothing but peace and are tired of violence. They also sang a beautiful song at the end: ‘Give us a piece of peace and give us a piece of love.’ I should also add that the participants were divided into ‘home groups’ of 5-6 members. At the end of the day, the home group would meet and discuss the day. Those moments were really cherished. PFP: Was this different from any kind of festival you had attended previously? I have never attended a peace festival before and was uncertain about what it would do to add to world peace. I think the entire festival role modeled the spirit of a peaceful and united global family. Everyone went away with their hearts filled with hope that those around them consider them friends. I feel that it achieved its objective of showing the possibility for global peace - it was an unforgettable experience. The festival was different from many peace summits/conferences because here the focus was the individual. Each individual learnt something about their own needs, the needs of others, how to handle them and how to co-exist.   To read the previous blog, click here.