When people tell their stories, especially stories about what motivates them to do what they do, powerful insights emerge, such as the following reflections by international participants:
We’ve seen Auschwitz and apartheid South Africa.
We have fled our homes in Lebanon, Afghanistan and the Balkans.
We feared for our lives at the hands of many who were fighting in the name of God/Allah.
We have witnessed the bodies of loved ones and neighbours being brought back from the war.
We have carried Kalashnikofs and AK 47s and dreamed of being brave fighters.
We were indoctrinated and taught to dismantle rifles and hate the other.
We have forgotten how to deal with conflict and did not believe in dialogue and mediation.
We are driven by basic human values.
We grew up mediating between siblings and between parents.
We followed the advice from parents to take care of the land and to get an education.
We received books from grandmothers and lecturers.
We received inspiration through traveling and visits to places of conflict.
We were struck by inequalities, xenophobia and rejection and asked “Why?”
We broke free from the chains of ideology and found inner beliefs and convictions.
We challenged dominant paradigms and found new freedoms.
We understood that security means more than being able to defend yourself.
We reacted to glaring injustice by becoming advocates for change.
We transformed retributive justice into restorative justice.
We became mediators and peacebuilders.
We transformed hate and apathy to compassion and understanding.
We refused to accept that violence ends violence and decided to prevent it instead.
We responded to the void by creating infrastructures for peace.
We work to fix a broken system.
We dedicate our lives to restoring relationships.
We discover that we can learn while we we do.
We serve instead of wanting to become powerful consumers of service.
We found new passion and joy and a curiosity to discover more.
We network with others and are inspired by what they do.
We do not give up, because we have tenacity and commitment.
We learned to listen in order to resolve.
We believe in dialogue and mediation.
Folke Bernadotte Academy, Sandö, Sweden.