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03 December, 2015

I am now convinced

Peace Circle in Oxford

Sceptical of its actual impact, Ashley Muller unpacks her first exposure to a Creators of Peace Circle. From judgment to advocacy, she writes about her change of heart towards Peace Circles, engaging with her identity as a woman seeking to create peace, and embracing the responsibility of doing this in partnership with many other women around the world.

All this talk about Peace Circles really used to agitate me. From my entitled and selfish outside perspective, it sounded to me like an escape and disconnect from the realities of the inequalities and injustices facing our world. If I am honest in exposing my pre-Peace Circle judgements, it seemed like an outdated way to vent about conflict, to talk about the problems in life in order to make yourself feel good about engaging in world issues, and then continuing on with life with no sustainable solution or forward thinking. However, I was completely wrong. 

Despite being involved with Initiatives of Change (IofC), and advocating on behalf of IofC projects for 1.5 years, I had yet to experience a Peace Circle – a foundational tool used by Creators of Peace, a programme of IofC , for peace building, trust-building and reconciliation. After moving to Oxford, UK in September, to work full time with Initiatives of Change, I was given the opportunity to attend a Peace Circle. Our group of 10 women met on three different weekends throughout October and November, composed of two full day and one half-day training sessions – to be honest, I was quite hesitant towards it.

My first impression, when I entered the room where the Peace Circle was held, was one of intimidation by the diverse representation of the women. I immediately became insecure, as I felt an expectation of necessary transparency and vulnerability creeping over me - one thing that my generation is not good at embodying. These insecurities heightened within the first hour as all members of the Peace Circle went around and introduced themselves, exposing bits of who they were. Women from Somalia, South Africa, the UK, Russia, and Barbados were attending, highlighting a complete mix of cultures. Through further sharing and introduction, and as I began lowering the walls I had put up, I began realizing that these women in the room were even more empowered to combat injustice, to bring a voice to the voiceless, than I could even imagine. It was an opportunity to learn from other women how to impact the needs in their own communities, introducing authentic ways of sustainable living, seek peace in new and creative ways.

We discussed topics including: What is peace? Where is your place of peace? What are the qualities of a peace maker? Identify the peacemakers in your family line; the importance of team building; forgiveness of perpetrators and overcoming victimhood; addressing core IofC values and principles: honesty, purity of intention, love, unselfishness; identifying our personal judgements towards ourselves and reconciling with those

A brief reflection on my thoughts during one of the quiet times we were given to process what we had been discussing in the peace circle:

Reconciling with personal judgement and insecurity.

Judgment stems from personal insecurity, Insecurity is created from a personal experience, which has shaped you, both consciously and unconsciously. Being judgemental is carried over from pride, selfishness, envy, jealousy. These things are manifestations of ‘a need to satisfy’ and seeking reassurance in other people. We cannot look only to other people for this, if we do we will never be at peace - we must look inward and upward, honestly engaging with your true identity as a person, taking a step of faith to be compassionate towards yourself, listening to the still small voice inside of you encouraging you to lay down pride, insecurity, and judgements and explore life at its fullest in peace, joy, love, and reconciliation.

Learning how to push myself outside my comfort zone internally, not only through social interactions, but intellectually overcoming barriers in my mind as well, allowed me to challenge individual filters and perceptions put in place by culture, religion, and the media. The Peace Circle is a place of coming into alignment with your personal convictions, but it does not leave you with nothing to do after ‘venting’ – it empowers you to join in fellowship with other women attempting to play their role in society to combat injustice and take on the issue of inequality – bringing in inspiration towards conflict prevention and management, trust building, peace building, and reconciliation; ultimately equipping women to reflect on their own lives and spheres of influence, engaging with their own abilities, convictions, and passions to make a change in their communities at every level of society.

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