On 7 and 8 March 2020, 287 students between the ages of 14 and 23, from all over Belgium, gathered in Brussels for the annual PeaceJam Youth Leadership Conference with a focus on Social Justice and Sustainable Development.
The conference organised in partnership with the universities KU Leuven, VUB, ULB, UCL as well as Education pour la Paix and the European Peer Training Organisation, offered an opportunity for youngsters to meet the Nobel Peace Prize winner Rigoberta Menchú Tum. A human rights activist from Guatemala, Rigoberta Menchú, won the prize in 1992, for her continuing commitment to the rights of the indigenous peoples of Guatemala during and after the Guatemalan Civil War (1960-1996), and for internationally promoting the rights of the indigenous peoples of Guatemala.
The conference kicked off with high energy from the youngsters and teachers in response to Rigoberta Menchú’s speech at the Opening Ceremony, which focused on peace within ourselves, our environments and our communities, setting the tone for a weekend full of inspiration. PeaceJam mentor, Junaid Ashraf, shared Rigoberta’s words on twitter: “We need to take care of our health beyond physical, there’s also an emotional disease, spiritual disease to protect ourselves from. For Mayans our life is nature.”
A section of the programme on Saturday was dedicated to the “Act of Peace”, which is an important part of every Peace Jam Conference. The session was led by Paulina Rios Maya and Loyle Campbell, who shared their project Correctional Integrity, a capacity-building toolkit that tackles corruption in institutions through integrity and transparency. In fitting with the focus of the conference, they brought the question of “Climate Corruption: What is it and how to fix it”, aiming to create a critical awareness of an often overlooked angle of the climate debate. The students discussed corruption and transparency and more specifically climate corruption and how to tackle this. The groups were then asked to design a poster which they then presented. The winning team included some of the youngest participants at the Conference, the future’s looking bright!
The “Act of Peace” will be added to the Billion Acts of Peace platform, which already has over 60 million thoughtful actions that spread more peace in communities, schools, businesses or organizations.
The PeaceJam Belgium youth conference is in full swing, our amazing MCs told us a little bit about what’s to come today on day 2. Keep following us on Instagram @epto_org! #peacejam #peacejambelgium #peacejambelgium2020
Geplaatst door EPTO | European Peer Training Organisation op Zondag 8 maart 2020
With the 8th of March being International Women’s Day, many of the dedications during the Ceremony of Inspiration were dedicated to courageous women, mothers, aunts, grandmothers… The openness of the participants to share their stories and the compassion and support their follow students showed to them during these moments was incredibly moving.
Participants then presented the project ideas that they had worked on with their schools and youth groups to the plenary which ranged from ideas on refugee integration, climate solutions, diversity, islamophobia and non-violence.
Mes Mots by the Association de la Jeunesse Molenbeekoise – AJM, which tackled labelling, prejudices, being a young Muslim woman and Islamophobia, received a standing ovation from the other participants.
Students had the chance to join a range of colourful workshops on Sunday afternoon, these included:
- Youth Activism: School Strikes or Youth Diplomacy with the VUB Model United Nations
- Sofa Climate Hero: How to Save the World by Doing Nothing with Dominikos K. Chrysidis from the Foundation for Global Governance and Sustainability
- Climatequiz: What Do You Know About the World’s Most Talked About Topic with Reason and Engage Students at the VUB
- Zine El Abedine Zen Calligraphy Workshop with D’Broej – Centrum West
- Ada Dancer: African Dance Workshop with D’Broej – Centrum West
- “Life is not a Disney Movie” – The Social Justice Game with Joke Neels and Vincent Punie from Demens
- They Have No Right To Be There with Géraldine Courtois and Fariha Ali from ULB Engagée
- Walk in Consciousness: Change Your Perspective with Sebastian De Fooz
- Inner Peace and Environment Versus External Peace and Environment Through Heartfulness Meditation with Heartfulness Belgium
- Dance4Peace: Using Dance to Promote Empathy and Transform Violence and Conflict in Communities with Didier Perrouault and Ingrid Liberatore
- Discovering Human Rights with Amnesty International
- Here and There with Souad Ben Chahra, AFS
- Tips and Tricks: How to Do Your Application. EU Funding Opportunities with Erik Ballhausen from the EACEA, European Commission
The 2020 conference was one of a series of annual conferences that take place in countries currently participating in the PeaceJam Programme. The event is part of the PeaceJam project “Nobel Peace Prize Laureates mentoring Youth to build an Inclusive Europe”, supported by the Erasmus+ programme of the European Union.
To see more photos from the conference visit the PeaceJam Belgium facebook page. A video of the conference will be available to watch in the near future, so stay tuned…
The conference was also featured in the following media outlets:
- Video from BRUZZ
- Article in MO magazine in Dutch
- Interview with Rigoberta Menchú in Newsweek in Dutch
- Interview with Rigoberta Menchú on the VUB website
With the support of the Erasmus+ programme of the European Union, PeaceJam Belgium and its European partners aim to replicate the success of the PeaceJam experience specifically for the European reality, by strengthening the relevance of the “Compassion in Action” educational curriculum in schools and youth organizations across Europe. PeaceJam Belgium has already successfully organized national conferences in 2016, 2017, 2019 and 2020.