Your presence is the most precious gift you can give to another human being. – Rosenberg
On Tuesday, August 5, Karin Michalek – the Extra-curricular Projects Coordinator and Representative of Alumni-Network at the Peace Studies program at the University of Innsbruck – held a workshop on the Methods of Conflict Transformation. The workshop was based on the elicitive conflict mapping approach, in which Michalek did her best (and quite successfully) to include all the participants and the tutors In a practical seminar of sharing, reflecting and getting to know each other on a deeper level.
I had a short talk with her after the session, curious to find out her impressions and thoughts about our group, peace(s) and whatever else the wind blows our way.
As the most pleasant Gesprächspartnerin (en. interlocutor), Karin told me she was particularly struck by the community feeling in our group. Other than her fascination with the fact that the participants are already getting along very well (after only 4 days of being together as a group) and connecting with each, our whole LLA abode seems to have been immersed in positive vibes – altogether speaking to the uniqueness and particularity of the “Acting for Peace” experience.
But what exactly is this “Acting for Peace” experience? Working as the blogger for the short course gave me a lot of observational space on what exactly we are doing here. Thinking about it now, a week after my arrival, I can say that this experience is “a little bit of this, and a little bit of that”. With most of the tutors being UWC alumni or attendees at other UWC short courses, and most of our participants aspiring UWC students, I can say with certainty that this “UWC spirit” of openness and togetherness is highly dominant here. Mix that with the MA Peace Studies program, and lectures on peace(s), together with exercises on balancing our inner layers as to find our own peace in a way – the result of this social/academic/personal experiment then becomes an energetic group of young people finding themselves and their place in the world. Together. Karin’s impressions helped me as well, in finally understanding the “why” of the atmosphere we have here.
To now get back to my short talk, I personally was truly astonished by the soothing presence of the Peace Studies lecturers – from Wolfgang Dietrich and Norbert Koppensteiner, to Karin Michalek. She recounted a short story from the time she was a Peace Studies student herself. Her first essay in the program was on the topic of “the personal perspective on peace”.” It was a rather absurd question”, she says. She never taught about peace so personally – just as many of us here probably never did before the short course. However, as Karin suggested, one has to find one’s own peace first in order to be a peacemaker in the external world. In encountering other people’s story, you become a part of them, and a part of the surrounding you immerse yourself in. Having personal unresolved conflicts can easily become an energy that spreads to others – and then, how could you ever make peace(s), if you are not even at peace with yourself? And again, we go back to the very foundation of the teaching: balance and harmony. Karin beautifully talked about the idea of showing one’s vulnerability too – by doing so, we open and embrace ourselves, getting one giant step closer to understanding the very notion of peace (in all its plurals).
To do things in this line of work, a peacemaker has to (or at least should be able to) connect with people from the heart. It is indeed “a calling from the heart”, Karin added. That is exactly why she wanted to come and do a workshop here – to connect, give and receive from the mutual experience. To have a learning experience that goes both ways. Getting to know the tutors and their experiences was also something she very much enjoyed. A symbiotic relationship, one might say: of inspiring and being inspired, as well as helping all of us, who live here with these exceptional young people, to clear our conflicts inside in order to be able to continue sharing that thread of understanding – and maybe not to say peace, but definitely “a piece of mind” – with them.
Many thanks to Karin Michalek for sharing the Tuesday afternoon with us, and contributing to the educated, balanced and communal spirit we are trying to foster here.
By: Inasa Bibic
*and so much more (title) – from Wolfgang Dietrich’s quote: “we are reasonable and so much more”