Let's talk about peace

The Nation, Talk of the Town - Friday, May 07, 2004

We all know that peacemaking efforts, no matter what form they take, are never easy. Just ask the young men and women who make up the International Peace Foundation.

The message 'Building bridges towards a culture of peace' has kept the Foundation's volunteers on their toes. And they are to be congratulated for their work in organising the 100 events during the first series in 'Bridges - Dialogues Towards a Culture of Peace'.

The last few months have been hectic with events being held back-to-back, often resulting in a mere two week breathing space for the staff.

For the Foundation and its chairman Uwe Morawetz, it has been a busy but very rewarding year.

The Foundation's activities were launched in March last year just as the United States announced its offensive against Saddam Hussein. Among the lumi­naries invited were the Rev Jesse Jackson, Nobel laureate Sir VS Naipaul, and Dame Anita Roddick, founder of The Body Shop and an avid campaigner for peace and harmony.

The first series of activities concluded recently with a concert by the world-famous diva Jessye Norman at the Thailand Cultural Centre, graciously presided by Her Majesty the Queen.

According to Morawetz's assistant Christian Grafschafter, he and other mem­bers of the staff have enjoyed every moment of their peace-building efforts and do not resent being deprived of time to enjoy per­sonal leisure activities.

The novelty and the experi­ence of meeting Nobel Peace Prize Winners and the world's literary and artis­tic geniuses have more than compensated for all the hard work.

And while Grafschafter, who has been a part-time resident of Bangkok for the last three years, admits that he was warned about falling prey to the beauty of Thailand, its culture and its people, he is pleased to confirm that his friends were right. 'Yes, it is getting more difficult to leave Thailand. I have fallen in love with the country,' he says with a rueful smile.

The Foundation's next series of events begins in November this year and will end in April 2005. Hopefully by then, there will be more people living in peace, rather than resting in peace.