Adelaide: A Ministry of Peace

When I was in Port Augusta, I stayed with a friend of mine. I asked her where I could stay in Adelaide. The weather is cold and my money is quite low, so a Caravan Park would be challenging. I could do it, but my feeling was to stay in a house. My friend suggested I get onto couch surfing and see if I can get a couch. She told me she had friends on couch surfing Sandy and Geoff. So I started looking and requesting a couch for a week. I had done around 10 requests and was just about to give up when the last profile I looked at was Sandy and Geoff. So I sent them a request. I smiled at the timing.

That day I headed for Adelaide which was around 3 1/2 hours from Port Augusta. After a diversion through Balaclava due to an accident on the Stuart Highway, I arrived around 4.30pm. I decided to park near the University of South Australia. I thought I’d try and find a cafe and see if I had any responses to my request. I considered a backpackers if worse comes to worse.

Anyway, Sandy had answered me, the only one. Thank goodness. She was asking for dates. I texted her and told her from today. She was caught on the hop but nonetheless organised a room and invited me over.

I had the pleasure of meeting Sandy who is a Uniting Church Minister and her husband Geoff a Theologian at Flinders University. Both into peace but more focussed on social justice issues. She found peace hard work and had to deal with many social challenges in the city where her work is. What I learned from her was that she was interested in social inclusion and interfaith issues.

Geoff is an interesting man, he is a lecturer at Flinders and has just completed a book I believe entitled ‘Out of the Box’. I told him of a discussion I had with the Department of Education in Queensland about allowing people from outside of the Education system to teach and introduce new ideas. I explained to him that education requires fresh ideas, people outside of the system can provide new energy. I reminded him of the UK riots and the deep issues facing children. The Department had a $400 fee for a person to be evaluated by criteria to see if the program fitted the Queensland curriculum. That fee was to pay for the panel who would evaluate it, he then told me they fail the person the first time. I thought there is no way I am going to pay for a panel, I felt that is the responsibility of the Government. I am independent and don’t have funds for that. He suggested I get a sponsor, the memory of working for an educational organisation in London came to me, whereby they had corporate sponsors who had their logos on papers kids would look at. I explained this was subliminal advertising. Not okay for kids who have no idea how adults influence. I thought no way will I allow external interference in my work. I don’t mind constructive input and I am open to change, only if it is valid, not based on an agenda. Whilst this guy at Education was sympathetic to my points, we couldn’t move forward, money was the barrier. Geoff asked me if they helped me, I said no. So they were well and truly within the box.

Sandy and her husband were putting on a special service for September 11. With film and visuals they would inspire people to reflect on the event. I asked her if she was aware on the same day there was a US counter strike on Kabul, Afghanistan where 4,000 people died. I never hear any reference to this in the news or analysis and I find in light of the desire for unity and peace, that this appears irrelevant, some lives considered more than others. These were 4,000 innocent people. Whilst I feel for anyone who loses a loved one, I find my mind inclusive of all people. I see no differences, loss is loss. The real question is how do we de-escalate potential violence for all humanity and create a focus on peace, expanding problem solving and understanding. Personally I don’t think national security does it, it doesn’t address the core problems or change the way we see, it just alarms people as they see more security, arms and police thinking they have to be protected. So much money was spent on security post September 11 and I found out on the news tonight that the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) had its budget expanded considerably. The head of ASIO was saying that we are likely to have a Norway style gunman type attack. I didn’t think this was helpful as it raises fear and offered no solution to create community. I would like to see more ground work done on dealing with social problems and finding ways to include people. It appears that those who do these acts are often described as isolated or somehow disenfranchised. So building community is one of the keys.

From my perspective in the peace area, I believe creating a culture of peace is the greatest security. What is a culture of peace it has at its heart, values. We teach people cooperation, respect, empathy, communication, diversity, truthfulness and harmony. There are lots of creative ways in schools and in the community that this can be done. We create workplaces that are inclusive and I would like to see employee participation in decision making so that people experience real democracy and inclusivity. Inclusivity is the highest respect and opens us up to different ideas and brilliant ideas that would never see the light of day in today’s world. Investing in learning conflict resolution, in workshopping problem solving distilling what went wrong, creating truth commissions to find out what is the reality of this situation, the outcomes of counter violence and what a new future would look like. I would like to see the issue conflict mapped, looking at all sides with solutions and dealing with core issues.

Until we are able to see all people as us, rather than a ‘them and us’, there will be injustices, misunderstandings and mistakes made in the name of justice. To create a vision where we see humanity rather than nationalities or religions. To open the heart to all people, would be my suggestion. I believe what you fear you attract, learning to not fear others is one of the keys. Then dialogue is possible with an open mind and then creating possibilities and solutions.

I conducted research years ago into the Australian Anti-Terrorist Hotline. It was commissioned by the Government and my job was to interview the public showing them a series of story boards depicting advertisements of possible scenarios and how they reacted to ads. As a professional I reported the research findings faithfully. As an independent person I was concerned about paranoia and planting a McCarthy like vigilence in the community, encouraging people to spy on each other. I would like to see a focus on solutions, bridge building in the community between religious groups, educating for peace and harmony, overcoming misunderstandings and developing stronger community and support networks.

We had some good talks and I informed my new friends about some of the work I’ve done in the peace area in the past. I believe in creative ways to help people see differently and create connection and understanding that moves us towards real peace. To rehumanise people facilitates dialogue and opens us to change.

This morning I headed into the city to check out Adelaide. Sandy dropped me off at the church and I made my way around the city. Ended up at the markets and mozied around. I walked into a square with a fountain and noticed the large aboriginal flag. It is red, black with a large yellow circle (sun), I prefer this flag to the Australian flag which depicts the Australian relationship with the UK. Whilst I respect the British I feel Australia requires its own identity, what it stands for.

I walked further and saw Falun Gong packing up their photos and information about Chinese persecution of this peace group. Falun Gong undertake Tai Chi type practices or more accurately Qigong, a practice that enhances peace and health through Truthfulness, Compassion and Forbearance. These are practices that have been in China for a very long time. I believe the crackdown commenced in 1999. From my own research I believe there was around 80 million in the Communist Party in China and Falun Gong had around 70 million. It was the sheer size of this group that threatened the power of the Communist Party. I had a chat to the guy who was talking to the public. He said that 80 million people had been killed over a period of 60 years. I asked if the persecution was still going, he said yes. He said the United Nations had been helpful by publishing the torture and persecutions of the people as what is happening contravenes the UN Convention Against Torture. He gave me a brochure and I recognised the young woman on the front. I interviewed her on community radio in Australia some years ago, her husband had been killed. She informed me that Alexander Downer (former Foreign Minister) had attempted to make their protests outside the Chinese Embassy in Canberra, illegal which is extraordinary in a democracy that endorses freedom of speech and protest. It revealed the complicitness of trade issues undermining freedoms, human rights and undue influence of foreign countries in Australian policy, given their special interests. We had a talk about the importance of leaders committing atrocities being apprehended by an interpol and appearing before the International Criminal Court in the Hague. He said they had started legal action against the Chinese Head of State. I think this is important and also to enshrine within the United Nations the doctrine ‘Responsibility to Protect’ created by Gareth Evans (former Australian Foreign Minister). Thus, there is a obligation on the international community to go in and remove a leader who is clearly brualising people, thus giving United Nations Peacekeepers the power to go in. This would be backed up by all nation states. Not just those who have vested interests, but all are obligated to uphold international law to apprehend and arrest suspected perpetrators. This would be done under Crimes Against Humanity legislation. I would also like to see the reversal of the decoupling of trade from human rights (as Clinton announced) where if there is any evidence of human rights violations then trade is suspended. This could be conducted jointly with the United Nations, International Criminal Court and the World Trade Organisation. This is similar to the schoolyard bully scenario where we train children to intervene if a person is bullied. Educational researchers found in research that bullying is likely to occur when people do nothing. Intervention could apply at the international level if we are serious about a Culture of Peace and a stable world order. Thus, this would ensure the safety and respect of all human beings and create some validity to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Which is not about individual rights as different from group rights. It is about honouring each human being and the same applies for groups.

This Chinese man and myself talked about the heart of peace in his work, I reassured him that all will turn out, peace is far more powerful than violence. Falun Gong would be wise to focus on what they want (the outcome) and apply Truthfulness, Compassion and Forbearance to everything they think, say and do. Compassion for the Chinese Communist Party is very important and as friends showing them the mirror without hatred (this is the real discipline and peace work). As the Chinese Communist Party are defeating themselves in reality. As peace makers Falun Gong are tested, and mightily tested to remain in peace no matter the oppression and violence they face. Falun Gong made visible the brutality of the Chinese leadership. The Tibet Buddhists also made this visible. So if the Chinese are seeking world leadership, it is unlikely they will attain it as they lost face through violence and they would not be trusted. Money may be economic power but it is not legitimate power. Had the Chinese leadership been guided by their great ancient philosophies and wisdom, I think the world would have embraced them as an advanced civilisation and with great respect. Lao Tzu comes to mind. That is my inner feeling. I feel a great love for the chinese people when I write this. The future can be changed, as we change the world changes. Return to the wisdom and set aside the greed is my feeling.

I feel internally within China the great wall of control and division will come down (as did Berlin) as people overcome fear and rebel against the oppression inside the country. There are 1.3 billion people in China and they come from ethnically diverse groups and different languages. Like Yugoslavia it could fall apart, I feel. Usually empires crumble from within.

So in the case of any country, as they oppress they create the seeds of their own downfall. Gandhi stated that all empires fall, always. He is right. Violence is weakness parading as strength, using fear to control until people have had enough. The only power in the world that is real is love expressing as compassion and kindness.

On from the there I walked into Dymocks bookshop and remembered before my world trip I was there looking for books on pictures to be able to communicate nonverbally. It brought back a few warm memories. I was invited to a Alternative To Violence Gathering just before my trip. So I headed upstairs and I saw a book that was like a beacon to me. I remember when I was in Santiago Chile seeing a film called ‘In the Wild’, it was so inspiring and moving. It was a story about an American guy called Alex McCandless who had left his family to go into the wilderness. He did this for many years and was only 24. He was also a philosopher and often quoted Yeats and Thoreau. People who met him said he was very engaging and always asking questions very deeply of people. He asked them why they thought what they thought. He had a hunger to know truth this young man. He felt called to go into the wilderness and find himself. He ended up heading to a remote part of Alaska and found an old bus which he made into a home for two months. He shot moose and lived off the land. He wrote a diary describing his feelings, his thinking and what he was exploring in himself. He talked about real happiness as something you share with others. I thought of my clowning and the joy I get by giving happiness to others, I can relate to that. Apparently this man ate some berries which poisoned him and he starved to death. His body was found two weeks later. His story was really powerful and his death was not in vain as it questioned modern life, meaning, depth and the reason for being here. So that was wonderful to see this book and remember this young man.

As I walked to Rundell Mall I saw a undercover journalist I had met in Melbourne. I was dressed at a clown at the time and he told me what he was doing. He gave me some writing he had done on the subject. I believe he worked for The Age newspaper. At the time he was investigating chinese prostitution. I saw he was doing the same cover here and smiled as I walked passed. He wouldn’t have recognised me.

I spent the rest of the day walking and having coffee. I was feeling quite tired. Caught the tram back to my place and had a sleep.

The theme of these two days was peace and the spiritual journey towards it. I am reflecting a great deal on this inner transformation of our world, which is the real peace that is not visible. I am mindful of not judging, just reflecting my thoughts. I feel no hatred towards authorities or mistakes that have being made or the blindness and ignorance, I see it as part of our journey. I do feel we are moving towards a greater future. So I watch with interest as my inner feeling glows with a knowing of peace on earth. I feel the future looking back.

Be one and be in joy.

Mohandas Gandhi

“An eye for an eye only ends up making the whole world blind.”