Author Archives: nomae

WorldLink Youth Help Design Murals on Anti-Islamophobia

The mural to be donated to NCIF in Carlsbad

The mural to be donated to NCIF in Carlsbad

By WorldLink Intern Durana Saydee, Kearny High School

For the third consecutive year, WorldLink youth leaders are designing and overseeing its Spring Youth Initiative — a group of dedicated high school students, including myself, from San Diego and Baja Mexico who are making a conscious effort toward converting globally focused dialogues into service-based action projects.

Building on WorldLink’s 19th Annual Youth Town Meeting, “Youth’s Influence on the World: For Better or Worse,” the Spring Youth Initiative seeks to further the positive influences young people are having on today’s world.

With hopes of identifying and supporting a local youth-led organization and its mission, we reached out to Hands of Peace (HOP) San Diego, “an interfaith organization developing peacebuilding and leadership skills in Israeli, Palestinian and American teens through the power of dialogue and personal relationships.”

February 27 marked the Spring Youth Initiative’s first event! WorldLink students participated in HOP’s event at the Muramid Mural Museum and Art Center to create murals that embodied concepts of peacebuilding, understanding and anti-Islamophobia.

We arrived at 1 p.m. and introduced ourselves, providing us the opportunity to meet and connect with students from all over the San Diego region. The goal was to produce two murals that would later be donated to the North County Islamic Foundation (NCIF) in Carlsbad, Calif. and a refugee camp in Greece. Immediately, we began to brainstorm on potential ideas for what we would like represented.

The first mural, to be presented to NCIF, included an image of a person with a series of words either leaving or entering their mind. Harmful words, such as misunderstanding, hate, ignorance and stereotypes were depicted to be exiting the person’s mind. Juxtaposed were words such as compassion, tolerance and equality entering the mind. The idea behind this piece of art is that many people, of different ages, associate negative feelings to the mention of words such as “Islam” or “Muslim.” Instead, we as a society need to fill our minds with positive and compassionate narratives.

The second mural will be shared with a refugee camp in Greece. Participating youth designed a series of overlapping circles of different colors with youth’s hands drawn throughout the painting. This mural was based on the theme of unity, which was evident through the expression of intertwining hands. It solidified the idea that while we are different we are also similar, which was expressed through the circles and changing colors similar to that of a Venn diagram.

The mural on the right is headed to a refugee camp in Greece

The mural on the right is headed to a refugee camp in Greece

HOP students and staff were incredibly warm and inviting. We seamlessly came together as a collective, finishing both of our murals in one afternoon. This wonderful volunteer opportunity gave us a chance to express our feelings about pressing topics, such as ignorance and discrimination, and allowed our ideas to come to life through the form of artistic, peaceful expression.


Woman PeaceMaker Reflects on the Historic Trial on Sexual Slavery in Guatemala

Mendez, on left, with Nobel Peace Laureates Jody Williams and Rigoberta Menchu

Mendez, on left, with Nobel Peace Laureates Jody Williams and Rigoberta Menchu at the trial in February

On February 26, 2016, two former military officials in Guatemala were convicted of sexual violence and domestic and sexual slavery during the armed conflict in Guatemala. The case was brought by 15 Mayan Q’eqchi’ women from the region of Sepur Zarco. This is an historic judgment — the first time the state of Guatemala has prosecuted a case of sexual violence related to the war.

Woman PeaceMaker Luz Mendez and her organization Unión Nacional de Mujeres Guatemaltecas   (UNAMG) have been involved for more than a decade to achieve justice in this case.

Mendez spoke by Skype with IPJ Interns Ariel Leuthard and Sophia Shetterly on Monday, March 7, to discuss the case.

Q: How long has this fight for justice for the survivors of Sepur Zarco been going on?

A: Well, this road to justice began in 2003. When some women from women’s and feminist and human rights organizations — I was part of that small group — decided to act against the silence surrounding sexual violence against women during the war. The truth commission reported that rape and other forms of sexual violence were used in a generalized and massive way against mainly indigenous women. A deep silence came after that. The truth commission reported atrocities committed against women, but the same report recognized that sexual violence against women was underreported.

We decided to do something in order to bring those horrible crimes to the public, first of all, to render a type of recognition to the women survivors but also as a way to avoid those crimes being committed in current times. So that was the beginning of a long process of women organizing in groups made by women only, groups made by survivors of sexual violence in the war. That was the beginning for them to break the silence.

It was also a space in which they could receive support from social organizations, in terms of psychosocial support and gender equality training. This training gave them the opportunity to think about rape and sexual violence in general terms, not as something that happened for any reason to them, but as a huge human rights violation that was very much rooted in the patriarchal system, in the Guatemalan military’s counterinsurgent policy and also in racism against indigenous women.

The women began to ask for formal justice and the organizations that accompanied them were hesitant in the very beginning because we couldn’t find the political conditions to achieve that justice so we had to wait for some time. But finally, we were all able to begin the formal demand of penal justice. This is just in general terms how the road was. Of course, there is much more that needs to be said, but this is just to give you an idea that the road to the sentence we got a few days ago wasn’t easy.

Q: What does the Sepur Zarco case mean for other cases of this nature in Guatemala and even in other countries, especially in Latin America?

A: The sentence we got in this case was meaningful. First of all, through this legal process, not only did the Sepur Zarco women achieve justice, but also it meant that we were able to break the total impunity for sexual violence during the war. This is the first one in the country’s history. And, as far as we know, it is the first one in Latin America as well. So it will give hope to other women in Guatemala and Latin America that it could be possible to achieve justice in other cases.

This is important because the Sepur Zarco case is only a small sample of what happened in the whole country during the war in Guatemala. There are some cases that have been presented in Guatemalan court, not as advanced as the case of Sepur Zarco. So, there is a sense of hope for many, many women in the country, in Latin America, and, as far as we know, also in many other countries, especially those countries affected by wars right now.

Mendez demonstrating with UNAMG on International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, in 2006

Mendez demonstrating with UNAMG on International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, in 2006

Q: You and your organization, Unión Nacional de Mujeres Guatemaltecas (UNAMG), were heavily involved in this case. Could you elaborate on the role UNAMG played?

A: Yes, the UNAMG has been part of the alliances that have been built to support the Sepur Zarco women. And, not just these women but also all women that have been victims of sexual violence in war time in other Guatemalan regions. We are part of the alliance called Women Breaking Silence and Impunity, made up of three organizations: UNAMG, which I am a part of, has been working in gender equality training and supporting women to create alliances; Mujeres Transformando el Mundo, which is made up of lawyers and they have been leading the legal strategy; and the third organization called Equipo de Estudios Comunitarios y Accion Psicosocial has been providing the psychosocial support to these women.

UNAMG as well as Mujeres Transformando el Mundo have been plaintiffs in this case. Another plaintiff is an organization created by the victims themselves called Jalok U, it’s a Q’eqchi’ name. So there are three plaintiffs to this legal case.

Q: The testimony of the survivors was so important in this case, especially due to a lack of much physical evidence. What did these women do to prepare to give their testimony in a court where they don’t speak the language?

A: They were very much prepared for their testimony, because the legal part of this whole process is the last part. They have gone through a lot of activities, and they have been giving their testimonies for a long time. For example, they gave their testimonies in 2010 in a Tribunal of Conscience, as a symbolic justice mechanism. That paved the way for them to be able to speak in a formal tribunal. So they were very much prepared.

I would also like to mention that, in 2012, we asked the court to listen to the women’s testimonies in advance — the formal trial had not begun yet. As the women are elderly and many of them are very sick, the judge accepted to hear the testimonies in a preliminary way. So this year, when the formal trial took place, the women were not obliged to testify again. The videos of the testimonies were presented in court. That was very important for them, because one of the victims died three years ago, and the ones that were there in court knew they did not have to repeat the same story. So that was really important.

Q: There were more perpetrators than just the two men in this case, Esteelmer Reyes Girón and Heriberto Valdéz Asig. Will others be charged as well in relation to the events at Sepur Zarco?

A: Well, you are right. Many other people were involved as responsible in this case. And the names came forward in the trial — names of soldiers, names of officers, names of owners of the farms and people who helped the army perpetrate those crimes. However, as this particular trial is over, now it is the responsibility of the federal prosecutor’s office to continue investigating.

Q: What is next for you and these survivors?

A: We will continue supporting them because we are very aware that the political atmosphere is very insecure for them. These women live in very remote communities that are very hard to get to. They are beautiful places, full of lakes and rivers and mountains, but without the proper infrastructure to get there. To get to these communities, we have to pass through rivers without bridges. The car has to go through the river — actually it’s really dangerous and risky to do that.

In addition, several of the perpetrators live in the same communities [as these women]. So, we will continue to accompany them after the trial. There are many things to do. For example, some of the consequences of the sexual violence, especially the consequences of the sexual slavery of those women, were that the women were stigmatized and ostracized in their own communities. So we, as an alliance, are working to explain to the populations of these communities that these women are not guilty, that they were victims. And now we have the sentence issued by the tribunal in our hands to show them.

So, we, together with the women, have to continue working to educate the communities, and especially the younger generations, the grandchildren of these women and many other women who have survived sexual violence need to be educated. We have a lot to do concerning this group and concerning many other communities in Guatemala.

Mendez with her fellow Women PeaceMakers from 2004, Christiana Thorpe, Shreen Saroor and Zarina Salamat

Mendez with her fellow Women PeaceMakers from 2004, Christiana Thorpe, Shreen Saroor and Zarina Salamat

Q: For these women, justice meant telling their stories publicly and ensuring that something like this could never happen again. Do you think that justice has been achieved in this case and that crimes like these will be prevented from happening again?

A: Justice was achieved, of course, as two of the perpetrators were sentenced to more than 200 years of jail. But, to really advance toward avoiding repetition of these crimes in the future, a lot of work must be done — especially from state institutions.

The verdict has a legal part but also a reparations part, in general terms. Part of the reparations was the obligation of some state institutions to build a monument in memory of the women of Sepur Zarco, to build a school, to build a health center. It is also part of the sentence that they disseminate the verdict in the indigenous languages of Guatemala. This is part of the state’s obligation. But, we know very well that in Guatemala in order for the state to comply with its obligations, a lot of social pressure is needed. So, in order to achieve the goal of avoiding repetition of these crimes in the future all this work has to be done.

Q: How important are larger coalitions in transitional justice and lasting peace? What role have coalitions played in getting justice for survivors of sexual violence?

A: Well, in getting justice for survivors of sexual violence, first of all I have to value the bravery and perseverance of the victims. Then, in the Guatemalan context, we have to analyze some aspects that contributed to achieving this verdict. In the peace accords, the prohibition of granting amnesty for people responsible for crimes against humanity was included. Of course, the accords included amnesty for political crimes to those parties involved in the conflict, but it was made very clear that crimes against humanity and war crimes could not get any type of amnesty. This is very important.

There has been a human rights movement that has been working for transitional justice. This larger coalition has been able to achieve some justice in cases. Though it is necessary to say that for many years, human rights organizations didn’t include sexual violence as a specific crime to be addressed in transitional justice. It was only when feminists and women’s rights organizations asked for it to be addressed in transitional justice we began this whole process.

Efforts have begun to transform the judicial system. The system in Guatemala has for a long time been very much controlled by the military and by illegal groups. However, there are brave and honest people in the judiciary, including judges and prosecutors who have played a very important role. In order to value all the factors needed to achieve justice in this particular case, many people in the civil society and the judicial system were involved.

Q: The priority theme of this year’s Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) is on women’s empowerment and sustainable development, and the review theme is the elimination and prevention of all forms of violence against women and girls (from the 57th CSW). In your experience with Sepur Zarco, have you found these to be interconnected and, if so, in what ways? Now that these women have gotten justice, do you think they have been empowered?

A: There is a strong link between women’s empowerment and access to justice for violence against them. In this particular case of Sepur Zarco, this whole process of organizing and creating awareness of their rights as well as getting justice, has empowered the women a lot. Not only the end — the verdict — but the whole process has empowered them.

I must say that the verdict is not enough. Those women live in socioeconomic conditions of extreme poverty. So, it is necessary to address those root economic causes of violence against women together with the political causes, meaning that in speaking about a comprehensive process of women’s empowerment justice is not enough. It is necessary to promote changes in the economy. In that sense, we very much hope that one of the measures included in the reparations sentence could be accomplished — meaning that the perpetrators should provide some amount of money to the women, and if they are not able to do so, the state should do that. To speak about women’s empowerment, we need to ask about changes in Guatemalan society and the whole world.

Three years ago, when one woman from the group of survivors passed away, we went to her house to accompany her family. And it was so shocking. Of course we had been there with them several times, but it was so shocking to see the extreme poverty and conditions in which the whole family lived. It was a tiny house made of pieces of mud, and there was no coffin. The family and the neighbors were building a coffin at that moment. So, I have in my mind the memory of being there, surrounding the body of this brave woman and watching her family and friends cut and build the coffin on the patio. (Just to give you an example of the poor conditions they live in.) We need to advance toward deeper socioeconomic changes in order to really achieve women’s empowerment.

Q: Are the women or yourself experiencing any backlash after the case or have you been receiving a lot of popular support? Is everyone safe?

A: Well, during the whole process we have been receiving a lot of threats, but at the same time a lot of support. During the trial we received a lot of support from university students, from high school students, from the media, and even from conservative people we didn’t expect to get support from. Many people were shocked hearing the women’s stories.

Q: The women involved in the case were present in the courtroom, wearing their traditional shawls. What was the effect of their presence?

Mendez wearing a scarf similar to those of the Sepur Zarco women, at the 2013 UN Commission on the Status of Women

Mendez wearing a scarf similar to those of the Sepur Zarco women, at the 2013 UN Commission on the Status of Women

A: The shawls actually have been an issue. Some of the women don’t like to wear it while others in the group think they are safer if they wear it. Again, in their communities, they have to live with some of the perpetrators, so the majority of them believe it is not yet time for them to uncover their faces. Finally, after the sentence was issued, some of them uncovered their faces as they left the courtroom, so a picture of their faces circulated. They really want to stop wearing the shawl — they are very brave and committed to achieving justice. But much of the group decided that they should wait a little bit longer before uncovering their faces.

Q: It sounds like these women are incredibly connected to each other through their experiences, but also through their culture. Do you think this sense of community has helped them through this process? If they didn’t have each other, do you think they would have been more reluctant to share their stories?

A: It’s a good question. The sense of community played a very important role in the strengthening of this group and in keeping them together. It has to do with the fact that all of them experienced those horrible crimes and that they are part of various women’s groups. But, of course, it mostly has to do with the indigenous culture they are a part of, especially the Q’eqchi’ people, which they belong to.

For the Q’eqchi’ people, the community plays a very important role. The majority of their decisions are made collectively. So, for them, knowing that they are part of a collectivity and that they support each other was so important. They have supported each other in a very deep way. If a woman is sick, the rest of them are supporting that woman. If one women has a problem, the others help. And even if a woman behaves in a way that the rest of the group doesn’t like, they are so careful in speaking with that woman, in a very warm way. That sense of collectivity as an indigenous people has helped these women achieve justice.

For more information on the Sepur Zarco case, please see Clamor for Justice: Sexual Violence, Armed Conflict and Violent Land Dispossessionco-authored by Luz. 

Meet the IPJ’s New Program Officer

In August, the IPJ welcomed Stephanie Chiu as program officer for Women PeaceMakers, the program in which she previously served as a peace writer for Alice Nderitu of Kenya. Chiu works with Senior Program Officer Jennifer Freeman and Senior Editor and Writer Emiko Noma in managing all aspects of the IPJ’s award-winning program.

Q: What brought you to the field of peacebuilding? What has been your trajectory to this work and the IPJ?

I’ve been drawn to the field of peace and justice for as long as I can remember. When I was a young girl growing up in Darwin, a small city in Northern Australia, I remember Mother Teresa visiting my school. I knew nothing of this woman, but her incredible compassion for people and passion for peace and justice planted a seed in my consciousness. Later, in high school, a woman who had been working in refugee camps on the Thai-Cambodia border spoke to my class. I was totally inspired by her story and felt a strong sense that I needed to follow a similar direction.

As an adult I’ve accumulated 13 years of experience working in programs that support women’s agency and focus on peace, justice and conflict transformation. In these roles I’ve worked in Australia, Afghanistan, Fiji, Pakistan and Samoa. Returning to the Women PeaceMakers program at the IPJ has been an ambition ever since I left three years ago. I’m naturally drawn to that which is inventive and provocative, and this program has all of that in spades. I love that it honors women’s power and stories through creative and smart programming. I feel very fortunate to be involved in work that aligns so closely with my own goals, values and life path.

Chiu with Woman PeaceMaker Alice Nderitu in 2012

Chiu with Woman PeaceMaker Alice Nderitu in 2012

Q: You were a peace writer in 2012. Can you summarize your experience in the program in a few words?

Creative, expansive, joyful, challenging, humbling.

Q: Who do you consider your professional mentors?

I always look to those who have taken a stand for peace and justice and who have been great teachers for so many of us in how to channel compassion and passion in an authentic, effective and meaningful way. Some notables include Nelson Mandela, Aung San Suu Kyi, Gandhi, Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King, Jr., Margaret Whitlam and His Holiness the Dalai Lama. Then there are the women whose creativity and words have guided me down new pathways of wisdom and engagement, such as Maya Angelou, Gloria Steinem and Clarissa Pinkola Estés.

Q: What has been the most important experience you’ve had working in the field? What experience taught you the most?

There have been so many meaningful experiences. In Fiji, I facilitated interethnic training and conflict transformation workshops for women; in Pakistan I worked with Afghan refugee women on education, health and livelihood programs; in Afghanistan I helped to establish a network of women-run, independent, community radio stations for women. In each of those experiences, among others, I was learning the value of how to work hard and stay humble. I count it as a life lesson and I draw from it continually.

Q: What aspects of your position as program officer are you most looking forward to?

Working with the IPJ team. It’s a great dynamic here — the people who work here have exceptional skills and experience, they’re passionate about their work, supportive of their colleagues and great company too. To say I’m thrilled to be working with the Peace Writers and Women PeaceMakers would be an understatement. What an amazing group of women! I’m looking forward to supporting each of them in their important work documenting stories of peacebuilding and human rights advocacy, which I know will inspire others.

Q: This is your second time living in Southern California. What will you miss about living overseas?

In the last five years I’ve lived in Sydney, Suva, San Diego and Stockholm. Each city is completely different with its own unique flavor of adventure and experience. What I miss most about any place I’ve left are our friends and family. I have to say, though, the people I’ve met and befriended here in San Diego are incredibly warm and friendly so I feel very welcomed.

Q: Do you have a favorite quote or a favorite author or book? Do you have a motto that you live by?

Albert Einstein said, “Imagination is more important than knowledge.” It was the quote I chose for my high school yearbook 24 years ago and it still resonates. Recently I came across the second part of this, “For knowledge is limited, whereas imagination embraces the entire world, stimulating progress, giving birth to evolution.” The motto I live by is Audentis Fortuna Iuvat. Fortune favors the bold!

Meet Daniel Orth, MA, IPJ Program Officer for Strategic Peacebuilding

The IPJ added two program officers for strategic peacebuilding to its team earlier this year. Daniel Orth, MA, has worked at Conflict Dynamics International and with Search for Common Ground in Zanzibar. In addition to field work later this summer, Orth and Program Officer Kara Wong, MA, are planning this fall’s Peacebuilding and the Arts Symposium at the institute. 

Q: What brought you to the field of peacebuilding? What has been your trajectory to this work and the IPJ?

From an early age I’ve been interested in understanding why people get into conflict with each other and trying to help people solve their problems. While conflict can be incredibly destructive, conflict also creates the space for progress. By working through problems in a constructive way, we can build better, stronger relationships.

In middle school (a dark period for everyone as we struggle to determine who we are) I became a peer mediator to help my classmates work through problems they were having with each other. During my undergraduate studies, I took part in the Washington Semester program at American University where I studied peace and conflict resolution. We traveled to the former Yugoslavia to meet with a wide range of stakeholders, and I was inspired by the passion all of these individuals had for repairing their society. For eight years I taught U.S. history to middle school students and encouraged them to think about how people have used conflict (not only violent conflict) to try to advance their objectives — sometimes for good and sometimes not.

I began my graduate studies at the Fletcher School thinking that I wanted to focus on international development, but during my first semester I enrolled in a course on conflict resolution theory and quickly fell back in love. I spent the summer between the two years of my master’s degree working in Zanzibar with Search for Common Ground, and during my second year dedicated myself to a project working with Israeli Arabs and Israeli Jews.

If someone asked me what I wanted to be doing at this point in my career, I would have written a job description nearly identical to the one for the program officer for strategic peacebuilding position at the IPJ. I consider myself very fortunate to be a part of an organization committed to working over the long-term with local partners by listening and responding to their needs.

Orth worked with Search for Common Ground in Zanzibar

Orth worked with Search for Common Ground in Zanzibar

Q: Who do you consider your professional mentors?

At the Fletcher School I had the good fortune of studying under and working alongside Professor Eileen Babbitt. Through her I learned a great deal about the practice of conflict resolution, and over the past two years she has shared with me her experience and been a great mentor and friend.

Q: What has been the most important experience you’ve had working in the field? What experience taught you the most?

I once went to meet with a local partner organization to discuss the work we were doing together. As we sat down, I started asking a lot of questions and listening. After a few minutes I realized that rather than working together as partners, our two organizations had been in a very unequal relationship with one side dictating terms to the other. By figuring out the strengths and weaknesses, needs and concerns of both our organizations, we were able to build a much healthier and more productive partnership.

Q: What aspects of your position as program officer are you most looking forward to?

All of them? I am excited to continue the incredible field work that the IPJ team has been committed to for many years, and I am looking forward to building on the many successes that we have already had working alongside our local partners. At the same time, the prospect of creating new relationships with new partners excites me. As someone dedicated to education, I am also anxious to work with the IPJ’s interns and the students of the Kroc School of Peace Studies. While I am certain that my knowledge and experiences can benefit them, I also know I will be inspired by them and learn a great deal from what they have seen and done.

Q: Is this your first time living on the West Coast? What will you miss about the East Coast?

I was born and grew up on the East Coast in Lancaster, Penn., and later lived in New York and Boston. For nearly 10 years I called New Orleans and the Gulf Coast my home. It was finally time to make it out here to the West Coast.

Without a doubt the thing I will miss most about the East Coast is being close to my family. My brother and his wife, who live in Maryland, just had their first child and for now I’ll have to be a Skype Uncle.

Besides that, as a former history teacher I’m partial to the history of the East Coast — Tea Parties, Liberty Bells and all that. While I know California has a rich history, of which I’m anxious to learn more, I feel more closely connected to the stories from back east. That being said, I became pretty enamored with the history of Louisiana after teaching it for five years, so maybe the tales of the Bear Republic will win me over after all.

Q: Do you have a favorite quote or a favorite author or book? Do you have a motto that you live by?

My grandfather (who turned 90 last year) has always said that if someone were to die tomorrow, make sure there isn’t anything that you wish you would have said to them or done differently for them. In this era of constant distraction and divided attention, I think this is an important reminder to always try to be present in the moment, to give people your full attention, to listen to them, and, ultimately, to make sure they know they’re loved.

I love reading, so it’s very hard for me to pick out a favorite author, much less a single book to call my favorite. But one book that has been important to me throughout my life is The Story of Ferdinand by Munro Leaf. The book was always a personal favorite growing up, but I had no idea of its illustrious history until recently: a favorite of FDR and Gandhi, banned by Franco and burnt by Hitler, and accepted by Stalin as the only non-communist children’s book. Ferdinand’s willingness to be different, to do what he wants despite the norms and expectations of bovine society has always inspired me. I just gave a copy to my nephew when he was born last year and hope that he too will find inspiration in the story of a little bull.


Meet Kara Wong, MA, the IPJ’s Newest Staff Member

Kara Wong is the IPJ’s newest program officer for strategic peacebuilding. Originally from Canada, she spent seven years living and working in Myanmar before joining the institute.

Q: What brought you to the field of peacebuilding? What has been your trajectory to this work and the IPJ?

A social activist from a young age (I organized my first demonstration at age 10 and my first public sit-in at 14) I had initially planned on a career in law. I specialized in international justice as an undergraduate, studied human rights law in grad school and worked for an international criminal law foundation straight out of school. It was only after I started working in the field that I realized that the law has little meaning if the communities that it is meant to protect have no relationship with it.

This awareness led me to delve into rights education, which led me to the deeper understanding that social change hinges on our ability to sustain and nurture relationships. I have since become a connector of people, places and issues. I co-founded a school that brings youth from different ethnic and religious backgrounds together to study and live alongside one another. I led cross-cultural immersion programs for American high school and university students in Africa, the Middle East, Southeast Asia and China. And now I am with the IPJ, an institution that is a respected convener and connector of global peacemakers and agents of social change. I feel very blessed and very excited.

Q: Who do you consider your professional mentors?

My mentors and teachers have been my students. I have had the great privilege of working with some incredibly inspiring young people. They have taught me and continue to teach me how to forgive and let go of old stories and beliefs, how to lead from a place of humility and how to live a committed and passionate life.

At its core, peacebuilding is about being willing to face your own shadows, to recognize and celebrate the light in others and honoring what connects us all. It is about believing in and working toward a world full of possibility and opportunity. By modeling for me how to be the best version of myself, my students have helped me show up better in my work and my life.

Q: What has been the most important experience you’ve had working in the field? What experience taught you the most?

In 2009 I co-founded Kant Kaw Education Centre (KKEC), a community-based centre in Yangon, Myanmar. Breathing KKEC into life was a labor of love: from creative visioning over tea to hauling furniture and washing walls, to the long, sweaty hours of teaching in crowded classrooms in 100-degree heat. My greatest learning came the day that I decided it was time for me to leave the school. It was a painful but powerful realization that as community-facilitator, as a peacebuilder, my ultimate goal is to work myself out of a job — to give my heart to something with the objective of one day no longer being needed.

Q: What aspects of your position as program officer are you most looking forward to?

What excites me most about this position is the opportunity it affords me to learn, create and share all at once. Having a home at the IPJ gives me access to some of the most inspiring changemakers of our time, to learn from people who are actively seeking out and putting into action innovative solutions to global challenges. As one of the program officers overseeing the IPJ’s international field projects, I have the chance to contribute to creating new and innovative projects that integrate the wisdom and best practices passed on by our peacemakers, distinguished speakers and community partners. Finally, as part of the Kroc School of Peace Studies I have the chance to share my learning and help students to connect their coursework with real people, real communities and real issues.

© Copyright 2015 Mark Lumley. All rights reserved ( September 15, 2014

© Copyright 2015 Mark Lumley. All rights reserved ( September 15, 2014

Q: Is this your first time living in Southern California? What will you miss about living overseas?

This is my first time living in the U.S. period! So far San Diego has been treating me well. I love the sunshine, the ocean, the desert and the diversity — it seems as if no one living in San Diego is actually from San Diego.

What I will miss about living overseas is the life in all the in-between spaces. There is a lot of head-down commuting in the U.S. What I loved about some of the communities I’ve been blessed to live in is how easy it is to connect and feel connected as you go about your day. You shop for your dinner in the markets as you walk to work; you get your shoes fixed while you eat your lunch at a street side food stall; you make a new friend and hear about the new noodle stand opening up as you make a phone call at the public phone. I’m looking forward to continuing to connect with San Diego.

Q: Do you have a favorite quote or a favorite author or book? Do you have a motto that you live by?

Recently I have been re-reading some of Kahlil Gibran’s poetry, and a piece that has always spoken to me is his “On Reason and Passion”:

“… Your reason and your passion are the rudder and the sails of your seafaring soul.

If either your sails or your rudder be broken, you can but toss and drift, or else be held at a standstill in mid seas.

For reason, ruling alone, is a force confining; and passion, unattended, is a flame that burns to its own destruction.

Therefore let your soul exalt your reason to the height of passion, that I may sing;

And let it direct your passion with reason, that your passion may live through its own daily resurrection, and like the phoenix rise above its own ashes.”

Reason. Passion. – basically a two-word summary of how life led me to the IPJ.

WorldLink Intern Learns from the “Grandfather” of Restorative Justice

By WorldLink Intern Alexis Parkhurst, La Jolla Country Day School

AlexisParkhurst and HowardZehr

Alexis Parkhurst heard about the “Three Rs” of restorative justice – Respect, Responsibility and Relationships – from Howard Zehr, known as the grandfather of restorative justice for his pioneering work in the field

Walking into the Diocese of San Diego Pastoral Center for a Restorative Justice Conference in October, I was overwhelmed by the number of people I passed who were genuinely interested in the topic.

I spent this past summer as a WorldLink intern researching restorative justice for the 2015 WorldLink Reader on the theme of “Healing the Wounds of Violence.” But I can honestly say I was not aware of the intricate process prior to my research. Restorative justice is best explained through example, as I quickly learned.

In a simple example, let’s say Tommy steals a cell phone from Billy. Rather than simply punishing Tommy for stealing the phone, a restorative approach means that Tommy and Billy, along with a third party — whether a teacher, friend or trained mediator (depending on the intensity of the crime) — sit down and talk. Billy may ask questions, Tommy may apologize. The goal is that in the end, both walk away with a better understanding of each other and why this happened, resulting in a lower chance of Tommy repeating the crime.

During the conference, I was interested in the composition of the audience. It included those involved with criminal justice and victim/offender reconciliation, families of the incarcerated, and victims of crime.

I had the great pleasure of listening to the “grandfather” of restorative justice, Howard Zehr, who explained the “Three Rs” that are key to restorative dialogues: respect, responsibility and relationships. Through these key principles, restorative justice focuses on the harm that the crime caused, the resulting needs of the victim and the obligations of both parties to “put things right.” Professor Zehr, who wrote the foundational book Changing Lenses: A New Focus for Crime and Justice and is distinguished professor of restorative justice at Eastern Mennonite University, stressed both victim empowerment and that violence is rooted in shame. Although “shame is dangerous, it happens. Shame happens.”

In an extensive lineup of knowledgeable speakers, we also heard from Jack Hamlin, who provided information about Peace It Together, an organization that builds relationships between Israeli and Palestinian youth through filmmaking, dialogue and community engagement. John Stevenson spoke about Beloved Community, a group based on Martin Luther King, Jr.’s ideas on nonviolence and peacebuilding. As a WorldLink program participant, I had met Mr. Stevenson prior to this event through his work for the Alternatives to Violence project, which he spoke about at the WorldLink Workshop “Annual YTM: Next Steps” (See page 12 of the 2014 WorldLink Newspaper).

The speakers at the conference were remarkable in their perspectives and actions toward a restorative future. Experiencing a multitude of brilliant minds in one location was something I will never forget, and hope to incorporate in my own work.

WorldLink Youth Tour Local IRC Garden

A report by Alexis Parkhurst, La Jolla Country Day School

On April 15, I found myself walking along the busiest street in City Heights — University Avenue — at one of the busiest times of the day. As cars rushed past, I couldn’t imagine that a garden could exist in the middle of this concrete world. I, however, knew the New Roots Garden of the International Rescue Committee (IRC) was immersed in this culturally diverse community, but prior to walking there I didn’t realize how significant this was. The moment the garden came into view, it was a surreal jungle in the midst of a bustling cityscape.

Photo by Christian Iniguez Figueroa, Instituto Mexico Americano Noroeste

Photo by Christian Iniguez Figueroa, Instituto Mexico Americano Noroeste

Our guide, Keegan Oneal of the IRC, led us to the garden. As we passed a lot that was only home to weeds, he pointed out that this was what the New Roots Garden had looked like at one point. The IRC helped turn the unused land into a place for local refugees with no place to grow their own food. People who had been farmers prior to coming to the United States desired a place to resume their cultivation, and the 2.2 acres rapidly filled up. There are currently 83 individual plots in the garden, and a long waiting list for a spot.

Perhaps the most fascinating aspect of the garden was the variety of growing methods. With a mix of farmers from Asia, Africa and Latin America, there truly is a wonderful blend of culture within the garden, reinforced by the proximity of the plots. One moment we walked around heads of lettuce, and the next we went under trees with bananas growing. Then I heard a rooster’s call and faced a chicken coop — with not only chickens, but also two peacocks. The farmers share the animals, and by doing so promote a self-sustaining environment that provides inexpensive resources and helps the land. The area is a USDA certified organic farm, run by the community. Oneal described it as a “community farm.” While in the beginning the IRC helped get the paperwork in order, the farmers have formed a leadership council and now have a more active role in all aspects of its maintenance.

Photo by Afarin Dadkhah, IPJ Intern

Photo by Afarin Dadkhah, IPJ Intern

Recently, the IRC established gardens similar to that in City Heights in other big cities across the United States, including in the Bronx in New York. Although the space in City Heights is limited, the garden is a reminder that land is more than just space. As Oneal noted near the end of our tour, “Each food item that we have has multiple impacts behind it: social, environmental and economic. By growing a garden, whether to feed yourself or to sell at a Farmer’s Market, you can make an impact on those around you, and ultimately the planet.”

Again, I was amazed that such a place could exist in the middle of a city. When I walked under branches and past vegetation, it felt like I was in a remote location, but then the sounds of passing cars brought me back to reality. The idea that an environment such as this could exist peacefully between neighbors prompted me to pay more attention to my surroundings, specifically the different cultures that exist in San Diego. When we walked away from the triangle-shaped jungle, I saw a papaya tree sprouting fruit through the fence. To me, it symbolized the expansion of shared culture throughout the neighborhood — beginning at the New Roots Garden.

MA Student Reflects on IPJ Project Management Workshop

By Ali Wolters (MA ’14)

For two consecutive Fridays earlier this semester, master’s students in USD’s Kroc School of Peace Studies had the opportunity to take a one-unit project management workshop with IPJ staff members Zahra Ismail and Chris Groth. As one of the student participants and a competitor in USD’s Social Innovation Challenge, I found the workshop to be very useful both on a personal and institutional level.

Project Management Workshop - Ali and students Personally, academic work does not excite me unless there is a bridge linking it to what is happening in the world, which is why I was drawn to USD’s program — it really strives for that balance. The workshop enabled me to not only utilize nearly two semesters of coursework, it also allowed me to problem-solve and create. We were asked to choose a project — one we’ve worked on, one we are currently working on, or an imaginary one — and use it as model to apply the project management tools we were discussing.

The timing was perfect, as I am applying for funding for a project with the Social Innovation Challenge through USD’s Center for Peace and Commerce. The workshop gave me the time to write down my specific project goal, objectives, activities and outcomes and then talk them over with Zahra and Chris. This was very practical and helped strengthen my proposal.

Project Management Workshop - Ali WoltersThe project, Work for Justice and be an Essential Peace of the Puzzle, is an innovative peace and human rights curriculum that is designed to empower Mozambican high school students to recognize their agency in actively engaging in, analyzing, and addressing community-specific needs in a global human rights context. The curriculum will be developed with the help of key community members in Guijá, Mozambique and then piloted in the upcoming school year. The process of developing the curriculum with teachers, parents, students and other community leaders will be part of my master’s capstone project.

On an institutional level, the workshop created a strong link between the IPJ and the Kroc School. Having been a former intern at the IPJ in 2008, I had worked with some of the staff and was aware of the resources and programs the institute has to offer. As master’s students we are introduced to the IPJ during our first week of orientation, but as school picks up and the readings and papers pile up, it is easy to forget or not prioritize connecting with the IPJ and its staff. This workshop gave us the opportunity to connect with two amazing IPJ staff members and allowed us to further understand the institute’s work with their local partners in Cambodia, Kenya and Nepal.

As students at the Kroc School, we are very fortunate to have access to the IPJ and this workshop further solidified that. I hope that the Kroc School and the IPJ continue to strengthen the intersections for students and staff.

The two-day workshop focused on providing students with an understanding of the project management cycle and introduces them to the tools and skills necessary to effectively undertake and manage their own projects. Special attention was given to managing projects in an international context. This year the workshop included students from the MA program in peace and justice studies, as well as a student from the MA program in leadership studies at USD’s School of Leadership and Education Sciences.

M.A. Student Gains “Invaluable” Experience in Moldova

A reflection by Anna Taylor, M.A. (’13)

As part of my M.A. in peace and justice studies, I was afforded the opportunity to complete my summer internship with 2012 IPJ Woman PeaceMaker Ludmila Popovici, the founder and executive director of the Rehabilitation Center of Torture Victims (RCTV) Memoria. The center is located in Chisinau, the capital of the Republic of Moldova, and provides medical, psychological and legal services to torture victims among (1) former political prisoners, (2) refugees and asylum seekers, and (3) recent victims from Moldova, including the separatist region of Transnistria.


Josh and Anna Taylor, Woman PeaceMaker Ludmila Popovici, and the staff of RCTV Memoria

I was immediately impressed by Ludmila’s knowledge and dedication to advocacy, not only for the rights of her clients, but also to the greater systemic issues related to torture. She is an outspoken champion for the right of rehabilitation for torture survivors, as well as for the abolishment of torture altogether. Because RCTV Memoria is Moldova’s only rehabilitation center for victims of torture, Ludmila works constantly at both the local and national level to raise awareness and change policy. As Moldova’s native expert on the topic of rehabilitation for victims of torture, her expertise is frequently called upon by the media, national government and international organizations — which in turn gave me an invaluable practical experience as an intern at RCTV Memoria.

Ludmila was very dedicated to ensuring that I had a productive and rewarding internship. In the office I worked directly with Memoria’s project coordinator on external and internal documents and projects, and with Ludmila editing her new book, Broken Wings, which chronicles the testimonies of 10 young people who were victims of police violence and torture during Moldova’s April 2009 election protests.

Outside the office I had the opportunity to attend several events and meetings which brought to light the larger context of Memoria’s work. I participated in two closed meetings between Ludmila and a handful of United Nations experts in Moldova, including the U.N. Resident Coordinator. I was also invited to attend the “Forum of Non-governmental Organizations of the Republic of Moldova,” where members of Moldova’s civil society and government came together to discuss current challenges. I also traveled with the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) into the separatist region of Transnistria, an area in eastern Moldova which has operated with de-facto independence since the War of Transnistria ended in 1992, and from which a portion of Memoria’s beneficiaries originate.

June 26 - Ludmila and MA student Anna Taylor

(l to r) Ludmila Popovici, RCTV Memoria Executive Director; Representative from the Austrian Embassy; Evghenii Golosceapov, UNDP Programme Analyst for Justice and Human Rights; Nicola Harrington-Buhay, U.N. Resident Coordinator in Moldova; Representative from the Romanian Embassy; Anna Taylor.

As a student at the Joan B. Kroc School of Peace Studies, I am incredibly fortunate to have access to the opportunities provided by the school’s unique relationship with the Institute for Peace & Justice.  Thanks to the Women PeaceMakers Program, I was able to connect with Ms. Popovici, a powerful advocate for human rights and a generous and dedicated host.




IPJ Trains Women in Politics in Lead-up to Elections in Cambodia

From March 20 to April 2, 2013, IPJ Interim Executive Director Dee Aker and Program Officer Zahra Ismail were in Cambodia to conduct trainings for women in politics. The trip was a follow-up to last year’s trainings, and was again organized by Khmer Ahimsa, an NGO headed by Woman PeaceMaker Thavory Huot.


“I have, since I saw you last, been working to bring other women into politics — but women have many responsibilities and it’s hard to convince them that this is important. So I am here to get more tools to do so.”


Our return to Cambodia was met with many similar statements. Dee and I were inspired not only by the passion and self-determination of participants, but how through our few days together they gained confidence and built trust, particularly across party lines. Eager to get as much out of our and their time together they even requested we start at 7:30 a.m. instead of 8:30, one woman staying until just two hours before her wedding!


In Barsedth (west of Phnom Penh), where the sun beats down mercilessly on the dusty ground, we found ourselves in the presence of 28 women leaders in brightly colored sarongs. The women included commune councilors, village chiefs, district education and women’s affairs officials, and the deputy district governor for the impoverished and underdeveloped area.


Training participants brainstorm their notion of an ideal leader

As participants introduced themselves we discovered that this was, for some of them, their first encounter with women from other districts in the province. Shy but eager, they jumped into each exercise and discussion with increasing energy as their first day together passed. They were oriented to local solutions, not expecting NGOs or outsiders to be the source of resolving issues — issues that ranged from access to community water pumps to convincing rural couples to get birth certificates for their newborns.




Back in Phnom Penh, our training brought together participants from the capital with women from three other provinces, including a number of women who participated in our training last year. Many shared that they had utilized the tools and skills learned to bring one or two, and in some cases even three, new women on board — an amazing feat in a context in which women are not encouraged to move out of their traditional family roles, and where a clampdown on freedom of speech, assembly and movement in anticipation of elections later this year provides little motivation.


As we discussed challenges together, and shared a recent Al Jazeera report on gang rape in Cambodia, the necessity of working across party lines in order to affect change grew increasingly apparent. “Women hold the key to sustainable peace,” participants voiced one after another.


“We must be brave,” explained one woman, “so that women can play a role in decision making, and issues such as this can be addressed.”