This year’s JustPeace Festival 2016 was held 21-23 January at the Ummed Ali Field, Mehagini Road, Kanchijhuli, Mymensingh. The festival was organized by Shanti Mitra, Mennonite Central Committee Bangladesh (MCC), Mati and Caritus. It included support from Interfaith Cooperation Forum (ICF), Puwroshova Mymensingh Sadar, and the help of about seventy wonderful volunteers. The goal of this festival of just-peace was to bring the community of Mymensingh together to learn and discover how to work for peace and justice both in ourselves and our societies. With Shanti Mitra’s characteristic emphasis on creative arts, participants had the opportunity to join colorful peace rally,visit stalls of several local NGOs, as well as attend workshops on peacebuilding, film presentations, art exhibitions, and cultural evenings of Bangladeshi song and dance.
The Shanti Mitra stall included an opportunity for guests to browse literature about just-peace and interact with posters on topics such as Gandhi’s “Seven Social Sins.” There was also a colorful display of plaster masks that were made by Shanti Mitra Peace Workers and Volunteers, and a chance for people to answer the question, “which mask expresses how you are feeling today?” by placing a seed in a cup in front of one of the masks.
MCC staff began a project of conducting video interviews with attendees of the festival. People were asked to reflect on what they thought peace and justice meant. Mati continually showed a video highlighting issues of climate change. Ponkoj and Protibondhi Community Center joined with many of their wonderfully crafted products.
ICF was represented by alumni of its School of Peace (SOP) Bangladesh. SOP Alumina Bangladesh made a forum. This forum emphasis their justpeace activities in Banladesh for last two years and they try to expand their work in Bangladesh later.
Other workshops throughout the day Friday included topics such as: Peace and identities, taught by Shanti Mitra staff; Conflict transforamtion, taught by MCC staff; a vison for peace transformation begins from local communities, taught by Ruth Masgrave, a renowned peace worker from England ; An interfaith good discussion among people from 3 major religion leader according to religious perspective, Mowlobi Mohammad Mahmudul Hassan zihadi from Islam, Purohid Kesob chakrobori, agricultural university central temple Mymensingh, Fr. Shimon Hacha Shadhu Pitor Church Fulpur.
Staying true to a vision of inspiring young people to creatively re-imagine a peaceful world, one tent at the festival housed a variety of songs and games for children, while across the field workshops focusing on listening, cooperation, and anger management were conducted for high school students.
The Art Exhibit included photographs and paintings from local and national artists. Volunteers at the exhibits were ready to answer questions and ask for your participation by writing a comment in their visitor’s book. One corner was reserved for the drawings of local children from a previous art competition hosted by Shanti Mitra. At the competition, the children had been asked to draw peace and justice; the results, bursting with color, were hung at the festival.
Short films that highlighted different peace and justice issues or ideas were also shown, with an opportunity for discussion afterwards. Some good short film produced by local producer.
Each day ended with a celebratory cultural program, using culture, movement, and song to express transformation toward just-peace. The first night featured drama and dance by performers. The second night focused on a program performed and produced by Shanti Mitra’s own volunteers and peace poem reciting by poet, oneself. Both programs were performed spectacularly and highlighted the many creative talents of young people. These cultural evenings were a great way to end days of learning and celebration. The whole festival was a chance to make new friends that encourage one another toward peace-full lives.