Thursday, December 21, 2017

Peace Studies Students Reflect on Their Creators of Peace Circle: ‘Peace begins with me.’

In March 2017, Clara, Indriani and Carrie, three students enrolled in a Masters course in Peace and Conflict Studies at the University of Sydney, attended their first Creators of Peace (CoP) Circle. Manu Granados, CoP national administrator in Australia, caught up with the three friends eight months later, to find out what impact their involvement has had on their lives and their studies. She reports:

Clara from Brazil, Indriani from Indonesia, and Carrie from the US were already on a pathway of seeking solutions for world peace through their Masters course. They had not been expecting to ‘turn the camera inwards’ for answers about peace, conflict and change. Yet, that is just what happened when they took part in in a CoP Peace Circle that March weekend in Sydney.

CoP Peace Circles usually take place over two to three days – often, but not always, in residence. With the help of facilitators, participants work together through a series of ‘gathering points’ or conversation starters that are designed to elicit honest and open sharing of their personal experiences, beliefs and values. Commenting on the March event, Clara saw it as a place where one can learn concepts to apply to one’s own life as well as to one’s studies, and Carrie highlighted the opportunity in such Circles for women to share stories and talk through topics of peace. The March Circle was one of seven that have taken place at the University of Sydney’s Department of Peace and Conflict Studies over the past four years, facilitated by women from the Creators of Peace network in New South Wales.

Clara noted that the CoP Peace Circle was the first time that she had witnessed ‘peace in practice’ since starting her course. She realized that, in order to bring more peace to her life, she needed to break away from a competitive mindset that would often end up in animated conversations. ‘I realised that I needed to win arguments with those around me, and by doing that I was destroying peace,’ she said. Through taking part in the Circle, she began to see peace and inner peace as ‘my individual responsibility.’ Immediately after the event, she felt calmer, able to pause more often and give herself ‘a bit of space’.

CarrieFor Carrie, it was the first time she had reflected on her background and the values that she had internalized. Through reflection, she found that she had developed ‘better insights into myself and what I was doing to destroy peace, through my own reactions and expectations of others.’

Indriani said that her thinking about peace has shifted; she now believes it can be achieved through the individuals more than through policies or peace treaties. ‘There might be something I can do, starting with myself,’ she reflected.

All three commented on the level of structure and guidance that was provided through the CoP Peace Circle facilitators, how welcoming the circle was, and how easily the trust building occurred.

Carrie reflected on patterns and stories that had been hers. Through participating in the Circle, she began to practise mindfulness and to let go of the things she was holding on to, such as hurt and self- blame. She also came to the conclusion that, ‘It is not selfish to put myself first. It is self-care.’

Indriani valued the gatherings that followed the Peace Circle: the follow-up evening; the reunion of participants; and the Creators of Peace Facilitator Training that she later undertook. Each event was an important reminder of the necessity to put distance between herself and her feelings, such as anger and anxieties, so that she could be more relaxed.  She is also aware now when someone ‘triggers’ certain reactions, she can think more about why that may be so, and can let go of the feeling, rather than reacting.  Clara recognized that she can read other people’s reactions more easily, and is able to listen more.

Looking to the future, the three women reflected on the enduring impacts from that first weekend together. Carrie appreciates the bond that the participants have built among themselves since they met at the Peace Circle. ‘There is a sense of trust and belonging,’ she said. Indriani used to believe that many people were ‘unreachable’, hidden behind many boundaries. Now she believes that, ‘We are all the same, having our insecurities and our problems.’ She now wants to know people on a deeper level, and to go beyond the small talk.

In terms of the impact on their studies, Carrie conveyed her excitement and new-found passion for grassroots peace building. Indriani said, ‘The idea that “peace begins with me” is really important.’ She noted that this has helped her make sense of the MA course and it has shifted the direction she wants to take. ‘I want to work with people, not necessarily institutions,’ she said.

All three agreed that their biggest take-away from the CoP Peace Circle has been the commitment to oneself - getting to know yourself more, understanding how we internalise conflict and perceive things, taking care of yourself, letting go of the things you can’t change and starting the journey of ‘being the change’ that you want to see in the world.

  • Special thanks to Carrie, Clara and Indriani for sharing their thoughts with us, and to Shoshana Faire and Maria Moy for facilitating the Peace Circle.For information about CoP and upcoming opportunities to take part in a CoP Peace Circle, contact

Photo Courtesy: Shoshana Faire