Li Po Chun United World College of Hong Kong (LPCUWC) ran its signature peace summit on its 14th year this month with 150 young adults learning more about conflict management and resolution in its two-day summit that tackled the theme, “Diversity”.
 
This is the same peace summit that for years brought young people – from even the opposite poles of conflict –together – from the Kashmir territorial dispute between India and Pakistan to the Mindanao crisis in the Philippines to the issue of diversity in Hong Kong.
 
maganYoung adults from around Hong Kong, with ages 15 to 19, attended the summit rolled out from March 23 to 24 in a format that combines talks by experts on the field, simulations and activities that develop conflict management and resolution skills.
 
“Our goal is to create awareness among young adults – why peace is important; what it promotes; and how to bring about peace through our own individual actions,” LPCUWC Physics teacher Magan Savant, who created the Initiative for Peace (IFP) quan cai (全才)student programme and started the peace summit in as early as 2006.
 
Savant pounds on the value of peace as it permeates into the different facets of community life.
 
“When there is no peace, people are scattered. There is unrest and all kind of animosities. And the poor gets affected first with a range of problems from diseases to lack of employment,” he said.
 
And it is what he described as the malleability of young people, “their openness to new ideas,” that reinforces the relevance of the youth in achieving peace in this generation and those to come.
 
It was in 2015 when Savant and the IFP decided to focus on “diversity” as the theme, owing to the highly multicultural environment of and many minority communities in Hong Kong.
 
Earlier, for six years, the conference which was held in the Philippines for the first three years and Hong Kong in the succeeding years, put the spotlight on the Mindanao crisis in the Philippines, receptive to what at that time were mounting issues surrounding the country’s largest island group. Over that period, they pooled together youth participants from the Philippines with varying ideologies and faith perspectives in a similar two-day camp.
 
Much earlier, for three years since it started in 2006, the peace summit reflected on the Kashmir territorial dispute between India and Pakistan. Over these three years, Mahindra College, another United World Colleges institution located in Maharashtra, India, took turns with LPCUWC in hosting the peace summit on Kashmir that convened young adults from India and Pakistan and young Kashmiris.
 
Common to these summits is a format of dialogue and engagement that rests on the fundamental idea that “each one of us thinks differently.”
 
diversity summit“It is then necessary that to we do something constructive. We need to come together, act in the same manner, know what the issues are, and be able to work together despite our differences,” Savant explained.
 
Yet in the process, in seeking constructive resolutions, the summits over the years promote an inherent respect for varying ideologies – what, according to Savant, is true to the UWC mission.
 
So is peace too elusive? 
 
“I think there have been positive steps. If we simply look at the peace index over the past centuries, this is one of the more peaceful times. But we cannot stop, because it’s better if there is more peace than less peace,” Savant stressed.
 
Indicative of positive results from the peace summits, some participants, Savant said, have created their own NGOs and others have become active in peace work in their respective countries.
 
The IFP summits are unique in that the facilitators are trained students in LPCUWC. These peer facilitators are also members of the IFP. Given their training, they are more ably able to interface with the participants who fall within their age bracket.  ###