Sà-wàt-dee ka, สวัสดี!
After a week and a half for the Field Studies Component, in Chiang Mai (see week 5), we had Monday and Tuesday off. It was a nice break and some friends from Class 26 and I flew to Koh Lanta in Southern Thailand. One flight, and a van then picked us up from the airport and took us onto to the ferry to Koh Lanta. Koh Lanta is a beautiful island off the Andaman Sea, in what is called the “Upper Andaman Coast”. It is near Phuket but is smaller, less developed and just as beautiful! What a joy this trip was. Beautiful beaches and people!
We toured Phi Phi Islands and explored the area around Koh Lanta, and I got in some beach reading. Finally! The air quality here was noticeably better then it was in Bangkok and Chiang Mai.
Week 6, began on Wednesday: Buddhism and Non-violence. We bused out to Maha Chulalongkorn rajavidyalaya University (about an hour outside Bangkok). Beautiful campus. Ven. Dr. Phramaha Hansa Dhammahaso shared some teaching on the University, Buddhism, meditiation and mindfulness. “Just knowing about Buddha teaching is philosophy. Living it. Eat and breath. You become a monk”.
There is a lot to be said of the mind body connection. Keeping our minds and body healthy allows us all to continue to work together towards a healthy and peaceful world.
Thursday and Friday February 21st/22nd: Religions, Identities and Interfaith Dialogue. First, question of the day was do you think religion has done more good or harm to the world over the centuries. What a loaded question. Everyone had to stand in the center of class to the left or right of center depending on your thoughts. There was no right answer but it was interesting to see and hear the reasoning.
Once again it was brought home to me these two day just how connected we are in this world. Atheists agonistics, and the five major world religions – Hinduism, Islam, Buddhism, Christianity and Judaism, all have – intertwined histories and cultures.
These two days were fascinating as many people in the class on first blush claims that there was no religious conflict in their work and/or research project. One by one such a connection was shown . UN reform? yes -there are religious organizations that have standing at the UN and have also been advocating reform. Environmental conflict? Yes religious organizations across the world have been advocating for (or claiming) land distribution. Indigenous self determination in Canada? yes look to the role the churches played in residential schools and the calls to Action listed in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
Our presenter was Susan Hayward Senior Advisor for Religion and Inclusive Societies – U.S. Institute of Peace. Understanding how religion plays into (or could) a conflict is important. As Ms Hayward shared – “Gaining “religious literacy” as a peacebuilder – less about knowing the content of different religions, and more about the ability to ‘read’ and understand the impact of religion in a context and letting that inform your actions.” Appreciating religion’s impact without over or understating its influence.
There were 6 reports and articles to read for these two days and boy were they helpful. The complexities and nuances involving religion and the large body of disagreement is complex! We studied:
-Theories about the relationship between religion, conflict, and peace and the historical contingencies that led to the rise of the field of religious peacebuilding.
– Analyse the religious dimensions of conflict and peace in a particular context.
– The role of identity, particularly religious identity, in driving or exacerbating conflict.
-Interfaith dialogue as a method for building social cohesion in religious divided societies: why, when, and how to implement IFD initiatives.
Identity and the role of self (individual or nation played an important role). It is important that we try to approach these engagements as self aware as possible.
Prof Hayward noted: “Conflicts over identity are often compounded by conflicts over values”
“Any challenge to one’s value system is likely to be perceived as a threat to vital personal interests”
” Conflict can quickly escalate and become emotional ”
“Conflicts over identity and values are difficult to resolve “
Relevance in this area is applicable to many areas of culture and identity not exclusive to but certainly including religion (or lack there of).
USIP now offers online self-paced courses free of charge. See their link for more details, if you are interested. https://www.usip.org/academy
Evening and weekends we also busy. This Friday I attended a funeral for the sister of Vitoon Viriyasakultorn Deputy Director of the Rotary Peace Center at Chulalongkorn University, along with several classmates. The funeral ceremonies lasted 7 days (chanting and merit making for the deceased)and Fridays event was hosted by Chulalongkorn University. We were asked to wear black and (black or white) is what everyone present was wearing. Family and community is held in very high regard here. After the chanting and ceremony everyone was asked topose for pictures (the picture below were sent to the class to share). The cultural practices and traditions strong. It was an honour to attend and show our support and respect.
The pace of work continues to increase. We are working hard on research topics and exploring this amazing City. Thai classes continue. I struggle with the intonation and the tones (Thai has five tones, named “mid,” “low,” “falling,” “high,” and “rising.” – tone will impact the meaning of the word!! ), but I sure laugh a lot!
See you later! Læ̂w phb kạn h̄ım̀ , แล้วพบกันใหม่ !