Wonders in the Making
By Solveig Hansen, IFLAC Web Editor
The IFLAC Children’s Peace Train Poetry Festival 2014 is open for poems and drawings. The deadline is June 30.
Give children a theme for a poem, or a set of crayons, and wonderful things will happen. This is what the IFLAC Children’s Peace Train Poetry Festival is all about. In this joint ride between IFLAC (The International Forum for the Literature and Culture of Peace) and Children’s Peace Train, we invite children (and their parents) to send us a poem and, if they like, a drawing about Peace in My Own Life.
As a voluntary web editor for IFLAC I have had the pleasure to publish – sometimes with a big smile on my face, sometimes with tears in my eyes – the results of various peace poetry contests for children. When we asked them What is Peace to you? we were taken aback by the children’s ability to poetically articulate their reflections on what peace meant in their lives. Just to give you a taste:
To me peace is a rare and wonderful sensation,
It trickles down your body like an egg.
The egg is cracked on your head.
And you feel this wonderful mood,
Sliding down your body.
And you start to feel at ease.
And will not bear the sword against any nation
And a wolf with a sheep sitting,
And the dove and olive leaf in her mouth
Display safely every window in every house.
Imagínate un mundo
Donde las fronteras
Solo sean un camino
Para cruzar al otro lado y ver
a nuestros hermanos
(Imagine a world
Are just a path
To cross to the other side and see
Our brothers and sisters)
Or the story about Amer, who becomes an angry man and stops smiling as he watches armed soldiers on their way to make peace:
Amer thinks and then he says: to reach peace
They are killing innocent children and destroying homes
And burning fields! It is strange!
Amer becomes an angry man
He does not laugh or smile anymore.
It ends on this hopeful note:
Dear peace, come and paint
On people’s faces a great smile again.
IFLAC is an NGO founded by Egyptian-born Israeli writer, poet, lecturer and peace researcher Ada Aharoni in 1999, with the goal of building bridges of understanding and peace through culture, literature and communication. Prof. Aharoni has taught conflict resolution and written 20+ books, including peace poetry.
In an interview for IFLAC Children’s Peace Train I asked her how children’s poetry and artwork can help create bridges between peoples and cultures. She said that poetry and artwork are deep mirrors of our lives, values and beliefs, and if the children share them with other children from other countries and cultures and read and appreciate their poems and artwork in return, then a strong bridge of understanding is created between them. “This is the most important ingredient for preventing misunderstandings, conflicts and wars between people and nations – as the Creation of Cultural Bridges leads to the respect and knowledge, and even love of ‘the other.'” A wise answer from a peace poet who has been writing for almost eight decades.
Children’s Peace Train is South Korean Jeremy Seligson’s dream come to true. In this project, children are invited to create drawings on the theme Peace in my own life and then download a certificate making them a Conductor of the Children’s Peace Train. Since its establishment in 2002, the Peace Train has expanded to more than a dozen countries.
Photos from Prof. Seligson’s Peace Train workshops are published on his site, showing children carefully holding their drawings for the world to see. And the drawings keep rolling in regularly. One of my favorites is a drawing of a bucket on which the child’s favorite things are neatly written: Mom (followed by a heart), Food, Love, Friendship, Books, Music and Netflix. Another one states, “War is not healthy for children and other living things.”
What if children are not encouraged to express themselves creatively? On one of his workshop tours Seligson visited a kindergarten class where the children had art teachers and knew how to draw, and a village of Government compounds surrounded by high fences where the children seemingly were not capable of creating shapes or forms. They just filled sheet after sheet with colored lines as fast as they could. “I left with a feeling that these children were suffering a great deprivation, and desperately needed an art program for their creative self-expression,” Seligson wrote. As a contrast, in the kindergarten where the children knew how to make objects and shapes and express emotions in their work, the drawings showed happy families, often with a sun shining over a hilltop.
So, this year IFLAC and Children’s Peace Train have joined forces to host a Peace Poetry Festival. As on the original Peace Train, after submitting their poem, the children can download a certificate making them a certified Child for Peace. Our signature drawing shown above, picturing children holding hands around the globe, is made by a former Children’s Peace Train participant, age seven at the time.
By the end of the year, an anthology with a selection of the poems will be released. Poems not yet brought to life – like a hopeful promise echoing from the future. Isn’t that wonderful?
Want to join us? See: IFLAC Children’s Peace Train