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Are we making progress toward nuclear disarmament?

Musing from our latest intern, Amos Izerimana  

Amos Pic2 January 2016

Vienna: In life, we tend not to realize that we receive more than we give. My goal for interning with Peace Museum Vienna was to receive and give. I wanted to give my service through my talents and experience. I wanted to receive knowledge from the staff and experience through the work that I would be doing. I hoped that working with PMV staff would help me decide on a career to pursue. However, I failed to anticipate receiving from the visitors to PMV.

When I chose to apply for the internship at PMV, I was not sure of my duties apart from giving tours at the museum. Therefore, I did not know exactly what to expect. I thought the museum was bigger than I found it to be and I anticipated to have many more visitors a day. When I started, I was surprised at the number of visitors who came in interested in talking about the topic of peace and related subjects.

One morning, an 18 year old young man came in asking to speak to someone about peace. I noticed that he wanted mentoring and immediately thought that I was not experienced enough to offer such mentoring. I told him so and he insisted on talking to me regardless. After seating down with him, I asked him what peace meant to him and what he was doing for peace. He told me that he was offering all he could to serve in his community. However, he was confused as to whether he should pursue a career in peace work or follow his other passion – accounting. I told him my story and how I struggled with the same issue. Finally, I advised him that he could do accounting in support of peace. I also recommended him to contact the director, Ali, for further advice.

Some of the striking and most interesting moments that I’ve experienced at PMV have been when a resident of Vienna did not know about the Peace Museum and finally found it. A couple came into the museum and were surprised that they did not know about it. The lady was a teacher. We sat and talked about currently events, historical events, and the idea of peace. They did not know where Burundi was located and they asked me about my background. We got to know about each other and our perspectives on peace. Before they left, they complimented me that I was a good communicator and took my contacts. The teacher hoped that I could mentor her students if she gets permission from the headmaster.

Overall, I have enjoyed my time at PMV. Although I did not meet the daily expectations in donations and sales I believe that they are important. I believe that I offered peace education and that is a great accomplishment. From brief discussions about the meaning of peace and offering hope that people can do something for peace to hour-long conversations about the idea peace and liberation theology, I met the goal of peace education. This is my greatest accomplishment at PMV and I am proud of it.

As a result of my internship at PMV, I hope to continue peace education in my life. As I go to The Hague and Amsterdam, I am hoping to have similar conversations and continue doing so in my daily activities. Additionally, I hope to convince my school to create an exhibition of Peace heroes. As Vice President of the African Students Association at my school, I also plan to create a program that will highlight African leaders and Peace heroes.

I leave now wishing that the Peace Museum will become more prosperous and expand in size. I give my sincere gratitude to the members that allowed me to have this experience. I hope to come back to Vienna and to continue contributing all I can to PMV. Please continue offering the same experience to others so we can grow the community of peacebuilders and supporters of peace.

 

My time at Peace Museum Vienna 

By Davidson Bakari Juma Akhonya

5 September 2015                                                        

Screen shot 2015-09-25 at 11.16.54 PMI have just returned to Kenya from a five weeks internship in Europe this summer at Peace Museum Vienna located on the Blutgasse street in Austria’s capital, Vienna. This was a working and learning opportunity for me. I did not just apprentice with the structure and operations of a peace museum, but more to that, the wealth of ideas of visitors who came by.

Every sane person realizes the centrality of peace work in all aspects of human life, be it social or political. And celebrating the lives of persons who have sought to make the world a better place is indeed a candid idea. I commend Mama Liskor for daring to dream and putting in time and financial resources to make Peace Museum Vienna a reality. The five weeks I spent at brought me face to face with the entire world tribute to Vienna’s touristic attractions.   Unlike in Africa where tourists come to get a view of world-life and mountain hiking, many of the tourists who flock the streets of Vienna come get a view of the imperial palaces and the multitudinous museums. PMV is listed among museums in Vienna.

When I sat within the premises and waited for visitors, it was interesting to hear visitors who came in recount of how they stumbled on PMV. I was able to interact with about 1,000 persons from all walks of life during my stay and working at PMV. Some of them were curious to know how I got myself involved with this peace museum on learning that I am actually from Africa. That opened room for conversation and friendship building. No wonder, a few have shown a willingness to come and visit me in Kenya. One lady from Germany, a surgeon, invited me to her home in Essen. She counts our meeting as God-given and a bridge for her to visit Africa.

This was my first visit in Europe. I have returned home loaded with ideas and more confident of the justifiableness of peace work. And now my resolve is to replicate such an effort in Kenya – alongside our on-going peace building work in the volatile Mt. Elgon.

As a gospel minister and staunch Christian, I believe and propagate the gospel of peace as was exemplified in Jesus coming on earth to mediate between God and mankind. His coming made obsolete racial prejudices between the privileged Jews and the Gentiles who were treated as second class by the former. My time in Vienna also gave me the opportunity to work with my Islamic brothers in mutual trust and sharing of resources. I can’t fail to mention the empathy that wells up my being as a result of meeting people from war-hit countries who have come to Europe for Asylum; and hearing them recount their stories of what befell them and how they escaped.

I look forward for another opportunity to contribute to PEACE MUSEUM VIENNA for a longer season.

 

Volunteerism as an alternative to (intercultural) conflict

Iwona.FludaBy Iwona Fluda – the VII International Conference «Volunteerism — Avenue for Social Transformation» at the United Nations Office in Geneva

09 July 2015

I would like to start my speech with a few stories.

After the First World War, my great-grand aunts and uncle decided to leave their families and towns in Poland and start a new life in the United States, spending weeks on a migrant ship, before working on the construction of New York City. In 1940, some of my great aunts and uncles were deported by Russian soldiers to Siberia and spent over five years there. They were lucky enough to return home and begin their lives afresh. In 1945, my grandmother witnessed the murder of her whole family committed by German soldiers in front of her house in Silesia, Poland.
I learned of these events in a single day. Can you imagine an old man drinking coffee, eating biscuits and talking about his days in Siberia? That day, when my great uncle came to visit, transformed my life.

I am not telling these stories to point the finger of blame…no. I know that they are just a handful among millions of similar family tragedies that have happened and are unfortunately still happening around the world today. I decided to tell these stories because they have had a huge impact on my life – they compelled me to do something in order to prevent this kind of event recurring.

I asked myself one day: what can I do, alone, with my single voice? And then I realized that I can be a volunteer, not just through my project in Switzerland (I work for the Swiss Peace Council in Zurich) but also through the way that I lead my daily life. I somehow feel responsible for what has come to pass and I want to have an influence on the present. My stay in Switzerland has given me a great opportunity to talk to the people, to research and to understand a very important issue:

We – the egocentric society – and they – another egocentric society. The world has been divided into: good and bad, rich and poor, educated and uneducated. So many of us are blinded by this dichotomy, propagating the idea that every person has the right to judge, to hate and to oppress the other.

The lack of dialogue and the ever – increasing fear of the unknown – this fear of strangers leads to conflicts which could instead be solved at the table over a discussion. This ignorance and lack of goodwill to sit down together on the intercultural and interreligious table is one of the gravest faults of today. Unfortunately, this ignorance permeates every aspect of life: it sours relations in the local community. It infiltrates the job market and even leads to acts of religious violence.

Nevertheless, I do not wish to make sweeping, damning generalisations. When I think of volunteerism, so many good stories from around the world spring to mind. I have encountered so many good examples of people’s willingness to cooperate, to create and to change society.

In April, I had the huge privilege to take part in a conference organized by the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom in The Hague, the City of Freedom and Justice. I listened to Iraqi and Syrian women talking about their everyday fight for survival; their commitment to help each other and their motivation to accomplish more each day. I listened to an Indian woman talking about how she suffered repression in her country due to her ethnic origin. A Columbian journalist who was kidnapped, tortured and sexually abused expressed her willingness to help other women and founded the campaign ‘It Is Not Time To Be Silenced’. I listened to their accounts and could hardly believe how motivated they were.

I noticed… that when we really act together and if we really try hard then we can contribute something to the world in which we live. Don’t just sit and wait for a better life. Don’t put off action, waiting for that day when you would feel a hundred percent ready. If you have something to give, give it now. Start thinking outside of your private box!

Albert Einstein once said, “Peace cannot be kept by force, it can only be achieved by understanding.”

I truly believe that every single person can have the will and means to build bridges between nations, to make this world a better place to live for everyone.

So don’t ask the world what it could do for you. Ask yourself what you can give to the world.

Peace Museum Vienna mourns the death of Abdihamid Mohamoud Omer

By Ali Ahmad

20 February 2015

Peace Museum Vienna mourns the death of Abdihamid Mohamoud Omer, also known as Hamid Omer, founder of Somaliland National Youth Umbrella (SONYO). Hamid was all of 32 years old when he lost his life to a bomb attack at Mogadishu Central Hotel on 20 February while performing his Friday prayers. He was a major force for peace in Somali/Somaliland, which is plagued with more than two decades of armed conflict.

Peace Museum Vienna awards him the title of ‘Peace Hero’ for his effort in peace education in Somaliland where he focused on Somali poetry. Hamid was not only an agent but also a source of peace in the war striven Horn of Africa. He was a pioneer in promoting peace education by linking concepts of peace pedagogy to local norms and customs.

Late Hamid visited Peace Museum Vienna in Blutgasse, in the capital of Austria last summer and became an ardent supporter of the museum. He was seeking to establish Peace Museum Somaliland, where he worked, as part of PMV network. As a devoted Muslim peace educator, he was vocal in his criticism of local as well as international armed groups who use violence for personal as well as political means. He supported negotiation as the first step to resolve and transform conflicts.

Hamid Omer had an interesting discussion last summer with the staff of PMV about the conflict in his native region.  For Omer, violence was the ugliest aspect of human society and the most inhuman means of resolving conflict. He sincerely believed in the power of nonviolence in managing and resolving conflict. His death is a loss not only to his family and friends, but also to the peace community in the Horn of Africa. The world today needs more people like Hamid Omer with dedication and passion for peace. This need is urgent as well as necessary. PMV sincerely believes in raising peace consciousness through peace education, something that Hamid was practicing personally and professionally.

Please join Peace Museum Vienna in our message of spreading peace. We can stop violence even though we may be from different race, color, religion, gender, or ethnicity. Get together and say No to violence. The time is now and we can start from ourselves.

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Internship in the Peace Museum Vienna – August 2016

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I wanted an internship in PMV, mainly because Peace studies belongs to my field of study, I study International Relations in Prague, the Czech Republic. In the past I was part of the volunteers of Forum 2000, founded by Václav Havel, one of the Peace Heroes. This organization focuses on democracy, peace, human rights and education.
I am fond of the idea of the peace education. What I liked the most about my internship was the possibility to talk with visitors about Peace Heroes, share our thoughts and experiences. I think that Peace Heroes have a great potential, their stories can inspire and teach us about our past, present grievances.  On the other hand I think that it would be beneficial to put less Peace Heroes on the walls and cover our knowledge about them more in depth.
As I said, I love talking to the people, I think that discussion is the most beneficial part of the tour of every visitor. However, there are people, who are too shy or they don´t want to discuss peace and Peace Heroes. For them we have not enough incentives. Maybe we can expand activities such as questions about What we can do for peace etc., but about specific topic related to the specific Peace Hero.
During my internship I was in charge of contacting NGOs and schedule meetings with them. I think that maybe someone else, who is here for longer time, would be more successful at it than me. On the other hand I am very grateful for an opportunity to witness meetings with other NGOs, ambassadors and other  people. I really enjoyed the experience and I learned a lot.
It was a great pleasure to work with other interns and colleagues in PMV. I learned so much from them. From Ana I learned how she easily communicate with people on telephone, in the meetings, on the weekly meetings. From Mami I learned her calm expression, very polite and grateful demeanor and her advice when I wasn’t sure about something. Even though I met Amos only for quite short time, I noticed how he was interested in discussion with people.
As I wrote in my bio, I believe that people, especially young ones, have a great potential if they have an opportunity to evolve. Peace Heroes are example of people, who are not afraid to make a difference, so we shouldn’t be also afraid to make a difference.

PEACE MUSEUM VIENNA THINGS TO MUSE ABOUT 2016

mami

As of today, Japan is the only country where atomic bombs were dropped in its land. Acknowledging this fact that happened in my country, my responsibility at the Peace Museum Vienna (PMV) was to actively perform what I can do for peace throughout learning life stories of Peace Heroes. I was privileged to be a part of this amazing, young, international, and more importantly, peaceful organisation during the summer 2016.

I have changed positively for these past 3 months. Even for the short time, I had a good effect on my personal development and learned how to serve in the museum even better. The lessons learnt include fast-paced and productive work style, make-it-happen mindsets, how to take a break from the work and switch back to the tasks after vacation period ends, and a creation of a peaceful workplace where everyone can reach their ultimate potential. The PMV team is the group of individuals from various backgrounds and rich in experience with fundraising activities, in which other NGOs want to explore. They are open to share expertise with us, new interns, and treated us sweet and equally. Visitors and partners to PMV educated me about effective communication and widen my knowledge of peace in myself. During my time at PMV, people spend their most of their time on developing the Peace Museum Vienna Walk. All members in PMV worked hard to organise the Walk successfully. Throughout the event organisation process, I learnt how to convey our missions and collaborate with Viennese communities and businesses to jointly promote peace. My goal of the internship at PMV is to suck as many takeaways as I can, not just pack many Viennese souvenirs for my family and friends. With all of experiences combined, my purpose was achieved.

 

Beyond these skills PMV has offered me, I should also mention all the challenges during my internship period. A language barrier is a definitive drawback I was facing. A knowledge of German is essential to open Viennese people’s heart, although that is not a requirement. Another challenge I faced is that event organisation is not as easy as I have ever expected. It took lots of energy, courage and patience to contact potential partners, next to research on them, having a meeting with them, following them up. Perhaps that is because Viennese people are not that keen to make peace in their lives. One day, a visitor expressed his concern. People in Vienna are willing to see historical figures who are very negative, be it Hitler or Donald Trump. They should learn more about local Austrians (Franz Jägerstätter, Bertha von Suttner etc) who devoted their lives to bettering the world in a peaceful way. As a foreigner in Vienna, this is a certain limit to be understood and it is hard to overcome.

 

All in all work for PMV was an enriching life experience. It was about communication – loving to learn that everyone has their story to be heard. Internship at PMV taught me to connect myself to the others and care about them, enabling me to forge lifetime friendship which is a first step to make peace. PMV was born in 2014 and has just set off its journey. This museum has a number of potentials that take them to next level where it can become a much better place to be. Peace education won’t change overnight, but with time and practice, I believe that PMV will truly become a place where visitors take actions they can do for peace. PMV came at a time when refugees and migrants become a divisive element of the European Union, where this peace museum is located. Therefore, by encouraging people to live peacefully, PMV can take a part during this period of fear of future. That is why PMV should exist.