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! 

The Link Between Climate Change and Conflict

“Saving our planet, lifting people out of poverty, advancing economic growth… these are one and the same  transylvania_09fight. We must connect the dots between climate change, water scarcity, energy shortages, global health, food security and women’s empowerment. Solutions to one problem must be solutions for all.” Ban Ki-moon

Whether we say that we are peacebuilders, peace workers, social justice warriors or activists, we are all working for the same thing – peace. But what is peace? Is it merely the absence of war, or is it a society where everybody has equal access to services, resources, education; where everyone is treated equally, and is able to live in safety (see the difference between Positive Peace and Negative Peace)?

When we think about what the greatest threat might be to peace, it is easy to think that it is “war”, conflict, perhaps based on ethnic identity, oppressive dictatorships or human nature. However, there is growing consensus that one of the greatest threats to peace might be climate change:

“Assessments conducted by the intelligence community indicate that climate change could have significant geopolitical impacts around the world, contributing to poverty, environmental degradation, and the further weakening of fragile governments. Climate change will contribute to food and water scarcity, will increase the spread of disease, and may spur or exacerbate mass migration.” The US Department of Defense

“Climate change is a growing threat to peace and stability. This is why we need a new culture of cooperation..” — Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Foreign Minister, Germany

“Measured against the array of global threats that we face today — and there are many — terrorism, extremism, epidemics, poverty, nuclear proliferation — all challenges that know no borders — climate change absolutely ranks up there equal with all of them.” — John Kerry, US Secretary of State

Climate change can damage livelihoods, displace people, and create greater competition for resources. It is often argued that drought in Syria, caused by climate change, contributed to the creation of ISIS. We can no longer ignore the fact that the population of the earth continues to grow and increasing numbers of people demand “first world” lifestyles – lifestyles that consume vast amounts of resources – while the earth’s resources dwindle.

Although it is debated as to whether climate change directly leads to conflict, it is certainly important to ask whether we can truly have peace in a world where demand for energy far outweighs supply, where our livelihoods are at risk and we compete for clean water, where we see species becoming extinct and extreme weather destroying the places we love.

At Global Youth Rising, several workshops will explore the links between conflict and peace and the environment, the importance of environmental sustainability in peacebuilding, and how permaculture can be used as a method of peacebuilding. We invite any young people who work on environmental issues to join us for 10 days of exciting workshops, training sessions, forums and the chance to meet other passionate young people from around the world who are working on similar issues.




Participants from Ukraine – Scholarships Available

Ukraine: Seeking Passionate Civil Society / Peace Activists (18 – 30) ukraineflagpicture2

Scholarships to take part in the International Youth Peace Forum: Global Youth Rising 2016

Global Youth Rising 2016 is excited to announce that we have scholarships to support two applicants from Ukraine. One of the main aims of Global Youth Rising is to create a global solidarity movement for peace, focusing especially on Ukraine. PATRIR, the main organisation behind Global Youth Rising, is based in Cluj-Napoca, Romania – and as Ukraine’s neighbours, we want to do what we can to support youth activists and peace workers there.

Our scholarships are able to cover costs of travel from Ukraine to Romania and participation in the camp. Applicants should:

  • Be between 18 – 30 years of age;
  • Already be involved and able to show a record of engagement in civic initiatives in Ukraine. Priority will be given to applicants who are involved in / working on peacebuilding, strengthening civil society, youth participation, and overcoming / addressing the impacts and effects of the war;
  • Be highly committed, passionate, and wanting to gain further skills and experience which will help you in working in peacebuilding and empowerment in Ukraine

Those interested should send:

  • Letter of Motivation / Expression of Interest on why you wish to take part and how you will benefit from the programme;
  • Two Reference Letters Recommendations from your organisation or organisations you’ve worked with
  • CV


Applications can be sent to: 

The Importance of Inner Peace

“Peace is not a relationship of nations. It is a condition of mind brought about by a We-can-never-obtain-peace-in-the-outer-world-until-we-make-peace-with-ourselvesserenity of soul… Lasting peace can come only to peaceful people.” Jawaharal Nehru

“We can never obtain peace in the outer world until we make peace with ourselves” Dalai Lama

When we look at all the conflict in the world, the way that greed and corruption seem to rule, the way that even in “peaceful” societies there is crime and tension – it is easy to feel despair. Many of us have probably thought of world peace as a pipe dream, something that will never truly exist because of human nature.

But what is human nature? Are we are naturally prone to arguing, fighting, and to behaving selfishly? Some people seem to think so. But there are people who do not strike out when they are angry, who do not seek to prove themselves better to others, and who do not hate others simply because of their religion or ethnic group. So, can we really say that war and greed are part of human nature? And, even if they are, can we not change?

Inner peace refers to a state of being mentally and spiritually at peace, with enough knowledge and understanding to keep yourself strong in the face of adversity or stress. When you have inner peace, you do not need to prove anything to yourself or others. Imagine a world where even those with the most power had inner peace; would they need to show that their country or group was stronger/better than others? Would they still desire wealth enough to succumb to corruption?

The leading emotion behind many negative or painful actions is often fear. When you operate from a place of inner peace, your primary emotion is love.

So – can we truly imagine “outer” world peace unless individuals have found “inner” peace? And how effective can we really be as peacebuilders unless we have found our own inner peace?

This is one of the leading thoughts behind some of our partners’ work: Peace Revolution’s self-development program is a 42-day challenge that teaches the skills and techniques involved in harnessing inner peace. One of our trainers, Manuela Puscas, will be delivering workshops on Making Peace with your Inner Conflicts, Stress Management in the Context of Peacebuilding, and mindfulness/meditation sessions.

The International Association of Human Values (IAHV) also transform lives and tackle trauma, teaching resilience and stress management. Their programs have had amazing results with everyone from peacebuilders to prisoners. Katrien Hertog will be joining us at Global Youth Rising to deliver an amazing 4-day workshop on Healing, Empowerment and Leadership.

APPLY TODAY to Global Youth Rising and, as well as meeting inspiring people from around the world and building your capacities for peace work, you can start your path to inner peace!


Trainer Spotlight: Georgios Melissourgos

Catalunya Voluntària.  This week, we will look at Georgios Melissourgos, one of our
trainers from Fundació Catalunya Voluntària.  Georgios

Georgios writes:

“Conflict is a word that unfortunately has been integrated in most of the heartbreaking broadcasted news and many of the opinion writers are proposing ways to avoid it. However, whether we like it or not, conflict has been existing throughout human history and it will continue to exist. But, it is in our hands how we handle conflict situations, and in our minds to see them either as the first step towards violence or as an instrument for change via non-violence – although the second path can be the way towards to more peaceful societies. Of course, peaceful societies are something that we should work on and everybody, whether participating in a beauty contest or not(!), will agree upon. But what does really the word “peace” mean?

Peace is commonly understood as the opposite of war; we should not focus on such a narrow definition! Of course peace is the absence of direct physical violence, such as war or even domestic abuse. But peace is also related to well-being and just relations. Positive peace has multiple structural, socio-cultural and ecological layers. Coming from Greece, I am always using the example of my country to exemplify this broader definition. We have not faced armed conflicts for more than 60 years, so someone could argue that Greece has been an example of peace. However, the current multilevel crisis, with the economic and refugee layers – known to all around the globe – has really rocked the boat. So, could we argue that Greek society is peaceful?

Somewhere here, anybody could raise the million dollar question: how can we achieve peace? There are numerous blueprints trying to answer from different perspectives, which you can search for online. However, at FCV we believe that a key element is education, and especially Peace Education. “Another fluffy word…”, many would argue! But Peace Education goes deeper than it sounds. If you want an education opening pathways towards peaceful societies, you will need to work on the three dimensions of peace: inner, social and environmental. Doing so, you develop a set of peacebuilding knowledge, skills and attitudes. In other words, you must think, act and feel almost the opposite from the official competitive education system if you want to be considered even a little bit of a peacebuilder!

Theory seems nice, but Global Youth Rising is not another academic conference and this piece is not a scientific abstract by an academic! During this 10-day gathering, my role as a trainer and representative of the “Voices for Peace” program of FCV will be to spread the above theory, but only (and I give you my word on it) with interactive non-formal learning activities, such as group working, theatre and music. First, we are going to try to identify and then, during the whole summer camp, use peer-to-peer development for peacebuilding skills and attitudes. Meanwhile, we will focus on specific aspects of inner, social and environmental peace. The schedule of the summer camp is coming soon, so instead of giving you titles and descriptions I will give you three assumptions that represent the core of each aforementioned aspects respectively.

Let’s assume that you are the best peacebuilder who ever walked the Earth and you are devoting 100% of your time doing so. What happens to your well-being? Will you, the 100% focused peacebuilder, achieve a sufficient level of well-being? Or, rephrasing the question, how could you, as a peacebuilder, maximise your different types of well-being and what are those types?

Now let’s make another assumption. You are a female Secretariat of United Nations. I know that it is not the same as the best peacebuilder that ever walked the Earth, but I hope that it is sufficient enough… Is this your only identity? You are also a mother; you are a spouse; you are … The list could go on for a long time. A gender perspective in peacebuilding and the routines in everyday life exist and we need to have a deeper understanding!

Last but not least, let’s make the most humble assumption that you are an environmental activist with no idea about peacebuilding. Can you communicate with the rest of us during the summer camp? Do we share same struggles, values and characteristics? Which are the profiles of our allies and what could we learn from each other? There are common elements but also small differences that we should be aware of!”

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*Georgios Melissourgos is a project manager at Fundacio Catalunya Voluntaria (FCV) and will be one of our trainers, providing workshops on gender perspectives, well-being, environment, degrowth, and skills and attitudes for peacebuilding. 

Apply today for Global Youth Rising – deadline 5th May (30th for those who don’t require visas). 

Human Rights Stories for Children?

We are very excited to announce that Gal Harmat from the UN Mandated University for Peace of Costa Rica will be joining us for Global Youth Rising in July.

Part of Gal’s Human Rights Education course at the UN Mandated University for Peace of Costa Rica focuses on creating Human Rights stories that are accessible for children. Here you can see on called “An Speaks Up”, created by: Bunthea Ly, Donghyun Park, Mari Katsui, Samantha Johnson, and Veasna Prom. Video editing by Veasna Prom

Gal Harmat will be one of our trainers at Global Youth Rising and will share her research into how to make human rights issues and refugees’ stories accessible for children! This is a fascinating topic – how do we help children to understand the complex issues and the human stories associated with war, conflict and the refugee crisis at present?

We have trainers and participants coming who work with theatre, digital media and storytelling. As well as learning new skills, Global Youth Rising will give us the opportunity to come together and think of new, exciting ways that we can help create empathy by making today’s most pressing issues accessible and understandable for all audiences.

Trainer Spotlight: Bjørn Ihler

Bjorn - Aron Løsnes

We have many amazing and inspiring people attending Global Youth Rising – here is one of them!

Bjørn Ihler is an activist, lecturer, filmmaker, designer and writer working to promote peace and human rights. A key element in his work is the understanding of the influence design, narratives and storytelling has on our societies and culture and how we by transforming narratives can transform our societies to be more peaceful, more inclusive and more open. Ihler’s work is influenced by his experiences as a survivor of the attack on Utøya Island in Norway on 22/7/2011; however political activism and work to prevent violence and hatred and to build communities resilient to this has always been among his core interests.

In 2013 Ihler graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Theatre and Performance Design and Technology from the Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts where he focused on video for stage productions. His video work has been part of performances on a range of stages, including The Barbican Theatre in London and the Norwegian National Opera in Oslo. He’s currently approaching a Masters Degree in Peace and Conflict Studies at Hacettepe University in Turkey where he focuses on narratives, conflict transformation and peace psychology in the case of violent extremism in Europe.

Ihler started his work as an activist with a series of op-eds following the 2011 attack in Norway, writing on topics related to the philosophical state of the nation, the public debate and how to remain true to principles of human rights and democracy in the face of terror. This has in turn lead to him writing on a range of topics for international papers including The Guardian, Huffington Post, Rheinische Post and Norwegian papers such as Dagbladet and Aftenposten. He has also given numerous lectures on topics relating to violent extremism, peace and reconciliation for NGOs and policymakers across Europe.

Bjørn says: “I think the Global Youth Rising is important not only because youth is going to define the future and we’re the largest generation ever, but also because we understand the future and its interconnectedness, we therefore have a much better foundation for understanding each others as all equally human which gives us the strength, motivation and urgency to build true global peace.

I also think my take on the fact that we need to bring peace-work back to Europe, we need to heal old wounds on the European continent and deal more honestly with our past, and we also need to honestly scrutinise our own societies and build bridges between communities within our unions and nations. It’s time to stop focusing only on exporting our views on peace and democracy to the rest of the world and start looking at how we implement these values in our own societies.”

Bjørn will be delivering sessions that focus on tackling violent extremism, peace and reconciliation, and the impact of media narratives – more information soon!

Bjørn’s website
An interview with Bjørn on surviving Utøya and resolving extremism
Bjørn’s story for The Forgiveness Project




Understanding Trauma in Refugees

One of the themes that will be covered at Global Youth Rising (10-20th July) is how to deal  with, and work with, trauma – especially in situation involving refugees and asylum seekers. Many of our applicants work with refugees or those who have experienced conflict in some context.

It is absolutely vital that we consider the impact of conflict on the mind; the horror of witnessing or experiencing violence, losing loved ones, and being displaced – are enough to create deep-rooted trauma. But post-migration trauma is also something very important to consider; when those who have fled their homes are met with hostility, insurmountable bureaucracy, and a constantly fluctuating state of instability in their new host country, there is no way for the initial trauma to begin healing.

We need to understand trauma; what it is, how it is caused, and how it can be healed. One thing that is overwhelmingly clear from the psychological literature is that a person needs to feel safe in order to start healing from trauma. Shuffling asylum seekers from shelter to shelter, using tear gas and batons to control them, sending them back to unsafe countries and treating them with aggression and scorn can only do one thing – deepen the trauma.

Traumatised people cannot forgive, heal, and move on – they are hurt – and hurt people, hurt people. By not understanding or respecting the experiences of these people, honouring their trauma and giving them a safe space to start healing, we are only making further violence more likely. But those who have been through trauma, worked through it and found a way to accept and live with their experiences are often some of the strongest, most beautiful and giving people you will meet.

Will you join us at Global Youth Rising to learn about trauma and how to heal it, so that we can transform a potential generation of traumatised people, full of pain and anger, into one full of hope?

We are excited to include sessions from Bjørn Ihler and Jo Berry – both of whom have been through traumatic experiences caused by extremism and violence. Both trainers took part in The Forgiveness Project and will focus on trauma, forgiveness, and healing. Additionally, there will be plenty of opportunities for us to work together to share experience of trauma, working with refugees and asylum seekers, and looking at how we can work together to create a brighter future and to move on from dark memories.

Trauma and refugees 

War trauma and refugees: 

Recovering from trauma (American Psychological Association):