Closing plenary of Living Peace: Telling a new story
Thursday, August 11, 2016

Closing plenary of Living Peace: Telling a new story

"We must be fully authentic as Creators of Peace and advocates for a new story coming from the transformational liberation of our own hearts and minds", said Jean Brown, conference convener as the Living Peace conference came to a close on 10 August 2016.

The conference gathered 200 participants, mainly women, from 43 different countries to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Creators of Peace (CoP), aiming to further connect and empower women to be peacebuilders, starting with their own lives and communities.  Over the week, the conference provided a safe space for sharing stories and reflecting on what it means to be “living peace” both on a personal and on a communal level, as well as an exploration of what it means to tell a new story.

A key moment was the Encounter with the Creators of Peace Founding Mothers on 5 August 2016 which saw the founding mothers share the journey that made Creators of Peace a strong network of women from around the world. Drawing inspiration from the legacy of the pioneers who founded Creators of Peace in 1991 in Caux and from each other, participants experienced an inspiring and emotional week of connection, intercultural exchange, healing and mutual empowerment. Watch our interview with founding mother Ahunna Eziakonwa-Onochi.

“Knowing who you are is the number one factor of empowerment” – Jin In, Founder of 4GGL

Participants heard from strong and inspirational speakers tackling what it means to live peace across the world’s divides, with head, heart and hands, in leadership, and through forgiveness. The panel on Living Peace in Leadership on 7 August 2016 saw speakers Maryam Bibi, Founder of Khwendo Kor; Dr Gill Hicks, Founder of M.A.D. for Peace, Dr Rosina Wiltshire, first CARICOM advocate for Gender Justice and Jin In, Founder of 4GGL share examples of women taking the lead about a cause they care about and turning it into something that makes a difference for others. As noted by Dr Gill Hicks, “leadership in seeking peace is to take initiative and not wait for someone else to do something about it”. 

“I met my enemy and I’ve seen his humanity” – Jo Berry, Founder ‘Building Bridges for Peace’

Speaker Jo Berry received a standing ovation from the audience on 9 August 2016 for sharing her poignant story of meeting and forgiving Patrick Magee, the man responsible for the IRA bomb that killed her father. They now work together, speaking and demonstrating their ability to see each other’s humanity, dignity and respect.

Some of the most heartfelt and powerful moments happened outside of the plenaries. Participants shared openly their stories with others, breaking down internal and external barriers to conquer inner fears and build trust. As summed up by a participant from Ukraine, “this was a transformational experience for me, thanks to all the stories and the love from so many women. One lesson that I’m taking away with me is that I cannot change my past but if I learn to be grateful for everything I have, I can change my future.”

On Sunday 7 August, participants spent a full day workshopping ideas around how to tell a new story and how to see our stories in a new way. Participants were challenged to draw new learning out of old narratives that they were living out of and in doing so, focus on some of the positive aspects that have come out of their story.

Parallel to the conferences, the annual Global Assembly of Creators of Peace saw the election of a new team, including a newly elected coordination team, elders and ambassador. Delegates also made changes to governance procedures and discusses how to bring the Creators of Peace network forward.

 

“The more we stand together, the more effect we will have” – Dr Gill Hicks

There have been many wonderful outcomes of the Living Peace conference – a renewed sense of connection between CoP women, new partnerships that have been formed, a deeper commitment to the work of CoP, and perhaps the most powerful is the unconditional love that was experienced by all who came.

The closing plenary left participants inspired, ready to take action and bring change to their communities. “I’m going back inspired, energized to do more work on Peace Circles”, concluded a participant from Nigeria. As they sang the Living Peace theme song written especially for the conference by Australian, Glenyce Durdin, these ‘women of courage, women of strength’ (download lyrics here) left the conference empowered to claim their voices and be part of a new story of love and peace that is so needed in the world.