PEACEJAM Youth Conference

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“There’s no use talking about the problem unless you talk about the solution.”

This was the 5th Annual Youth Conference at the University of Winchester!

The two-day leadership development conference enables young people aged 14-18, to meet an inspiring world leader for peace, and present the work they’re doing in their communities.

The conference entails workshops, action projects, lectures, question and answer sessions with the guest Nobel Peace Laureate, along with an exhibition set up by participating schools and youth groups, youth-family group sessions, a very moving ceremony of inspiration and a concert of comedy, music and dance simply called JAM!

Our student ambassadors produced their current peace project: The Peace Garden – as part of the PeaceJam organisations global ‘One Billion Acts of Peace Campaign’.  They are currently developing the garden of conflict transformation in the school garden on our Ardor campus together with Refugee Action in Bradford: https://www.refugee-action.org.uk/refugee-action-bradford/ 

At PeaceJam 2019 these young people became fully fledged  ‘PeaceInfluencers’.

At PeaceJam 2019 these young people became fully fledged ‘PeaceInfluencers’.

PeaceJam UK works in partnership with the Burns Price Foundation who fund all the conference places including fees and meals over the weekend.  Each of our students wrote to the foundation explaining why they wanted to attend the peace conference and they successfully secured their place at the conference by receiving Burns Price Foundation funding.

Peace Mentor: Claire Maslen 

Peace Ambassadors:

·         Margaret Ogunkoya
·         Yomica John Singho
·         Monique Edgar-Burke
·         Kiran Rani Baidya
·         Hassan Rashid
·         Matty Maslen
·         Azzamullah Awan
·         Adil Hassan
·         Mohammed Habib 

After the conference, St. Bede’s and St. Joseph’s, Peace Co-ordinator Tony Walker said: 

“As a teacher at St. Bede’s and St. Joseph’s Catholic College, I rarely have a peaceful day.  I struggle every day in everything I do, but I try to help young people succeed so that they can achieve their dreams over the next fifty years of their life, when I won’t be there to support, guide and advise them. 

Like so many doves of peace, I hope that one day they will all be released from their daily struggle to educate themselves in the compulsory education sector and will fly up to achieve even greater heights in the post-compulsory education sector. Chasing jobs, training, volunteering, apprenticeships and college or university places throughout all their lives, as they add value to their existence as well as the wider, global community. 

I feel proud to be a Bradfordian, but I am sad because of all the violence I witness in the media.  I wonder why we tolerate crime and violence in our communities, I puzzle over why things like knife-crime decimate lives and communities.  

Sadly, I don’t even have to leave my own city to see the suffering of the people of the world.  I see it every day, even in our City of Sanctuary where 85 different cultures enrich our community. 

When I witness the trials and tribulations of women and children in families that are struggling to shoulder the burden of pain caused by being victims of crime and poverty, I recognise that those I serve in education may never rise above the poverty line, socially, educationally or financially if they are not encouraged to develop life skills through their learning.  Without a real world education, that includes coping strategies life’s opportunities will simply pass them by and even the brightest person will not thrive in the raw, realities of a world that seems to be in constant conflict with itself.  

This fills me with a great deal of sadness and deep regret for those who may fall by the wayside.  In fact, my anger boils into cold fury when I see the widespread inequalities in our education sector that commits many of our young people to a life of penury, struggle or worse. When others from more privileged or better supported backgrounds sail through life with scant regard for young people who are struggling to survive in an education system that can often appear like a hostile environment. 

Through PeaceJam our young people can learn life skills that will change their lives and the lives of those they love and care for every day – forever! 

I am proud of Bradford, despite all its struggles issues and problems. I love the city more and more each year and I can see every day that the tide of discontent is changing across the city and this can only deliver positive futures for our young and vibrant citizens.

The North has awoken, we must now all rise to the challenge and strive to do our very best for all the young people in our city.  We are after all the city with the largest, youngest, population in the UK. 

We have a bright future, Bradford was once dubbed ‘Worstedopolis’ when the skyline was pierced by myriad mill-chimneys.  We were once a proud, rich and vibrant polyethnic community and we can be once again.

The Northern Power House will be led by our young people in the public, private and voluntary sector throughout the twenty-first century.  PeaceJam is one way of achieving this as we move forward. PeaceJam, is an organisation that can facilitate our young Peace Ambassadors and Peace Influencers to change lives for the better through non-violence, on a global scale, from the streets of Bradford to the streets of any community in any conflict across the globe.

We must support PeaceJam to help our young people become relevant in a globalised and often radicalised community.  Because from what I witnessed this weekend, I know that the young people at St Bede’s, St Joseph’s and St Benedict’s Catholic College can become future ‘Peace-Influencers’ on a worldwide stage.

It is essential that we transform the troubles we see in Bradford as well as within ourselves by isolating each one, so that we can talk together across all communities, large and small to create positive futures for everybody regardless of difference.

This weekend I was very proud of the young people named in this article because they were amazing ambassadors for our school community and for the Bradford District.

It is a personal choice, whether we choose to nurture pain or happiness in our lives.  It is a conscious choice that we each make every day of our lives. But this weekend these young people spread the universal message of peace that is so important for the development of a healthy, happy global community.

Through PeaceJam I have been taught a new way to heal my own pain through compassionate communication. 

http://www.compassionatecommunication.co.uk/?gclid=Cj0KCQjwjpjkBRDRARIsAKv-0O3H6QzSXjOVvZbLzKc1LttEgZWDtBi7xlmv6syn50yAEGY84GgPXDIaAgR-EALw_wcB 

Life isn’t an easy journey, no one really has a definitive guidebook, but the struggle to communicate with empathy is worthwhile. 

I still have worries that can weigh me down but by focusing on the positives that I am blessed with each day, I know I can contribute positively to the communities I serve, whether that involves my family at home or the one I meet at the school gates ‘in loco parentis’

Through my work with PeaceJam over several years, I have been enabled to do my job of work with renewed vigour and enthusiasm, and I now recognise that my life is in reality, a one act play being performed by one life only! 

Healing myself through my connections with PeaceJam and through other life experiences, I have been able to handle difficult issues in my life because of the support I have sought out from a compassionate and caring community of carers who believe non-violence and peace is a stronger weapon than conflict – whether in the family or in the world at large. 

I believe that I can now help young people choose the productive path of peace in their daily lives and avoid the trauma and tragedy of becoming a shocking media headline for a day. 

Sometimes our personal development seems a slow, agonising process that ticks away, minute by minute, grinding us down as we try to live a productive, positive life.   

But this weekend my life was changed forever at the University of Winchester – 2019 PeaceJam Conference because I was privileged to take a party of eight incredible and electric Peace Ambassadors from St. Benedict’s 6th Form” together with their Peace Mentor and witness how kind, generous and hardworking they all are, outside the confines of the school environment.  

As I saw them interact with young people from around the world, I could see how they used their teamwork and leadership skills. But more than anything else, I was humbled by their empathy and compassion for others. 

Whether that was caused by the youth leader during the ceremony of inspiration who was struggling to come to terms with the Parklands School massacre in America:

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2019/feb/15/parkland-gun-violence-children-teens 

Or, the inner-city group who were confronting their feelings and emotions as they were coming to terms with the latest teen knife crime in their home city of London.  

https://www.independent.co.uk/topic/london-knife-crime 

I know that putting a young person into a classroom and introducing them to the global village outside their front door, is far better than picking up the pieces of broken lives on our crime-littered streets and simply slamming the cell door shut on young lives that have crumbled under the pressures of their dysfunctional social-scene. I know that school exclusion leads to a dystopian life of crime:

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2018/04/10/school-expulsions-fuel-rise-youth-crime-say-experts/ 

We owe it to our young people to facilitate their graduation as ‘Peace-Influencers’ before leaving school. It not only could save their life – it could also save the lives of many other young people.  By working with PeaceJam UK we can all change the world and make it a better place, it is your choice.

http://restlessdevelopment.org/youth-as-influencers

Our young people must be supported to form their own district wide youth voice for peace through their Neighbourhood Crime Youth Forums.

http://eprints.glos.ac.uk/4193/7/Gloucestershire%20Youth%20Forums%20Evaluation%20Report%20Final.pdf 

By taking part in this peace conference our global justice scholars have set the bar high, we must now work hard every day to bring peace to the world.  We must deny those who would bring violence into our lives, the very oxygen they need to destroy our safe, secure and strong communities that are strengthened by differences.  We must deliver zero-tolerance for violence in the home and across our communities. 

We must choose a life blessed by global peace…
Bradford Deserves Better!
Mr AJ Walker, PeaceJam Co-ordinator