Great things are happening here in Iceland. On 9-12 April, 230 remarkable people from the global North and South gathered in Reykjavik to share actions for effective change on the issue of ‘The Power of Love and Compassion in Governance’. Iceland is consistently rated the most peaceable of all countries in the world in the Global Peace Index.
Peace Direct’s Sri Lankan partner Dishani Jayaweera attended, courtesy of contributions from Quaker funds in Burford. Dishani described the violence and injustice in her country, which led her to set up the Center for Peacebuilding and Reconciliation (CPBR) in 2003, with her life partner Jayantha. They believe that change has to come from the bottom up as well as the top down. So CPBR is working with young people and religious leaders to identify, accept, respect and nourish diversity in Sri Lanka. It reaches out to all of the religious groups in Sri Lanka – Sinhalese Buddhists, Tamil Hindus, Muslim Islamic, and Tamil and Sinhalese Christians – and has set up six interfaith dialogue centres in key areas.
Those who heard Dishani’s personal story were deeply moved. Dishani herself felt encouraged and hopeful, because of the way that compassion is being recognised at new levels as a driving force for a more peaceful world. She took on the task of a group blog after the conference, on transforming political systems by extending new values to a larger audience. Coming from a militarised society, she said she felt safe in Iceland, as well as experiencing her first snowstorm….
Dishani was accompanied by Peace Direct co-founder Scilla Elworthy, who was asked how the power of love and compassion can be increased in the world. She said that those who are willing to stand up and speak out for love and compassion tend to be female. Women work 66% of the world’s working hours, yet earn only 10% of the world’s income. They are responsible for producing 60-80% of the world’s food, yet hold only 10% of the world’s wealth – and own only 1% of the world’s land. Only 7% of negotiators at peace tables are female, meaning that the suffering of the majority of victims of armed violence is not represented. So there is an urgent need for the large numbers of qualified women to be moved into policy-making positions.
What did Dishani and Scilla learn?