Some Seeds of Peace Sown


‘Since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defences of peace must be constructed’ (from the Preamble to the UNESCO Constitution)

This belief lay behind the Kingston Peace Council event organised in Pembroke Lodge, Richmond Park to mark the UN International Day of Peace on 21 September. The aim was to look at positive models and ideas around peace and peace building, and to think how these could be used in schools. We were very fortunate in having excellent speakers who addressed some of the underlying causes of violence, as well as conflict resolution and the need for a just peace.

Tony Kempster, from the Movement for the Abolition of War, emphasised the importance of using music, striking images and drama when putting a message across to young people. He suggested three ideas that peace educators should not lose sight of:

1.     ‘Truth’ is complex – not black and white

2.     The past does not prescribe the future. For example we do not have to accept war as a fact of human existence any more than we accept slavery.

3.     Positive action by individuals is valuable and can contribute to making the world a better place.

Tony warned of the danger of ‘cultural pessimism’ - specially for young people. He thought young people often saw the world as a fraught and insecure place and the future as uncertain. He said ‘We owe it to young people to set out the optimistic alternative, including the vision of an end to military conflict. A world without optimism is a truly dangerous place.’

Councillor Bart Ricketts (Deputy Mayor of Kingston) and Councillor Lee-Parsons (Deputy Mayor of Richmond) in front of the KPC noticeboard at Pembroke Lodge

Not only did we have some inspirational talks but some of the speakers stayed on and helped with our discussion. We were delighted too that Kingston MP, Ed Davey, came to open the event and was very supportive of peace education and offered help in the future. Susan Kramer, the MP for Richmond Park had recently returned from a visit to the Sudan and spoke movingly about her experiences in Darfur and the complexity of the situation there. It was great to welcome the deputy mayors of both Richmond and Kingston and – very importantly – members of KPC together with a number of other guests.

One of the ideas that came from the afternoon discussion was that we should aim to contact all schools in the boroughs of Kingston and Richmond so that next year the Peace Day would be marked in schools across the two boroughs. Peace One Day, the organisation founded to promote the day of peace, has sent out free teaching packs to all secondary schools this Autumn and these packs are full of ideas focusing on the need for peace across the world.

The next step for us at KPC is to get some of the material generated by the ‘Sowing Seeds of Peace’ day written up and sent out to schools in Kingston and Richmond. We will also contact schools directly to see if there are any ways in which we can support peace education.

Quite a lot of people have commented that they felt the day was worthwhile. I certainly left feeling optimistic because everyone at the event seemed so positive. We are extremely grateful to the Hearsum Family, who run Pembroke Lodge, for very generously allowing us to use, free of charge, the beautiful rooms dedicated to Bertrand Russell - a great campaigner for peace. Of course though there were expenses and it was the hard work of KPC members throughout the year raising money at stalls that enabled us to meet additional costs.

Mary Holmes