Global Youth Rising 2016 – Reflections

This year, from the 10-20th of July, PATRIR and its partner organisations brought together 70 peacebuilders and activists from around the world. Coming from Argentina, Armenia, Bangladesh, Belgium, Canada, the Czech Republic, Egypt, France, Germany, Guatemala, India, Iraq, Ireland, Italy, Lebanon, Libya, Mexico, the Netherlands, Norway, Philippines, Romania, Serbia, Spain, Switzerland, Ukraine, the UAE, the UK, the USA and Vietnam, some of our participants and trainers represented organisations, while others came because of their personal interest and journeys towards peace.13838209_1240187859334411_490142929_o

The International Youth Forum took place in the mountains of Transylvania, where the mornings brought stunning sunrises over the valleys and the nights brought clear night skies and campfires (when they didn’t bring thunderstorms and rain!). Such a peaceful setting was perfect for morning strolls, for those who didn’t take part in morning yoga or enjoy a coffee on the terrace.

We started our journey by coming together to talk about the challenges facing the world today, and we were able to hear about what had brought each person here – what they were passionate about, what changes they wanted to make in the world, and what they wanted to get out of Global Youth Rising. Some had come because they were passionate activists in their own countries, others because they wanted to learn more about peace. We heard about human rights abuses, discrimination, environmental challenges and peace education from around the world as each of us shared our motivations for coming to Global Youth Rising.

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After a day of reflection, where our reflection groups were first created, participants were able to get to know each other in the evening through a Living Library exercise. Looking back on the experiences that had shaped and defined them, everybody wrote down the title that they would have if their life were a book. Others selected the book they would most like to read and were able to “borrow” that person to hear their stories; a beautiful way to start truly getting to know each other.

The following days brought together an array of workshops – often too many to choose from! Participants were given the chance to focus on peacebuilding, learning lessons from the field and inspiring examples of real change; about Monitoring and Evaluation; Peace Education; EU Advocacy; Conflict Analysis, and many other topics. Those who wanted to learn to manage their emotions and develop inner peace were able to sign up to a 3-day workshop from the International Association of Human Values, who specialise in using breathing techniques to help people in the field of peacebuilding deal with trauma and difficult emotions.

13844222_1240189486000915_1018276935_o13658953_727647417375455_3728803542742701973_nIn the evenings, we shared campfires, danced together, watched documentaries and heard some moving and inspiring stories from some of our trainers. Jo Berry, Bjørn Ihler and Asma Khalifa shared their experiences of trauma, but each one shared how they had learnt to humanise the person or people who had caused their suffering – a powerful reminder that those of us who commit to peacebuilding need to practice peace not only in our everyday lives but when we are faced with painful, and at times life-shaking, situations.

The following morning, we woke up to news of the attack in Nice; another stark reminder of why we are doing what we do. Later that evening, news of the military coup in Turkey arrived. In the mountains, where things were safe and peaceful, we might have felt detached and a million miles away from everything; but when members of our group were from France or lived in Turkey, the reality didn’t feel very far from home. Some of us reported feeling small – as if nothing we did could make a difference. In response to that, some of us came together with Erika Kulnys (a powerful singer-songwriter who focuses on social justice themes) and wrote a song. While a song can’t always change the world, it can remind us that most people in the world want peace, and that we are always able to turn to each other when the skies are stormy.

On Saturday, we had a day to relax and explore some of the nearby sights (or to sleep in late!). Some went on a city break to the historical city of Sibiu, while others were able to see Sighisoara, hometown of Vlad “Dracula” Tepes. Sadly, the planned hike wasn’t able to happen due to thunderstorms and pouring rain, although a handful of our participants stayed behind at the hotel and had their own hike in the mountains surrounding the hotel.13754169_729263953880468_5738979964574442049_n


Over the next few days, PAX joined us and brought some of their Activist Hive workshops to Global Youth  IMG_1711Rising, including the Activist Lab where participants created campaigns in 30 minutes and Activist TV, where powerful 1-2 minute films were made over the course of a couple of hours. Workshops gradually gave way to action groups as a lot of our participants and trainers were fired up and ready to start building plans and projects to actually do something. In just two days, we filmed a solidarity video for Black Lives Matter, worked on a statement as a response to events in Nice, learnt and filmed choreography for the Break the Chain dance (for One Billion Rising), while several new ideas and collaborations were formed and will continue to be worked on over the coming months.


Our evenings were inspired by some participants’ TED-style talks, where we learnt about Nineveh under Da’esh occupation, how social media brought about revolutionary change in Guatemala, about V-day and One Billion Rising’s campaign to end sexual violence against women, a community created for peace in Portugal, peace journalism in Lebanon, the Black Lives Matter movement in the US, the Japanese government’s Ship for Youth Peace programme, and the creation of the Peace Science Digest. We also shared an Open Mic night where we were able to discover how talented so many of our participants and trainers are – it turns out we have a lot of talented poets, singers, and dancers in the world of peacebuilding!

On the last day, we heard about all the new ideas and projects that are being dreamt up and started, but it 13716016_729302360543294_481622917084508286_n
was also a day to reflect on what we had learnt and what we would take forward with us both personally and professionally. We ended with a beautiful graduation ceremony, where 1-2 people were invited to give appreciation to each person as they received their certificate. The result was a lot of hugs, and a lot of love being shared – a lot of solid friendships were definitely created during our 10 days in the mountains!

Now, as we return back to our ‘real lives’ post-GYR, we have heard that a few people have felt down, lonely, perhaps frustrated as their enthusiasm is dismissed as naïve idealism by friends or family members. It can be difficult to keep the momentum going, to stay motivated in our quest to make the world a better place when we are not surrounded with people just as passionate as we are. But we will all stay in touch via the Facebook group and our working groups focusing on specific issues, and we will always be able to support and motivate each other when things seem tough. And, of course, we can always meet again… at Global Youth Rising 2017!

What some of our participants said about their experience:

As a peacebuilder and attendee of Global Youth Rising 2016, my life has transformed by all of what I learned in the workshop series and in the many conversations I’ve had with fellow peacebuilders. I am peace. I am love. I am beauty. I am power. This is to be conveyed in all that I do.” Thea Matthews, USA

Having not fully immersed myself in peacebuilding, GYR helped me become clear about where I wanted to get involved, how to do that/which organisations are around and I was able to meet the most incredible and diverse of people in the process. A life changing event for me!” Josh Oliver, UK

Global Youth Rising is about recognising values in every one of us and be ready to collectively contribute to a more inclusive world. Everyone has something to offer and this forum gives you the opportunity to open up and with your gift to build a united and diverse peace.” Sophie Helle, Switzerland

Young people have a power to change the world to better. Only thing they need is to be connected and helped in raising their potential. Global Youth Rising is doing both: connecting and empowering Global Youth.” Katerina Reslova, Czech Republic

Awareness of our self in the paradigm of the current world is (everything?) we all need to cultivate inner peace and empathy to transcend our egos and difference, and include and feel for the other. GYR gives a hands-on powerful and life-changing experience where global connections and perspectives and made to expand our consciousness.” Anirudh Goel, India 


Guest Post: Arpine Nikolyan’s GYR Experience

“Be the change that you wish to see in the world.”

― Mahatma Gandhi

I am Arpine from Armenia. I was inspired to learn about the world at age 14 when my family hosted a Peace Corps Volunteer. I first worked as a student, helping to organize community events, and when the organization ‘’Women for Development’’ became involved in my community, I started to collaborate with WFD. I have been involved with WFD as a volunteer for 5 years… the volunteering creates an empathy that creates conditions for Peace. WFD’s current projects mainly focus on the following main issues: rural community development, women’s rights, and peace education in schools of Armenia. Through non-formal education WFD aim to raise community’s capacities, independence and entrepreneurship of young women in particular.

Through my volunteer work in WFD I was able to create peaceful environment by opening my eyes to the need for peace education. This influenced me to work in the field of “Peacebuilding’’ in which I have taken part of GYR 2016.

After the completion of my university studies, I served with the European Volunteer Service in Bucharest and I would like to share my story of attending Global Youth Rising, which also happened in Romania.

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The most memorable 14 days of my European trip during this second stay in Bucharest and Sibiu, I found myself to be the happiest I have been in quite a few days. Immediately upon my arrival to Bucharest the entire city seemed absolutely perfect. The people, the waterless fountains, the florists on the sidewalks, the insanity of the taxi drivers, the simple bakeries and cafes, the fresh juice stands in the parks, the communist-era buildings, the construction sites, the crowded metro… the all put a smile on my face like no other.

On the first day I decided to visit Laura, who is one of my best friends in Bucharest that I met during my EVS. Romanians are very friendly, open and generous, so getting in touch with the locals and becoming friends with them is very easy. They will invite you into their homes, sit you at the table and serve you the best food they have. They believe in God, horoscopes, fortune tellers and legends, if you are interested in hearing some amazing stories, this is the right place for you. Many people speak English so the language won’t be a problem.

The next day I was supposed to be in Păltiniş and participate in Global Youth Rising 2016. I was the only Armenian participant, I was so excited and that I had a great opportunity from PATRIR and on the other hand for me it was difficult to take responsibility. In the morning almost in the last minutes of missing the bus I get a bus to Sibiu. I didn’t miss the chance to and I explored Sibiu a little b it, even though I was so tired after a 5 hour trip to Sibiu…

One of the GYR groups in Sibiu

One of the GYR groups in Sibiu

GYR participants in Sibiu

GYR participants in Sibiu

Sibiu is the one of the prettiest cities in Romania and one of its most important cultural centers. It lies in the very heart of the country, in the enchanting region of Transylvania and stands out due to its atmospheric Old Town, whose magnificent architecture conveys the visitor through 8 centuries of history and traditions. This lovely historical center is an ensemble of squares, museums and national Monuments of great beauty and inestimable value.

There is something pretty unusual about Sibiu’s rooftops. Most of the buildings in the old Town were endowed with tall attics with small-eye-shaped windows overlooking the city. Locals call them ‘’The City’s Eyes’’, and they are a  characteristic feature of Sibiu’s architecture. The city was full of life and creativity, and an attractive place for photographers… so I didn’t hesitate to take some pictures from many interesting sights and spectacular panoramic views.


The next day we started Global Youth Rising 2016, the most powerful and useful forum for sharing, cooperation and exchange. Trainers came from a variety of key organizations in the field of peacebuilding, including PATRIR, NOY, PAX, National Peace Academy, IAHV, Peace Revolution, Building Bridges for Peace, FCV, and many more.  Participants came from all around the world, from Guatemala, Canada, Egypt, Iraq, Bangladesh, the UK, France, Lebanon, and many more.

Working in groups

Working in groups

Global Youth Rising: a morning common session

Global Youth Rising: a morning common session

The Global Youth Rising youth peace forum provided me with new knowledge skills and broader understanding about peace building and conflict transformation, activism and social justice. I didn’t only acquire and develop skills and capacities needed to be more effective in my further work; I also had a great opportunity to be immersed in an environment of diversity: diversity of people, histories, cultures, ideas, beliefs and principles, where all were shared.


As I prepare to leave Global Youth Rising and return to Armenia, where I will continue to work for Women for Development, one thing I will remember is to be a change that I wish to see… to use the new gained practical skills,  knowledge and experience while working with WFD.


Where will Global Youth Rising take place?

Our application deadline has passed but if you don’t require a visa to enter Romania (click here to find out if you need one) this might be your lucky day – we have some open spaces and are accepting last minute applications!


The International Youth Peace Forum: Global Youth Rising will take place in Păltiniş, a mountain resort in Transylvania, Romania, 35 km south-west from Sibiu.
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It is situated at 1440 m altitude, being the highest resort in Romania, and lies in a conifer forest. It is a
popular winter destination and in summer it is sought for its peacefulness. There is always snow and skiing, and it is known for its fresh air and easily accessible trekking routes.

It was founded by an association – Siebenbuergischer Karpatenverein (S.K.V.) – in 1894 and three villas from that period still exist. Currently there are 4 hotels, 6 chalets and 17 villas and an increasing number of private holiday houses.At the entrance in the resort, there is a Romanian Orthodox monastery; the place where the Romanian philosopher Constantin Noica spent the last period of his lifetime.

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The beauty of the mountain landscape presenting peaks over 2000m high, the fresh and ozonized air of the coniferous forests create here a quiet and relaxing atmosphere. Things to do: walk, enjoy and the cable railway facilitates the transport for the tourists.

Global Youth Rising will take place in the Alpina Tourist Complex; a venue that boasts 84 sleeping spaces, a campsite, 5 conference rooms and an outside terrace. There is also a park where children can play and forest walks where you can walk and relax.

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During Global Youth Rising, we will also offer a choice of two excursions:

Day trip to Sibiu: Leaving the hotel in the morning, enjoying an (optional) lunch in a Romanian restaurant, a guided tour of the city and free time to enjoy shopping, coffee and sightseeing. Sibiu is 30 minutes away from the Global Youth Rising venue.


Some history of Sibiu: Sibiu was the European Capital of Culture in 2007, together with Luxemburg,
being the first city in South-Eastern Europe to receive this title. Even before Romania adhered to the European Union, Sibiu was already being acknowledged as having a European character, from the point of view of its infrastructure, due to the fact that it is a cultural location and because of its European spirit.

The city was colonized after the middle of the 12th century by Saxon colonists coming from the Rhine –Mosselle territory, the first documentary mention occurring in 1191 under the name of Cibinium. Starting with 1366 the city changed its name to Hermannstadt and after 1919 the city’s name became Sibiu. For Sibiu, the medieval period represented an accelerated economic growth due to the guilds represented in the city, which were gradually replaced by manufacturing units and by small, but prosperous businesses.

At the end of the 12th century, Transylvania becomes the greatest principality within the Habsburg sibiuEmpire. Sibiu was the capital of this principality between the years 1692-1791 and 1850-1867. The military Commander of Transylvania relocated his headquarters in Sibiu in 1688 and remained here until November 7, 1918.

The historical center of Sibiu represents the greatest medieval urban ensemble in our country, with numerous very well-preserved remnants from that period, from public buildings and dwellings to defense walls and towers. Numerous elements from the four defense precincts of Sibiu have been preserved until the present. The first precinct was situated in the Huet Square, but only the Tower Passage and traces of the former walls found in the cellars of some houses have been preserved from this precinct. The second precinct still exists through the Council Tower and through the tower of the Goldsmiths’ Square.

2. Hike to Lake Balea. This is 2.5 hours by bus from the Global Youth Rising venue, so we will leave early and take a packed lunch. We will hike to the top of a hill so you need to bring hiking shoes and be in good physical shape.balea

Some information: Bâlea Lake is a glacier lake situated at 2,034 m of altitude in the Făgăraș Mountains, in central Romania, in Cârțișoara, Sibiu County. There are two chalets opened all the year round, a meteorological station and a mountain rescue station. It is accessible by car on the Transfăgărășan road during the summer, and the rest of the year by a cable car from the “Bâlea Cascadă” chalet.

Located in the heart of Fagaras Mountains – in the grand mountain complex of our Carpathian – Bâlea Lake area, is part of the natural reserve (180 ha) presents a typical glacial relief with moraines, terraces, valley -shaped “U” dominated by increases deep crown from which rises from the northeast to the southwest Vaiuga 2443 m peak , separated by Iezerul Caprei peak 2417 m, Şaua Caprei peak 2315 m, Paltinul peak 2398 m.

Trainer Spotlight: a Valuable Contribution from Alexandra Matei

Our application deadline has passed but if you don’t require a visa to enter Romania (click here to find out) this might be your lucky day – we have some open spaces and are accepting last minute applications!


Alexandra MateiTell us a bit about yourself. What is your background?

Hi peacebuilders! I am Alexandra Matei, policy expert on peacebuilding and disaster management currently working in Brussels while proudly wearing my Romanian nationality.

For the past 3 years I’ve been working as a Policy Officer with the European Union institutions both as “an insider” as well as an NGO partner in policy decision-making. Currently I am working with World Vision covering four sector areas – peacebuilding & conflict prevention, disaster management (including resilience), child protection and child participation.

My work experience in these sectors tracks back to my academic background having studied my BA in Political Science at University of Babes-Bolyai, Romania and Masters in Human Rights Law and Research at The University of Manchester, UK. The knowledge acquired provided the opportunity to publish the book “United Nations: The Legal Responsibility for Peacekeepers’ Human Rights Violations” in 2011 after embarking on a postgrad course on Peace Research at University of Oslo.

Before joining the “EU Bubble”, I lived and worked in China, France and obviously, Romania where I served as an analyst, coordinator and/or trainer in the youth rights sector.

How did you start working in peace education? When, why, how did it evolve and what motivated you to stay?

Weirdly enough, I don’t think there was a moment zero when I decided working in this sector – it was more like a self-discovery process. Peace is not similar to a business that you want to join in or stay out of it. It is the motivation, the work and the result. It is a horizontal and vertical process. So, if I were to think of a precise moment I started identifying myself as a peace worker – it is probably the moment I decided to study political science, with the conviction that this is the one way to reach out to the most vulnerable in our communities and contribute to the cohesion of the society.

It surely was not an easy decision as for most people “peacebuilding” is a utopic concept that no one can grasp, materialize or make much sense of. Living in a world that puts the emphasis on quick fixes and results, peacebuilding is often deprioritized and under-funded. Not only personal experience but also hard evidence shows the long-term generational benefits it brings for communities worldwide, especially the younger generations. This motivated me all along – the work I do NOW that reflects in TOMORROW’s unquestionable positive impacts on children and young people who build a safer environment for themselves and their peers.

Tell us a bit about World Vision and your work there. What was it and what motivated you to work on it?

World Vision is a relief and development organization with footprint in almost 100 countries worldwide. We are dedicated to working with children, families, and their communities worldwide to reach their full potential by tackling the causes of poverty and injustice. Through our work, we aim to build peace with and for children by weaving a fabric of resilience through their communities. From Bogotá to Beirut and from Bujumbura to Banja Luka and beyond, our peacebuilding programs help communities protect and empower children affected by violence.

Our tools aim to help these communities: resolve their own conflicts, build capacities to heal broken relationships, and nourish more just systems and structures.

When I first started with World Vision in Brussels, peacebuilding was not a priority for the external engagements we had with the EU. Things changed quickly when we strategically engaged and empowered children and young people from Lebanon to Zambia to inform EU decision-makers of their efforts to build social cohesion in their own contexts. The goal we have set is to facilitate this dialogue either directly or indirectly as well as support the other World Vision offices to profile their work towards the EU as a policy and donor agency.

To achieve this goal I provide input into EU’ development, humanitarian and peacebuilding policies. This means, analyzing existing policies, drafting position papers to influence EU’s priorities in the sector as well as coordinating other peacebuilding organisations to share their know-how of working in fragile contexts with the hardest to reach and most affected communities. In the long-term, our work empowers children and youth in conflict areas, educating and mobilising them for peace. The satisfaction of seeing them thrive and secure a just world for themselves is the most rewarding result of our work.

Have you ever had something extraordinary happen during your trainings? A favourite moment, something that you will always remember? What did you learn from it?

Last year’s event that World Vision jointly organized with United Nations in Brussels and the European Commission at the request of the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon brings a smile on my face everytime I think of. Let me share this story with you – 17 young leaders were invited to engage in an open discussion with Mr Ban discussing various concerns they had. Maruba aged 13 from Zambia was one of the guest speakers invited for this event. He was the youngest and bravest of them all insisting to discuss about child participation at all levels of decision-making and toilets. He also was the one to make an audience of more than 1500 people question themselves – I surely did, thinking “What was I doing when I was 10? What could I have done at that time to make my community better?”

Maruba, was giving us a lesson – at the age of 10, together with his colleagues they started an advocacy campaign to install toilets in their district schools. They lobbied their teachers, their head of school, the district mayor and even the national governments and, by the time he came to Brussels, he could share with us all, not only how young people have the knowledge and skills to bring positive change but also, how “toilets” (their project) have reduced sexual based violence and decreased the cases of hygiene related diseases.

On top of that, due to the uncomfortable setting of the podium where the event was taking place, Mr Ban had to stand up and down everytime he spoke which indeed, was disruptive to the flow of the debates. Maruba, being seated just right to Mr Ban, took the liberty to ask him to stay put and stop his up-and-down movements as it was distressing for the audience and the other panelists.

Of course, the audience and Mr Ban himself gave it a good laugh, but the reflection of this moment is as simple as that – children and young people are best placed to be part of the decisions that affect them directly or indirectly. They not only have the intelligence to reason the situations they live in, but also the exquisite ability to solve the issues they face. For this, child and youth participation should be at the core of any local, national or regional planning and decision-making meeting!

Do you think it is important for young people to be involved in promoting peace and non-violence? Why? And how do you see this happening in concrete terms?

Around the globe, our team equips young people to be agents of peace in their communities. Children around the world have shown they can build peace in their communities and beyond. Here you can find some of examples of my work with young peacebuilders.

Children and other young people have unique perspectives on conflict, violence and peace. It is their perspectives that bring in unique policy and programming ideas that aline with the way children and young people operate. Their participation is important in identifying local solutions and influences that can be pulled together to achieve desired peace and social change. They also have distinctive ways of looking at the opportunities available for them to participate in building peaceful communities.

Several events we organized in Brussels as well as the Global Inter-agency Research carried out on 3 continents (DRC, Nepal and Colombia) highlight the impact and contributions of young people in building peace and some overarching recommendations from children and young people themselves:

  1. Engage children as peacebuilders from a young age to ensure continuity and increased impact.
  1. Encourage multi-pronged and multi-stakeholder efforts supporting children and youth participation to multiply and amplify peacebuilding impact.
  1. Engage with children and youth as partners in formal and informal governance and peace structures in a wide range of contexts, not only those affected by armed conflict.

What are you planning to deliver this year at the Global Youth Rising? Why do you like this theme? What makes it exciting?

Global Youth Rising sums up in three words the increased need to address the positive role young people play in peacebuilding by actively working to achieve a world free from fear. Being a young person myself, I identify with the mission and vision of this international forum – one that centers around young people as global change-makers. I will thus, support with facilitating workshops on empowering children as agents of change, youth empowerment and youth Participation, leadership & empowerment in Peacebuilding .

What does „peace” mean to you? What does it mean to be at peace?

Peace is when people are able to resolve their conflicts without violence and can work together to improve the quality of their lives. Peace means to live without fear and own the feeling of safety; a society in which all members are equal in their rights and responsibilities and access to the basic needs for their wellbeing. When the present and the future is a construct of people’s will “to do things better” regardless of gender, ethnicity or any aspect of their identity, a society finds itself at peace.

What is a peacebuilder? What does a peacebuilder do? Can anyone be a peacebuilder?

Being a peacebuilder is a commitment to self and the community. It is an active on-going process and end-result that centers on one’s willingness to: 1) prevent any type of conflict (including violent conflict) both among their peers and in their communities; 2) understand identities and the dynamics of their community with the purpose to build a cohesive society (including healing, restorative justice etc) and 3) ensure their work supports the sustainable development of their society.

Peace is an universal right! It is for each of us to the extent we accept it!

What are the main skills that a young peacebuilder should work on acquiring?

A peacebuilder is an agent of change – they change perceptions, dynamics, the course of an action etc. As change-makers, they need to understand, analyse, strategise and most importantly, never give up! Peacebuilders’ work is a 24 hour job – peacebuilders are drivers of motivation, are inspiring others (including themselves!) and they need to find creative solutions and be innovative, sometimes in the most fragile and insecure contexts. Peacebuilders need to be futurist in their thinking while being deeply connected with the realities of the past.

I have met so many people who were skeptical about the real impact that one person or a group of people can have in changing the world, and in creating peace. What is your take on this? What would you reply to the skeptics?  

Well, you might just be the flower that starts the spring rather than waiting for winter! Peace is not a miracle, neither a gift that can be kindly offered today and be taken away from you in a day. With the risk of repeating myself, peace is a process and a result – and as any other transformative process, it does not come as a quick fix or effortlessly. Consequently, peace as a result is just a part of the peace project – they reinforce each other.

So, to the skeptics out there – you cannot expect the world to shift around without you being part of this change. The beauty of building peace is that it drags along everyone in this project because dear skeptic, tell me of one person who ran away from peace to embrace living in fear?..  

A message for the young people out there who are considering joining us…

Be who you are – a peacebuilder – and join your fellow peacemakers in July to be part of a global movement that empowers, trains and supports you to make that big step for humanity!

Trainer Spotlight: A Message from Sabin Mureșan

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This week’s spotlight brings you an experienced practitioner and old friend of PATRIR, Sabin Mureșan, with a personalized message:
Dear friends,
After a few years of working with nonformal experiential education and as a radio journalist, I discovered peace work in 2001, when PATRIR was founded. First I wanted to help others solve their conflicts, so I started learning about and practicing conflict transformation and peacebuilding. A few years and post war countries later I realised that I am actually working on my inner peace, understanding my own conflicts and tension, my own blockages and shadows: a complex process of self-awareness and transformation.
Peace starts with me! With this realisation I have been working lately on helping teams and individuals tapping into and manifesting their inner peace resources. I have been developing a platform called Seeds of Happiness, which supports people in becoming  aware about their physical, emotional, mental and spiritual practices and balance. It is an exciting work and quite often I see people going through intense transformational processes. I get feedback on how their lives are changed by our meeting and I even noticed a couple getting married a couple of months after one of my workshops! (Not fully sure about the causality connection, though 🙂 )
I think that any peace worker could benefit from developing:
– a good ability to accept and integrate all experiences of life – pleasant and not so pleasant, as part of the transformative natural flow of a beautiful and mysterious reality.
– a solid understanding of peace work as a part of the living and ever changing Universe, with the essence of it being contained both in the greater ebb and flow of interdependence and in its interconnected parts.
I am planning to bring this two topics at Global Youth Rising and facilitate spaces for dialogue and practice on them. Keep in mind some key words: social permaculture,  spirituality and quantum physics, mindfulness and heart-fullness.
Peace starts with you. Here and now. There is no other place. No other time. No one else. It is all about you being fully aware, conscious and at peace about your every experience of life.
See you in three weeks in Romania!
Be well,

Supporting Young Peacebuilders – Spread the Word!

Have you ever thought about war and violence in the world and wished you could do something about it? Egypt-Women-Protest-Arab-Spring Have you watched the attacks in Syria, Iraq, Brussels, Paris and elsewhere and either felt powerless and saddened or felt ‘a better way’ needs to be found?

The International Youth Peace Forum: Global Youth Rising 2016 is about finding that better way. GYR 2016 is bringing together youth from communities and countries all over the world – many of them, like Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Egypt, Kosovo, Libya and Ukraine – deeply affected by violence and war.

We have launched a global crowdsourcing / crowdfunding appeal to raise support for incredible youth peace workers and activists working to overcome violence and war in their communities. These young peace workers and activists come from two groups:

– dedicated, incredible youth from Iraq, Syria, Libya, Yemen and Ukraine working in the midst of war and conflict to build peace in their communities and working actively to bring an end to the wars in their countries. These are the focal countries for this years International Youth Peace Forum and we’re trying to raise support for 20 participants from these countries;

– incredible young peace workers from around the world – from across Africa, Central and Latin America, Asia and elsewhere. These are people who are already doing amazing work, and we’re trying to bring them together to help learn more from and with each other, and to help strengthen each other further with practical skills and deep training in peacebuilding, working to prevent armed conflict and violence, and reconciliation, healing and recovery after war.

We have already had some fantastic applications from dedicated young people from across the world, and with your help we might be able to help them join us this July. If you know anyone who can help, please spread the word!

Support Us Today!

Support us today!

Support us today! 
You can also reach us directly at if you’d like to speak to any in our team, receive more information or ask specific questions about the programme and support for young peace leaders.
Click here to support us today

For those supporting – thank you. Your contribution helping young and emerging peace leaders participate in the Forum can help change the lives of those taking part, but can also help directly contribute to ending the wars in their communities and countries. Thank you for being part of this, and for contributing to a real and necessary change.

All contributions will go through Works of Wonder International – one of the organising partners of the Global Youth Rising: International Youth Peace Forum 2016. 100% of each donation received will go directly to the Forum.

For those of you joining us in July, we are very excited – only a few weeks left to go!

Spotlighting You!

Can you feel it? We certainly can. We are a little bit excited, a little bit curious and very happy! The International Youth Peace Forum: Global Youth Rising 2016 is only one month away. Over the past weeks and months, we have spoken to a lot of you, and we can’t wait to finally meet you!

There are also a few places remaining for participants who don’t need a visa for Romania (the United States, Canada, EU, Japan, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand) – so if you read this and you haven’t applied yet, you can do it now here. And get ready for some more exciting news: if you have already been accepted and you help recruit a friend or colleague to participate in GYR 2016, your own participation fee will be reduced by 5% per accepted applicant (up to 20% off the original programme fee). For those wanting an even more adventurous experience we also have a special price of Euros 200 if you camp in a tent during the programme.

Who’s Taking Part? A Global Community
Only one month left, so it’s time we have a look at all the people who will be attending so far. You, our participants and trainers, are a truly colourful crowd coming from all over the world – just as we  hoped for! We have participants from local, national and international organisations, from social movements, community struggles, women’s movements, peace organisations, teachers, journalists, community mobilisers, activists, artists and more.

International Youth Peace Forum: Global Youth Rising 2016 is promising to be colourful!

You are representing six out of seven continents. We’re only missing Antarctica. That’s okay, after all we need to have some goals left for next year’s edition!

Approximately 60 percent of our participants are female, reflecting the critical role that women play in peacebuilding, conflict transformation and reconciliation processes. The more attentive readers of our blog will already have noticed that this pattern is also visible with regard to our trainers.

So how can you get involved and contribute until you come to meet us at Global Youth Rising 2016? Here are a couple of suggestions:

  1. Spread the word. We’re accepting applications from qualified and enthusiast participants until 13 June. Many of our participants are coming from the same organisation, enabling them to travel together, cover a wider array of workshops and support each other. If you haven’t already done it, tell your friends, fellow activists and colleagues that they don’t have to be green with envy only because you applied and they didn’t – there is still time. Unfortunately, at this point, we can only accept applicants who don’t require a visa to enter Romania, but this means that activists and youth working for peacebuilding and positive change from the United States, Canada, the European Union, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Australia, New Zealand and a few other countries can still apply – and we’d love to welcome you!
  2. Have a look at our workshops. We’re constantly updating our agenda to reflect the latest changes in workshops and activities, so it’s worth checking back on a regular basis here. We have nearly 40 training programmes, workshops, design and strategy sessions over 10 days – covering everything from practical deep skills training on peacebuilding, nonviolent action, practical measures for what can be done to support the people of Syria, Iraq, Libya and Yemen in ending the wars in those countries; sharing and exchange sessions on what is happening in each of our countries and communities; yoga, mediation and practical skills for strengthening inner resilience, well-being and peace while working for social change and peacebuilding in often difficult contexts, and much, much, much more!
  3. Think about how you can present your current work. GYR is about being involved and active. We are a community of individuals, organisations and movements from around the world. As such, we want to ask you to share with us your own work and experiences. Your past, present and future work is important to us, and we hope to learn much about the background and context you’re working in. We encourage everybody to think about how you can share your work, your expertise, your struggles, what you’ve learned, challenges you face, and what you feel is important to bring real change in your community and more broadly. We’re setting up an e-learning platform that will be available over the coming days to help enable us to connect, share and collaborate even more before the official beginning of the forum.

Did we miss anything? Do you have other ideas how to pass the time? Feel free to drop us a comment with your suggestion and we’ll add it to the list!

Building a better world for children – World Vision

Armed conflict and ongoing drought make life very hard on most of us, but the ones truly experiencing the negative effect of armed conflicts (and not only) are children.

World Vision is a Christian humanitarian organization dedicated to working with children, families, and their communities worldwide to reach their full potential by tackling the root causes of poverty and injustice. They work in nearly 100 countries, serving all people, regardless of religion, race, ethnicity, or gender.

They believe in a full solution to poverty and injustice, provide emergency assistance to children and families affected by disasters and conflict, partner with communities for long-term solutions to alleviate poverty, and advocate for justice on behalf of the poor.

World Vision has and integrative, holistic view of resolving the issues committed to:

  • Transformational development that is community-based and sustainable, focused especially on the needs of children.

  • Emergency relief that assists people afflicted by conflict or disaster.

  • Promotion of justice that seeks to change unjust structures affecting the poor among whom we work.

  • Partnerships with churches to contribute to spiritual and social transformation.

  • Public awareness that leads to informed understanding, giving, involvement, and prayer.

  • Witness to Jesus Christ by life, deed, word, and sign that encourages people to respond to the Gospel.

The areas of work are: education, child protection, health, disaster relief, economic development, promoting gender equality.

At the Global Youth Rising 2016 International Youth Peace Forum World Vision will have training courses and workshops on: Youth participation, Advocacy towards the EU and Countering Violent Extremism, and we are pleased to welcome trainer Alexandra Matei to join us. Join is us in our journey to make this world a better place and apply now if you haven’t already.

Trainer Spotlight: A Meaningful Conversation with Meg Villanueva

MegHello and welcome to the Trainer Spotlight! Why don’t you tell us a bit about yourself?

Hello! My name is Meg Villanueva. I consider myself a strategist in sustainable peacebuilding and youth work, having worked in both sectors in the past 10 years. In the past 2 years I´ve been exploring and professionally learning about how to bridge sustainability and peacebuilding, with a special focus in the youth work sector.

I am also a freelance trainer and peace educator, mainly working in the fields of conflict transformation, nonviolent communication and advocacy. I have an extensive background in grassroots peace and conflict work especially in Asia (Philippines and Indonesia), Europe (South Caucasus region), and the Mediterranean (MENA region).

I have a master´s degree in Peace and Reconciliation Studies from the Philippines (2008).

I am also a Yoga Alliance certified RYT-200 yoga instructor, specialising in yoga as a healing and self-transformation practice. In September 2015, I moved to Zugdidi, Georgia where I slowly started a local yoga community, and where I am using yoga, mindfulness and environmental sustainability as tools for inspiring others to live a healthier and happier life.

I founded the project 366DaysofGratitude, an online community journal promoting happiness and gratitude. I also co-founded Mind and Surf, a social enterprise start-up organising personalised eco-retreats on surfing, yoga, meditation and sustainability.

How did you start working in peace education? When, why, how did it evolve and what motivated you to stay?

I can say I am lucky enough to have both parents working in the same field as I do. They were the ones who inspired me to pursue peace work through their own project engagements and dedication, as well as through their examples of a simple and good lifestyle.

Since the age of 15, I started tagging along with my father in his community outreach programmes (streetchildren summer camps, mangrove reforestation projects, coastal clean-ups, etc), you name it, I was there. One day, he asked me to do a documentary film of one of his projects, a 10-year coastal community empowerment programme in Cauayan, Philippines. I was taking a shot a filmmaking then, so I gladly agreed. Living with the community for a weekend to capture their stories for the documentary, I realized how lucky I was to have my basic needs, and felt that I need to do something more to make a difference in other people´s lives. I started becoming more and more involved with the projects my parents were involved in, and when I was in university, I decided I´d like to focus on disarmament advocacy, specifically on small arms and light weapons (SALW) and landmines.


 How does peacebuilding work relate to environmental sustainability?

To answer this question, I would like to open sustainability in its broader sense instead of just limiting it to its environmental aspect. Sustainability for me includes economic, socio-political and environmental dimensions. Economic sustainability is about a society´s economic equity and well-being, where there´s equal access to resources, basic needs and services, health, wealth (rich/poor gap) and livelihoods, as well as the efficient use of natural resources. Socio-political sustainability is about social equality – having equal participation in society, pluralism, respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, non-discrimination, respect for diversity in terms of race, background, etc. Lastly, environmental sustainability is about the conscious use of our resources for the present and future. Sustainability in this sense, goes hand in had with peacebuilding by promoting its shared core – sustainable peace. This means that in any peacebuilding effort, sustainability in its broadest sense should be consciously promoted, because the main goal of peacebuilding is to establish/create positive peace – a stable environment where there is the absence of direct, structural and cultural violence (sustainable peace) through nonviolent/peaceful means. More often than not, sustainability is just defined in its ‘environmental’ sense, when in fact, it is a cross-cutting/transversal concept that should always be considered in any conflict/peacebuilding intervention. Peacebuilding is not just about fixing the root causes and core problems that underlie a conflict, but is also about changing patterns of attitudes, behaviors and context that are linked into it.


Have you ever had something extraordinary happen during your trainings?

Every training I run and facilitate has their unique and special characteristics. They are all meaningful to me in their own ways, as much as they are all different – thanks to the diversity of participants, the diversity of the theme we tackle, the environment, as well as the co-trainers and organizers I work with. I once shared with a co-trainer that in every training, there is always this special moment that I look forward to, and it is during the closing circle of the training (the last circle with the participants) where participants share with everyone what they have learned, their reflections of the week, or simply some things that they discovered. It is this moment of every training when I feel and realize that I have done a meaningful job. It is in this moment that I gather strength and inspiration again to continue what I am doing (despite the challenging situations around us). And most importantly, it is in this moment that I feel grateful for being given the opportunity to do what I love to do.

Do you think it is important for young people to be involved in promoting peace and non-violence?

Yes of course! It´s not even a question to me anymore =) Young people are part of the present (contrary to what we always hear that “youth are the future”). Youth as actors of peace and of change, are responsible in transforming the society they live in. Concretely, there are many ways, first, I believe, is to be at peace with oneself, as it is through one´s way of living the values of peace, can peace be spread around the world.


What are you planning to deliver this year at Global Youth Rising?

I will deliver a workshop on the link between sustainability and peacebuilding, especially in the field of peace work. I am very excited about this theme, because I still continue to learn more and more about it, and sharing it with people from other cultures and backgrounds in the Global Youth Rising would be such an enriching experience.

What does „peace” mean to you? 

Peace for me is the absence of direct, structural, socio-political, cultural and environmental violence, and the presence of positive conditions that support the well-being of a just and sustainable society. Yes, sounds like Galtung, but hey, it makes sense to me!

What is a peacebuilder? 

A peacebuilder is someone who 1) believes that peace is both an aspiration and a process towards that goal; 2) works towards sustainable peace through his/her own examples, initiatives and actions; and 3) rejects violence in all its forms! (peace is the only way, no matter how difficult it is).

I have met so many people who were skeptical about the real impact that one person or a group of people can have in changing the world, and in creating peace. What is your take on this? What would you reply to the skeptics?

I have met many of these people, too! Impact is very long term, and therefore challenging to measure. We should all understand that peace is a process – and dynamic and a long one. What is important is living the now (present) with such conviction that we are doing our part to make this world a better place. It’s good to think about impact, to think about a vision and a mission for what you do, it guides us, but to talk about impact like we have achieved it already is like writing a fantasy or fiction book because it is not there yet. To me, it is not just about the changes we can make in the future over-all, but also the little changes that we are making at this very moment. I don´t know if we can ever change the world 100%, what is 100% change anyway? The world is always changing and moving. But what I do know is that every step counts, and it is also important not to overlook the day to day that we live not just for ourselves, but for the benefit of the rest of humanity….

….and this is why I like to explore the theme of sustainability and peace work together!

So my reply to the ‘skeptics’ – I am sure we all want a better world, a peaceful world, a happier world – we want it for ourselves and our families, communities, countries. And we are all part of making it happen, not for tomorrow, not for next year, but now, and I think this is where each of us matters.

A message for the young people out there who are considering joining us…

There is a peace superhero in each and every one of us. With this, we can create a movement that will rock this world!

The Role of Theatre in Peacebuilding

“Many artists today are deeply committed to making work that addresses pressing social issues and Screen Shot 2016-05-25 at 18.18.08changes the way we perceive the world. While some artists use traditional forms of visual, literary, or performing arts to make work that comments on, responds to, or advocates for the need for change, others are exploring new forms of “social practice” that engages communities in an interactive exchange. Socially engaged art can ignite outrage and demands for change, and/or provide a platform for reflection, collaboration, and building community.” 

Istanbouli Theatre addresses social issues through theatre in the South of Lebanon. The organization was established with the aim of spreading a culture of arts, creativity and self-expression in the south of Lebanon where creative spaces, especially in the margin, are often absent. The association brings people together, promotes self-expression, openness and critical and creative thinking by 1) building the cultural, and audio-visual, capacities of youth in the south of Lebanon, 2) organizing cultural festivals and 3) creating a safe and neutral space for cultural and creative activities.

Tiro Assocation of Arts works together with a large number of local organizations such as the Ministry of Culture, the Municipality and local cultural initiatives and institutions. Currently, the most significant international partners are UNIFIL (United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon)  and PAX  (Peace Organization from the Netherlands).

We are happy to announce that through our partners, PAX, that Kassem Istanbouli, founder of Istanbouli Theatre & Tiro Association of Arts, will be joining Global Youth Rising to teach us how theatre can be used for peacebuilding. Additionally, there will be other workshops exploring the role of music and the arts in activism and peacebuilding.

Kassem says: “We dream to live in a country where creativity plays an important role in promoting peace, self-expression, development and (human) rights and critical thinking in marginalized areas in Lebanon. We envision an alternative and critical movement through arts and culture. A place for cultural development and joy, to oppose the polarization, hatred and violence that are often so common for the areas we work in. We bring together youth of different cultural, religious and ethnic backgrounds, aim to build a generation of arts and create a safe space, where people respect differences and can peacefully meet, play and work together, irrespective of background, gender or religious affiliation.”

Are you interested in how theatre and the arts can be used in peacebuilding? Does your organisation already utilise music, art or theatre in a unique way that you would like to share with other young activists and peacebuilders from around the world? APPLY TODAY for Global Youth Rising!