Peace Talks: let us respect and help each other
Peace doesn’t speak for itself, not even in Europe and the Netherlands, as was shown by the Peace Talks at Inholland The Hague on Thursday. During the event, which formed part of the Just Peace festival in The Hague, lecturers, students and speakers shared their visions of peace so that each might make their own ‘little contribution’ to a better world. And this better world begins with yourself – it may sound like a cliché to many, but is no less true for all that.
The winner of the Peace Talks proves that these ‘little contributions’ are crucial. However impressive and important the winner’s message may be, his video can’t be found anywhere online. He was not permitted to post it on social media. That’s because the student of International Media and Entertainment Management comes from Turkey, where freedom of speech seems to have been imperilled some time now.
“Yesterday 45 students were sentenced to ten-month prison terms because they expressed critical opinions about the prime minister,” he told the public in the auditorium, also saying that he was honoured and impressed by his certificate. “In my own Peace Talk I name three people who died during the peace protest in Istanbul in 2013. That’s why I haven’t posted my account on the Facebook page. Otherwise I fear they will arrest me when I return to Turkey.”
The student is critical of his home country, and also of the situation in neighbouring Syria where hundreds of thousands have died since 2010. It began with a revolution to do away with dictator Bashar al-Assad and has ended in a still-ongoing and complex battlefield. “Peace will only have a chance if we can put an end to war and poverty and treat each other as equals. We are all born as human beings.”
A generous heart for refugees
Teacher Melissa Duchak also showed emotions in the auditorium when receiving her teacher award. In her Peace Talk she said that the refugees who come to Europe and the Netherlands remind her of her childhood in Canada, when Vietnamese boat refugees were welcomed with open arms by churches and communities. Her grandparents also proved to have a generous heart.
“The arrival of the refugees changed their view of life. To begin with my granddad and grandma didn’t seem open to foreigners at all. But they showed me that if you yourself help people and you work for a good cause, you get to know a whole different side of yourself. You get connected with the world. And that is the real gift. If we only would all do that. Countries helping countries, communities helping communities, individuals helping individuals.”
Floor de Boer has done a lot of work as a mentor/social worker at the Dutch Council for Refugees, working with young refugees aged between 15 and 18 who are mostly from Syria and Eritrea. Coming in a traumatised state from countries with much violence, these young people spend a longer time in the Netherlands without legal status. Often they no longer have family – who may be dead or otherwise missing – and they have to live with a terrible uncertainty about the fate of their loved ones. They end up here, without a network, often in isolation. De Boer tries to help them on their path by providing education, creating contacts and promoting integration.
“We can’t stop the atrocities, but we can make them feel welcome here so that they can integrate and participate,” is the message that De Boer sends out. “Let us as a country show a hospitable attitude and no longer treat these people as refugees but as fellow human beings. They have the same needs as everyone, a need for attention and love. Let us respect and help each other.”
Students of the International Media and Entertainment Management (IMEM) programme organised the Inholland event Peace Talks as part of the Just Peace festival in The Hague, in collaboration with Leiden University and Save the Children. During the event the students collected money for this good cause.