Welcome to GDL Peacebuilders: A Multimedia Portrait
This virtual exhibition led by Banu Pekol highlights members of the Global Diplomacy Lab who work on peacebuilding and conflict transformation.
These members have shared an object, image, sound, or video which they feel closely relates to their work and is linked to their own story of resilience. If you want to learn more about Peacebuilding in general, visit our about the exhibition page for further insights!
Julie August on memories about the impact of the second world war on families
The object I chose is a small toy, a doll on a swing, made out of wood and wire. It is at least 80 years old, I guess, and currently belongs to Anastasia, one of my half-sisters. She introduced it to me when we first met (I was grown-up already when we contacted each other) and she told me, her (our) father had brought it from Russia when he came back from war imprisonment 5 years after the end of the second world war. This small little object had a big impact on me because somehow, I realised only then that my father had been there, participating, in this war we were told about in history. First, I was touched he'd look for a toy to bring back home - he didn't know his son who was born in 1945, but knew about the pregnancy of his wife. My sister Anastasia was born some years later and it was not explicitly her toy, but she always liked it and took it with her when she moved out.
Many years later (I had already moved to Argentina and lived with my wife Lili) this toy came back to my mind and generated a lot of questions. As Lili is one of the founders of a collective of Argentine military dictatorship perpetrator’s descendants (Historias Desobedientes) who line up with other human rights organisations to guarantee that perpetrators receive penalties and go to prison, I started to ask myself about my (our) father's role during WWII.
What was his role? Was he forced to fight with the German army or was he proud of it? Did he kill people? Would he obey orders to mistreat or eliminate Jews, gipsies, homosexuals? Where did the toy come from? What happened to the child who owned it? Did his/her mother/father sell it to a shop or directly to my father? Was it changed for food, maybe? Did he find it in an empty house, while the family fled or died? Or was he the violent, even violating german soldier that stole several things ...??
Like in most German families, we never talked about war times and as he died when I was 8 years old, I had no chance to ask him directly. I know he was a doctor and worked in the sanitary unit. Now, sanitary units did not only save injured soldiers, but some also participated in terrible medical experiments or even in the extermination of Jews. Still, I didn't investigate enough and I don't want to judge my father, but it was important for me to realise that Nazi (and other) atrocities were not abstract facts in a history book but were related with personal histories, with "normal" families and lives. To face the fact that even perpetrators could be loving fathers, good musicians, creative artists etc., in other words, that perpetrators are no monsters, but humans that can commit the most terrible things. This empowered me to engage in work related to Memory, Truth and Justice.
Institutional Memory, Memorial sites and history lessons are important – but not enough. Silence (within societies as well as within families) is a very common phenomenon after big atrocities. I am convinced that storytelling is a powerful tool to raise awareness and learning from the past to recognise present dangers might be the only way to avoid future atrocities and I try to contribute to a conscious dealing with the past.
Colette Mazzucelli on navigating through troubled waters in the 21st century
Noaka means boat in Bengali. This treasured gift from a New York University graduate, Syed Mafiz Kamal Onik (সৈয়দ মফিজ কামাল অনিক), is one of the traditional wooden boats on the river. The image depicts the most common boat, which is often used for passenger transport in Bangladesh. In my reflections about listening pertaining to learning, research, and service on behalf of conflict resolution, the experiences of the indigenous, the non-Western, in other words, those peoples with ancestral knowledge, may guide us looking ahead in a post-pandemic world.
The fluidity of the oceans provides insights as we reflect on the intractable nature of conflicts in the early 21st century. This observation may orient endeavors in our listening for resolution guided by the words of the late Kalepa Baybayan who reminded us not to let others define who we are. His words resonate as we face the challenges of conflict resolution: “...Be persistent and relentless and keep working that sail plan so that you arrive at your destination.” (1)
In 2007, Kalepa, a native of Hawai’i, was initiated into the order of Pwo, the two-thousand-year-old society of deep-sea navigators in Micronesia. His participation in worldwide voyages may serve as an inspiration to all who seek, in the spirit and practice of “provention” as defined by John Burton, to solve urgent issues through listening and learning in our world. As Kalepa expressed: “It is my highest aspiration to be a part of a network of like-minded individuals intent on problem-solving.” (2) As the population of planet Earth faces an uncertain future, our collective responsibility is to listen so that we may better understand the ways in which natural resources figure more prominently in all types of conflicts. The leadership and participation of women and youth in this endeavor are critical to its success. Together we must learn to navigate the waters that can lead us safely to shore amidst the storms that persist when humankind conflicts with nature.”
(1) My appreciation is expressed to Joshua Cooper, Dean, Global Leadership Academy for Human Rights Advocacy, who brought this quote to my attention.
Anton Goodman on vouching for peace in the Gaza conflict
Click here to see the video. English captions are available.
This video was shot at a protest on 25 April 2021, just days before the war between Israel and Gaza; and the violence which spread across the country between Jews and Arabs. I had spent most nights in Jerusalem witnessing and trying to prevent the provocations, intimidations and violence that was rocking the city and once again tainting its holiness.
The night before this protest there was a large rally of Jewish supremacists who, with a police permit, marched on the Damascus Gate of the Old City during Ramadan, aiming at and succeeding in inciting violence.
By the end of these couple of weeks, the smell of smoke grenades was ingrained in my clothes, and I had seen the conflict escalate into a war.
I mainly work from air-conditioned offices, run tours for suited diplomats, and attend briefings and conferences. That is what my peace work looks like. But when the hour arrives, when the hatred overcomes our senses, I return to the streets. We must never relinquish the streets to racism, hatred and violence. At these times, all we have are our bodies, and these can be positioned to stand in the way of evil, and to stand in support of the values we believe in and of people who are being harmed.
Julie August is a graphic designer and art curator. She works as a graphic designer for publishing houses and architects, as well as cultural and social projects, and also organises exhibitions. Before moving to Buenos Aires, she lived in Berlin for 15 years. As art director at the small left-wing publishing house Verlag Klaus Wagenbach, she converted part of her home into a project space for contemporary artists.
The 18m gallery led her to other curatorial projects, first in Albania and Serbia, and now in Argentina and Germany. Together with Rachel Kohn, she has been directing the women artists’ network “Frauenmuseum Berlin” for eight years. She studied literature and art history in Munich and graphic design in Leipzig. She has a 24-year-old daughter and is married to the Argentine filmmaker Liliana Furió. In addition to her cultural activities, she sees a profound necessity to participate in social and human rights issues.
Learn more about Julie in this article.
Anton Goodman is a professional activist working for peace, equality and integration in Israeli society, and helping to build connections between Israelis and Palestinians on a grass-roots level. Since 2013, Anton has directed international development at the Abraham Initiatives, a major Jewish-Arab non-profit organisation, promoting shared society, equality and representation. In this role, Anton has attained major grants from the EU, the US State Department and Germany’s Federal Foreign Office. By focusing on learning from comparative examples and using best practices from other societies struggling with division, Anton broadens horizons and builds international partnerships.
On a grass-roots level, Anton is a member of the board of directors of Oz VeShalom, the Jewish religious peace movement in Israel, and regularly leads activities ranging from interfaith dialogue and political demonstrations to interventions that take a stand on the issue of Jewish extremism.
Anton lives in a small town with his wife Anat and four superhero children.