A Thousand Words On Our Culture

October, 2014
Esquire Malaysia


All You Need Is Love
Uwe Morawetz, Founding Chairman of the International Peace Foundation

Born in Germany, a country which has been responsible for horrible wars in the past, I always felt the need to work towards peace, and I always wanted to do what I love to do and share it with others.

I started my conscious life singing at 7, in a boys choir in the cathedral of Freiburg in Southern Germany. I did this extensively, daily practice, also playing the piano and inventing music. It took me around Europe at a very early age, where our choir performed in churches, theatres, television stations and recorded several albums of Mozart, Haydn and Bach. What I learned was passion and composition, and I loved it until my voice broke at the age of 13.

So I created myself anew, I played soccer, extensively, as a goalkeeper for the soccer club of Freiburg. Daily practice, the sweetness of sweat, tournaments and first visits to the United States. What I learned was team-play and concentration on the ball. Until my arm broke catching it at the age of 17.

Quickly recovered I started to write poetry about love, life, sex and God, I had so many questions, my quest took off, and my first book was published when I was still in high school. As I didn't find a publisher, I founded my own publishing house and published it myself. The first 1,000 copies were sold within three months and with the reprint of 4,000 more copies and three other books of poetry published, making it 10,000 copies, I started to make a living. 500 letters dropped into my mailbox, and they were never returned to sender. I invited them all for a drink and learned the ability to listen, to open up, to communicate and to love language, desire and people. I was invited to poetry readings, had dinner with Kurt Vonnegut, took a ride with Norman Mailer, slept on the sofa of Charles Bukowski, exchanged recipes of love with Allen Ginsberg and in 1987 ended up in Berlin-West where I performed my poetry on stage with actors, dancers and musicians in Berlin-East, illegally as the communist regime thought, and I was arrested and deported. For two years I lived in a divided city without being able to cross the border.

It was then when I met Sun Bear, an American Indian medicine man at the Berlin Wall. Standing together at the west side of the wall looking east he told me about his vision of a big intercultural medicine wheel gathering where wise people from all cultures and religions cross borders, come together from the East, the West, the North and the South to learn from each other, find mutual ways of understanding and cooperation and heal the wounds of war and mother earth.

This vision caught me, and I immediately started to work for its realization. 6 months after meeting this medicine man, the Berlin Wall fell in November 1989, and 18 months later the medicine wheel gathering became reality when I organized, with the help of the World Health Organization and the Berlin Doctors Society, the festival "The power of visions". I invited Buddhists, Christians, American Indians, Hindus, Muslims, Jews and other cultural leaders together with scientists and artists, and 8,000 people from all over the world came to celebrate and share the power of their visions in Potsdam and Berlin, the 1st festival of its kind in a unified, but still mentally divided Germany. Shortly after Sun Bear, who also participated seeing his vision fulfilled, died, and a new movement towards peace was born.

The Dalai Lama invited me to India to join a Kalachakra ceremony for world peace where I discussed with him the possible establishment of an International Peace Foundation in connection with a Peace University. He became our first patron, and 20 other Nobel Peace Laureates joined him in a common patronage.

OK, I thought, all I have studied was German and English language, journalism, theatre sciences, philosophy and education, but only 2 hours each, cause I immediately felt bored, and now I found myself in charge of founding a Peace University. Also, I didn't have any money nor the right contacts. So, based on my experiences so far: passion, composition, concentration, openness, the ability to listen, language and communication, I needed a vision that pulled all the energies together to help me proceed.

I wanted to create an international, intercultural and interdisciplinary platform for creative cultures of learning and continued education for all people which combines
  • theory and experience through a dialogue between science, politics and the economy
  • intellect and emotion, thinking, feeling and intuition through a dialogue between science and the arts
  • knowledge and wisdom through a dialogue between science and spirituality
  • inner and outer results through a dialogue between education and the media to help raise the awareness of a wider public for building a culture of peace, a responsibility which cannot be left to the elite of a few, but needs the participation of everyone

  • Studying at a Peace University should enable the students to find the right profession that matches their vocation. It should be a learning process in creativity to support self-consciousness, open-mindedness, healthy skepticism, clarity, inner stability, outer flexibility, readiness to change and take risks, motivation, responsibility and social commitment on the basis of compassion, spiritual and emotional intelligence, intuition and an interplay of mind and emotion, logic and aesthetics.

    At a Peace University not only the students should be able to learn, but also the teachers, it should be a community with equal rights and responsibilities that chooses exchange and creativity instead of dogmatic teaching, an open and independent platform for dialogue, dialogue as the first step towards peace.

    With this vision in heart I gave up writing. No, I transformed it. My poetry from now on would be composing and team-play, bringing people together, being a facilitator and a bridge between the different language groups in our divided societies, where politicians speak another language than artists and business and religious leaders another one than scientists. Even worse, normally they don't talk or listen to each other at all, and the problems of the world cannot be solved by either one of these language groups only, but by working together. With education being the basis for peace.

    So with nothing, but this vision in mind, I started in 1991 and received the guidance and active help of the Nobel Peace Laureates and many other friends to realize 700 peace and education programs including books, CDs and film productions and events with 600 keynote speakers, 70,000 participants and 700 staff members in Europe and the US. It was always wonderfully diverse. In one event, for example, we had the Dalai Lama, Robert McNamara, Oscar Arias, Johan Galtung, Patti Smith, Vladimir Ashkenazy and the Beastie Boys sitting together and actually establishing new forms of cooperation.

    Then in 1999 it was Bill Clinton who gave us a present: the former 2nd World War ship "Golden Bear". The name was a coincidence. Sun Bear had not lobbied for it. The ship was a former troop carrier with a capacity for 1,500 people which we transformed into the first United States campus of the Peace University with classrooms, studios, a theatre and cabins for students and teachers to live on the ship. There we established ongoing courses in fields such as mediation and conflict resolution, education towards tolerance, peace journalism, inner and outer peace, interfaith dialogue, new perspectives of work and cultures of collaboration.

    We have also developed an orientation semester directed towards young people following high school as well as towards people who lost their jobs and were unemployed. This semester offers orientation for an authentic link of profession and vocation, for creative forms of work that correspond to the talents and capacities of the individual and that can be connected with sense, meaning and social responsibility.

    Though we have mostly been working with volunteers including myself and all speakers and artists always participated in our activities without any fee or honorarium, doing all this actually also costs money. But I never worried about money too much and always had enough to fulfill my dreams. Not afraid of taking risks, I found all angels of the universe by my side. Even if the money from sponsors for one or the other project came at the very last moment, I trusted. Trust became my teacher, creativity my home.

    A few years ago then a millionaire found me who just liked who I am and what I do, and he gave me enough money to worry even less and to start new programs in other parts of the world. Like the "Bridges" program in Thailand and other ASEAN countries which we could realize with the support and cooperation of 293 local institutions and sponsors, and which will open in Singapore later this month. The program has so far involved 500 events with 42 Nobel Laureates and other keynote speakers and artists including Vladimir Ashkenazy, Hans Blix, Jackie Chan, Jesse Jackson, Vanessa-Mae, DJ Marusha, Jessye Norman, Romano Prodi, Anita Roddick, Oliver Stone and James Wolfensohn and reached an audience of 160,000 participants, mostly students, in Thailand, the Philippines, Malaysia, Cambodia and Vietnam, and after running since 2003 in Asia the events are still continuing today to build new bridges and networks to help fulfill the desire of everyone to get to know and learn from each other.

    And as we're all students on our pathway through life, I'm always eager to know: What have you learned and what is your next destination? What are your abilities and interests? How do you want to create yourself anew again and again? Don't wait until you find yourself, choose your self! What do you really love to be now? If you know the answer to this quest, all doing comes naturally. Life is not about doing, but about being. And if you find the right questions, the right answers will find you. If you have a question that guides you, you will automatically live into the answers. Don't answer questions, question answers. The only insurance you need is the guidance of your heart, not the expectations of your parents, the economy, the media or your government. If you be who you love to be, society will always benefit from you and your parents will always be proud of you. Put all the energy you have into the fulfillment of your dream, but don't cling to it: Trust and let go. The strings of the violin of your dream must not be tense, otherwise they will break. They mustn't be loose either, otherwise they will not produce the music you desire to play. Always believe in the love you have inside, but never hold it back, as the whole world longs for it. Share with the world whatever you love, and happiness will be yours and all around. Take the risk of not choosing a study or job for money or career purposes only, and it pays off. And in moments of life when a crucial decision is needed, always ask one question:

    What would love do now?

    Uwe Morawetz is the Founding Chairman of the International Peace Foundation, and the foundation facilitates the ongoing ASEAN event series "Bridges - Dialogues Towards a Culture of Peace" with events continuously running in Singapore and Thailand from September 2014 to March 2015