The experience from MPJ training 2011
At this moment when I write down this individual reflection on the MPJ 2011, unbelievably almost one month has been passing. Even so, all feelings in my mind and my heart are still fresh as if the journey has just had a paused by yesterday. I now sit down; remember every familiar face of MPJ members; and recall every piece of information, knowledge, and relationships that I have luckily been shared during the trip. This individual reflection is written not only for a review of what I have been learning and applying but also for an occasion by which I can strengthen my willingness to be a part of peace-building progression.
My participation in the MPJ 2011 has been a fascinating and unforgettable experience to my life. With a background on sociology and development studies, I was quite familiar with most of main concepts introduced to participants. Frankly to say, I had fortunately come to the journey with main expectation of expanding my network within the region and of learning more real situation at local areas of Thai-Cambodia borderland. It is wonderful that I have been able to reach to those desires; however, I have even gained much more than that. The 17-day trip has been successfully presenting me “time to listening”, “time to sharing”, “time to learning others’ self and reconstructing my own self”. I have not only been able to digest more deeply concepts conveyed but crucially been inspired with real practice of applying them in myself and the people who I got involved, meaning my fellow MPJ members and local people at the field-sites.
“Time to Listening” came to me in the very early moment of the journey, when I joined a game of introduction with a group of almost a half of participants from six countries of the Mekong Basin. In that game, each person had to listen carefully others’ brief introduction with name, home country, main responsibilities in home country and hobby so as to be able to tell the whole group introducing information of all previous players. While the game required players to have intensive listening and good way of memorizing, I was very impressive of honesty, openness and caring that players who mostly knew one another for the first time expressed during their process of listening – telling and their assistance to friends who could not make well that process. Since the beginning of the journey, that impression had made me believed that the MPJ would be able to provide an effective space for young people to reach to objectives of overcoming “bias”, “distrust” and “misunderstandings”.
My impression and belief have been gradually confirmed with the class on Trust Building, Deep Listening and the concept of Power. Through different creative and constructive games along with easy-following lectures by p’ Ouay Porn, I and my buddy and other participants have really learned a lot about developing skill of deep listening by making up open-minded personality, sincerity and patience. And exercises on the concept of Power with role play truly helped me to realize importance of deep listening in any effort to address problems of unequal power relations and conflicts. Since then I have always tried to practice “time of listening” everywhere with everyone; as I see that should be a part of our way of life rather than a working tool simply. And it has been true, to me, when lecturers on conflict transformation class in Cambodia have successfully embedded “time of listening” into their lifestyle and working time. And I understand that is one of the main reasons for their well working in mediating lots of conflicts.
Only with prior provision of smoothly application of “time to listening”, “time to sharing” can be achieved and developed to be an effective mechanism of mediating conflicts. That is what I have understood from the trip, not at once but be accumulated from both the class and the fieldwork. By “sharing” I want to mention about knowledge, information and happiness. These three things are those I mainly want to share with others and wish to be shared by others. But “sharing” action can often be exercised in voluntary manner only if giver and receiver have certain common point of interests and senses of caring, responsibility, and reliance. In that way understanding, I believe that “time to sharing” will only be possible in its true sense – meaning “voluntarily sharing” – if “time to listening” has been ensured. In the class, I myself and other participants – from my own observation – had step by step practiced “time of listening” with our buddy, with our roommates or housemates, with our peer members (that is those who have similar concerns ranged from abstract thing like a research topic to concrete thing like a drink), and teammates during certain exercises. By so doing, I really got increasingly feeling of caring, responsibility and reliance to my partner(s) whom I then would like to share my resources, either mental or physical resources. Once I can feel free to share my resource, I would hardly want to do any conflict. From this point I then try to scale up from individual level to more macro level, such as to an extent of community. Then during the fieldwork, I can feel more and more clearly about discredit ambiguity and anxiety existing among villagers of both conflicting sides. The villagers – those who are mostly powerless – have such state of mind towards one another and towards their own leaders at all levels. Bearing such sufferance in mind, the more powerless villager is, the more that person shown me his / her need of having someone to listen and of being listened what that person’s family is really lack to making stable livelihood: information, proper education / knowledge and feeling of ease with their livings. The role of a peace-builder, thus to me, should be first and foremost to provide “time to listening” to powerless and vulnerable people, and to work out suitable mechanism through which their voices of fact can be conveyed to those who are more involving with decision making process. Only with adequate and sincere listening, true “time of sharing” could be commenced and reinforced so that potential conflicts would be diminished with caring, accountability and trust. The issue of how to attain a suitable mechanism in question is, however, leading to more complicated direction of dealing with structure and root cause of violence that this short reflection would not address.
Nonetheless, to be considered as an organic part of both “time to listening” and “time to sharing” is “time to learning others’ self and reconstructing oneself”. In other words, I apprehend it “time to self development”. And I acknowledge that this practice together with “time to listening” is the most feasible for an individual to fulfill. Upon mindful listening, I have been shared a lot of faithful information and knowledge. However, those sharing are not at all dead facts. To really do mindful listening, I understood that listener has to listen with care and honesty. Once I can truly do so, I will feel that the story of my partner is also of mine. But how to “truly do so” is exactly what I have to reconstruct myself to overcome any of my prejudices and bias as well as to acknowledge and learn characteristics of the self of my partner (or the giver or the informant). This “time to self development” is thus both a subsequence and a prerequisite of time to listening and to sharing.
While I have above briefly expressed some reflections on my own understanding of the time learning with MPJ 2011, I would like also present my great appreciation to kindly extensive contribution of participants and RST members from the region. Without your wonderful involvement both mentally and physically, I believe that I could not be able to have a very constructive and friendly learning environment like the MPJ 2011. Besides, I think the local people who have warmly welcomed us are the other crucial contributors to the successfulness of the program; and I would deeply feel in debt to them, especially my homestay owners. I am now very happy to have great chance of seeing again some of MPJ participants in Chiang Mai, and I wish all of us will do successfully our work so that we can also have more some time and energy to work together for MPJ action plan through which we can not only serve our best for the peace building process but also have a chance of reunion very soon.
Wish you all in good health with big smile (^______^)
PEACE FOR ALL; ALL FOR PEACE
by Talong, Vietnam