On Monday 21st of September, it was International World Peace Day, a very special day to bring awareness about the challenge of building a more peaceful world and sharing ideas about understanding and acceptance.
At Global Peace Foundation we believe in people, in kindness and in love. Thus, we decided to spend our day interviewing people on the street, from working class to families, children and business people. Our goal was to better understand what peace means to the citizens of Malaysia. Being unique individuals with our own vision and opinions, the challenge of this project was to start a casual interaction, helping the participants to feel comfortable and to open their heart to the discussion.
With an idea, lots of enthusiasm, some recording materials and a lot of willpower, we went out in the streets and to Paradigm Mall. With a little hesitation we started our first interviews. Going out there with my teammates from Global Peace Foundation, using my broken greetings in Malay , “Selamat pagi, nama saya Nina. Saya boleh cakap sedikit!” I got to interact with many strangers and used the best way to break the language barrier; smile. On the International Day of Peace, but also on any other day, smiling truly help people open themselves to you, and trust your genuineness.
At first, we got many rejections from people who were too shy, or unwilling to be recorded maybe by fear to not be “good” enough to be recorded or captured in photo. Originating from France, I never thought that this would be such a challenge to interview Malaysians and more particularly, Malaysian women. However, at Global Peace Foundation we never give up, and I particularly really enjoyed the challenge!
Starting our first successful interviews with children, two Malay brothers at the tender age of eight and ten told us that helping others make them happy. With very thoughtful answers and true innocence, another two Indian brothers defined peace as being “mum” and “dad.” Both pairs were very inspirational and reminded us of the beauty of a family and a peaceful home.
Then, we met Iman from Iran feeling at first very hesitant, he expressed that he was not the “right” person to answer our questions. Through this project we wanted citizens, general people of any background to be able to connect to their own definition of peace. Often confronted to leaders, or other peace-builders’ speeches, the community rarely can identify themselves and refer to their own personal life. In Malaysia, opportunities for people to express themselves on personal opinions are rare, and asking them to actually think about the meaning of the word peace was not an easy task. After some encouragements, Iman defined peace as treating others the way you would like to be treated, with a last and very inspiring message stating: “I am EVERYONE.”
Approaching more people, we realized that women felt very uncomfortable, and not ready to be part of the project. It was a real cultural learning experience, as their reactions were very different from what I would have imagined. Being very spontaneous and talkative, I always enjoy knowing more about my surroundings. This is why my approach was just smiling and bringing good vibes to the conversation. We got fortunate when, shortly but surely, participants accepted to share their experience, thoughts and opinions about peace, and how to make their everyday life in Malaysia more peaceful. Our last question to our interviewees was to finish the sentence “I am…” using one word that describes them as peace-builders. From being calm, generous, awkward, amazing and even cute, most of the participants put in their own creativity and peace into the sharing.
Every human being on this planet has a natural instinct, to help each other out. This instinct is found in every culture, and in every person. Nothing really dies. There is always a way to light up our world a little bit more everyday. We just need to remember to send love around us. We need love to be reborn into our world, appreciating what humans can build together being more united and using their unique differences and the diversity of their culture to always innovate.
We, at Global Peace Foundation, have faith in a more united nation and a peaceful planet. Help us to send out a message of love and change!
Happy International Day of Peace!
Written by Nina Soutoul