Leading Change: Peacebuilding starts within
Posted on September 20, 2017 by 0 comments 0 likes
Pete Yeo has been a Rainmaker since the inception of the Rainmaker Foundation. He has always been an environmentalist with a strong connection to the natural world and his philanthropic journey led him to start supporting Peace Direct, an international NGO assisting local people in some of the most challenging conflict-environments worldwide.
So often war and violence dominate mass media. We see lives and communities torn apart, destroyed by bombings. But there is a different story. A story crafted by remarkable people living in war zones who believe that something can be done to stop the violence. Peace Direct works with these people to help local communities build peace in over ten war-torn countries.
Peace Direct is a cohort member of the Rainmaker Foundation’s Charity Accelerator programme for 2017. This week we celebrate International Day of Peace and here, Pete shares his reflections on the power of grassroots-led social change, and of the interconnectedness of social and environmental issues. [Feature image: Peace Direct]
“Peace speaks to me on a number of levels. When I was first invited to support Peace Direct and what it stood for, as an environmentalist at the time, I took the angle of sustainability. But once exposed to the conflict and peacebuilding issues, it became very clear that it would be silly to try to save the environment if we’re just going to wage war and undo all the great progress.
Peacebuilding and conflict resolution is possibly the most critical channeling of resources within the whole social change sphere. I think we have a long distance to travel in order to truly challenge things in a gentle way.
‘Gentle action’ in terms of community development is about understanding any given situation, addressing the issues that we’re confronting now, and not trying to impose anything on anyone. Peace Direct supports this as it supports local peacebuilders on the ground who best know how to bring all parties together to resolve a conflict.
What is being reflected in the prevalent narrative, consciously or otherwise, is the belief in the duality of existence. So there’s ‘you’, ‘me’, ‘us’, and ‘them’. Basically, the other.
This is the story of separation which includes not just people, but the way that we treat the planet as other than us, as a different system. Then there’s conflict and competition, which is born from that same story of separation. The impact that conflict has on the planet has great consequences for all life. We needn’t have multiple parties operating out of this separate mindset. It doesn’t have to be that way. The universe that we exist in is fundamentally abundant.
The period which we’re living in now taps into this idea. Slowly, we’re starting to wake up, and we’re seeing that we are actually all one, we’re not separate.
The story of separation is an incomplete way of looking at the world and it’s also very simplistic.
In my understanding, some of the more aware environmentalists are stepping away from activism because rallying against the system of big corporates, for instance, isn’t a solution. By continuing with language which separates and divides two sides it just perpetuates this notion of a good versus bad side. Our inner and outer ecologies are actually the same. Not only do we need to remember the connection that we have with each other, but there’s the profound connection that we have within ourselves, and between ourselves and the world around us. Nothing is separate – every living thing, all of us, we are all connected.
We each have our own part to play in building the future of this planet. As Ghandi said, “Be the change you wish to see in the world”. So you do have an impact on others, and on the world simply by changing yourself. It’s critical to consider this when it comes to supporting charities or other people. You’ll never know how many people you will ever impact. So this idea of feedback from others and from the environment around you, and that notion that everything is connected is even stronger.
Authentic giving is the core, fundamental element of my journey as a philanthropist. It’s not just about numbers. Maybe a charity or a project has to fail at a particular time, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that there was no impact, because you don’t know, in fact you cannot know all the different ways people could have been impacted, and the ripple effect, which extends well beyond what can be measured.
My wish for peace is simply this: to have greater awareness of our interconnectedness and inter-being. If people saw and acted on that understanding, if they could really feel it and know it, then their relationships with family, friends and their overall life choices would change fundamentally. Maybe people are at different levels or awareness. I would like to believe that it comes in stages and that right now, we’re moving towards a flowering of humanity.
For me, inner peace happens instantly when I’m in natural environments. We are never disconnected from nature, but I find the wilder the environment, the more coherent I become. Peace comes from this felt connection. My wish would be for more people at scale to feel this connection to everything and feel the sense of peace from that, to become coherent again.”