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Living Diversity for World Peace

The World’s Very Real Need for Cultural Understanding

AIESEC emerged from a period in time when cultural understanding was at an all-time low. In the years following the Second World War, the whole of the European continent was ravaged to the ground. Each nation was coping with its own grave losses, and between all countries there was tremendous disconnect. Not only was there pressure to educate and create individuals capable of rebuilding their countries, there was also the very real need to repair damaged European relations.

Looking at the world today, one can’t help but notice striking similarities. Devastation, turmoil, anger, despair—none of these are strangers to us, even though it has been seventy years since the end of what is dubbed the deadliest conflict in human history.

Furthermore, what the world suffers from today is not the disconnection within a continent, but rather, the tensions within an entire planet. We suffer today from disconnect between continents, between nations, within countries, within communities. We are suffering from differences in ideology, in religion, and in culture. And it is becoming abundantly clear that such differences can have fatal consequences.

“Solidarity” (Source: ABC News)

In the first week of January, the world was deeply shaken by the Charlie Hebdo shooting that occurred in Paris—an event that has resulted in global repercussions for numerous other nations. It has also drawn attention to a number of ongoing conflicts throughout Europe and the rest of the world.

In the days that followed, the world saw two categories of reactions: outbreaks of conflict and marches of solidarity.

In the week that followed the shootings, fifty-four anti-Muslim attacks were reported in France. Conflicts escalated in reaction to Charlie Hebdo’s resumed publication with the controversial cover—in Niger, violent protests resulted in the deaths of ten people, with dozens injured, and a number of churches burned. Similar protests also occurred in Pakistan and Algeria.

Stop Charlie Niger

Source: .usnews.com

Meanwhile, over 100,000 people in France took to the streets for candlelit vigils in demonstrations of solidarity. The slogan, “Je suis Charlie” (I am Charlie in French), became simultaneously an endorsement from freedom of speech and a way to honour the victims of the shooting. Similar vigils took place all over the globe in the UK, the US, Canada, Australia, the Netherlands, to name a few. In what officials called the largest public rally in France since World War II, up to two million people marched in a ‘unity rally’, joined by more than 40 world leaders.

Two weeks ago, a youth was stabbed to death in Dresden, Germany—a city that has been the hotbed for anti-immigrant and ‘anti-Islamisation’ movements by the organization PEGIDA (Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of the West, in German). This, in turn, has resulted in numerous counter-demonstrations across the country against racism, calling for cultural acceptance and tolerance.

Dresden Germany Marches

Source: Slate.com

Looking at these stories, a ripple effect becomes clear—the current issues now are either recurring or ongoing reactions to other issues. The stories become convoluted into an overarching narrative of conflict. We must understand, however, that intolerance is equivalent to blindness. With cultural tensions on the rise, how are we to reconcile our differences?

What would the world be like if instead of differences, we choose to see similarities? Like the unity rally, which brought masses of people and a multitude of nations together—for the first time since the Second World War!—what would the world be like if we reveled in diversity, instead of seeking to destroy it?

We return again to the original mission of AIESEC: “to expand the understanding of a nation by expanding the understanding of the individuals, changing the world one person at a time”. As stated in our “Why We Do What We Do” video, “When you see the world, you can begin to understand it. And when we understand it, we can begin to change it.”

It’s a big world out there, made up of many, many individuals—7 billion of them, to be exact. Here in AIESEC, one of our six core values is Living Diversity. We believe that everyone, because of their own culture and place in life, has something valuable to offer, and we seek to encourage the contribution of each individual.

Each and every one of us has a choice every day—will you choose peace?

TEDx talks that inspire a different perspective on World Peace

We live in a world where seemingly small things like intolerance and misunderstanding of people’s differences have caused large-scale conflict, destruction and even wars. World peace can seem like an impossible thing, but we at AIESEC interpret it a little differently. ‘Peace’ should not be interpreted necessarily as absence of a major war. ‘Peace’ symbolizes a world that does not have conflicts that arise from cultural, religious, or other aspects of differences in humanity.

In short, we need to learn how to respect and understand these differences as human beings.

We’ve pulled together a series of TED talks for you listen and watch to inspire new ways of thinking on the roadmap to peace.

In the Road to Peace playlist on TED, “these speakers offer inspired ideas, practical advice and real-world examples from around the globe of how it just might be attainable.”

Jody Williams, Nobel Peace Prize Winner in 1997 for her work toward the banning and clearing of anti-personnel mines advocates for society to have a more realistic vision of world peace. The talk focuses on rethinking world peace to human security, and enabling people to live dignified lives. Watch it here

Scilia Elworthy a three-time Nobel Peace Prize nominee and founder of Oxford Research Group that seeks to develop effective dialogue between nuclear weapons policy-makers worldwide and their critics, talks about how to deal with extreme violence without using force in return. Exploring the themes of how to overcome bullies ranging from countries to individuals without any violence in return. Watch it here

Julia Bacha a filmmaker who produced Budhrus discusses the power of attention, and how we often media and audiences pay attention to the violence, but not the non-violent leaders and peacemakers of the Middle East region that may very well bring peace to the region. Bacha advocates for us to pay attention to nonviolence. Watch it here

Progress will come, when all of humanity is awakened, moved to take action and not idly sit by to wait for change. We must be brave, but also patient in seeking cross-cultural understanding amongst people and nations.

What actions will you take to make yourself a better person and be the leader who can help make the world a better place?

One of the best ways to gain a new understanding of the world is to live, volunteer or work abroad. Learn more on how you can get involved in our student programmes that offer global experiences to create positive change in communities and on yourself.

25 Years Fall of the Berlin Wall – stories of AIESEC’s youth of 1989

The first thing you get to know when you hear about AIESEC is that it was established in 1948 with the aim of creating a new leaders’ generation: the generation which would avoid the Second World War’s horrors.

Years have passed, but our motto is still the same: “Peace and fulfilment of humankind’s potential

But in the 1989, the risk of a third world war loomed like never before, and the epicentre, was once again, in Berlin.

Luckily things went differently: the wall fell down and the iron curtain itself was down for good. After one of the most dreadful times in our history there has come a new chapter in the life of many people, and AIESEC was there.

10268530_10204942813432615_5368278937817466925_nStefano Boccaletti, Leonardo Cullurà and Claudia Siracusa, three generations of leaders were in Berlin of the night of November 19, 989.

A month ago I had the pleasure to meet them and to hear their stories.

Claudia started up:

“I just became an AIESEC member and I had to find an excuse to justify my getaway in the middle of semester. I told my father that I had been awarded with a journey for my scholar merits, but the lie was definitely worth it!!!”

For Stefano that would have been one of his last international meetings since he was close to the end of his term and he wouldn’t have missed it for the world.

“The night of the 9th of November, was set in my AIESECers’ agenda as an outdoor global pyjama’s party. Suddenly, someone started shouting in German, that “the wall is being demolished”. None of the Italian delegates could speak German but it didn’t take long for us to understand what was happening.”

Leonardo told us that they have managed to steal a street sign to use it as a hammer. Suddenly they saw Claudia jumping on the wall and singing it with a few Danish.

The emotion and the trembling voice while telling us the story is beyond imagination.

The year after that, Claudia has become the AIESEC Brescia’s Local Chapter President, while Leonardo was voted the President  of AIESEC in Italy. In their motivational speeches they both reminded that it is us, young people, who can change the future.

Ana Julea, AIESEC in Italy

 

See the inspiring story of AIESEC’s first Secretary General, Victor Loewenstein:

Screen Shot 2014-11-10 at 10.53.36

 

 

 

 

 

Victor Loewenstein’s Berlin Wall Story 

How Going Abroad Taught Me About Life – Everyday Leadership

Contributed by Janet Ong

Here are the stories from my exchange experience that surprised me in the end. This is my experience with AIESEC NCTU in Hsinchu City, Taiwan as part of the the project Connect the World from September to December 2013.

This cultural exchange program was designed for us exchange participants to make an impact on high school students by sharing things about and from our countries.

Surprisingly, this exchange program taught me a lot about life. I was approached by one of the teachers in one of the high schools I was teaching at. The teacher knew I intended to go to law school because of how I had introduced myself in her class. She wanted to ask me for more details on law school because she was very worried about her daughter, who was on the verge of giving up law school.

I told her that I wanted to specialize in criminal law and in the field of human rights because I wanted to be a court lawyer and be of service to people. She asked me how I already knew which specific field in law I wanted to pursue this early on. I simply told her that I always remind myself of why I wanted to be in this field to begin with. I remind myself that I am doing this not only for the sake of my career but also for the sake of the people who are in need of help and that I think being a court lawyer best fits this interest.

The exchange program is more than the learning you get from the four corners of the classroom, it is the learning from an experience in life.

She asked me this question so that she could help her daughter who was about to graduate but was attempting to give up. Surprisingly, she really wanted advice from me. I told her to tell her daughter to remind herself why she chose law and to remind herself of the positive things that happened in law school despite the difficulty she was currently having. The teacher said that her daughter was worried about the bar exam. In response, I told her that everyone was scared of the bar exam and even I was afraid of it. I told her that working hard for a dream would achieve good results.

What was the surprise here? After saying those things to the teacher, I  saw myself as the daughter who was worried about law school. Then I reflected on those words I said to the teacher. It made me realize that I can manage as long as I believe in myself. Friends and even former professors have been telling me that I can manage, that I have good academic standing and a keen interest in the classes in my undergraduate course in psychology. I get positive feedback from my classes. What is there to be afraid of? I am afraid of failing, but who isn’t? I am afraid of falling, but who isn’t? Everyone is. It is a matter of facing your fears.

Everyone thinks, I lack the courage to face them; I do not believe in myself; I do not trust myself. If I believed in myself, I would have the capacity to say I can do it. Then I realized, am I not like her daughter too? Afraid? I gave advice that the teacher appreciated and believed that it would be of help to her daughter. I realized, I can do it. I can pursue my dreams despite the struggles; believe despite the hardships.

I got letters and messages from my students, teachers and friends telling me I am a funny and jolly person. They said I have this motivation and energy that influences other people. It has always been a surprise for me to see in the letters or even hear this feedback because I do not see myself like that. I believe that I gained more confidence and courage from this project than anyone could ever imagine. I remember the poster/ad of AIESEC DLSU saying, “Get lost and find yourself”. I am indeed discovering a lot about myself from feedback from other people.

I realized now that we need other people who are courageous enough to tell us about ourselves. Feedback from other people no matter how minor can help us realize what is really happening in our lives. This is why I have to say that I am very glad that I met the people I did, experienced the things I experienced. If not for those, I would not have found myself. I would not have discovered something more about myself. I would not have been the way I am right now. I may have had a tough rocky road along the way but everyone does, right?

I believe that things happen for a reason. Now, I believe that these things had to happen to open my eyes and see the reality. I am grateful for the good and bad. If not for the bad, how could I have appreciated the good so much? Right now, I just do not know the right words to express how much AIESEC, my fellow trainees, teachers, students and friends have helped shape my life for the better. It is quite sad for me to leave because this is the place where I learned a lot, not about academics, but about life itself. It is a place where I found good friends. However, I have to say goodbye, face the things that I have to face back home and continue on with my life. People come and go in our lives but it does not mean that they will be gone from our lives. The people I met will always be treasured dearly. Everyone may be far away from one another but distance is not a barrier to maintain the friendships that we have created.

The world has still a lot to offer. The world still has a lot of surprises. There is still a lot more to learn from. Just smile at the world, and it will surely smile back at you. But this experience is one of the best I have ever had. This is my second home—Taiwan. This has been my Wonderland.

I am happy that I was here. I am happy that I was able to convince students who did not participate to participate. I was able to convince students who did not smile, to smile. I was able to see how keen and eager the students were whenever I was presenting. I am happy that I was able to see how the students’ eyes brightened. I am happy that I was able to see and hear the students laugh, joke and even be loud for a good cause. These were the actual experiences I had with my last class: the most difficult but the best class I ever had.

My last class was supposed to be the most unresponsive and I was told that the class does not really answer questions. However, it was different when I was there. They were welcoming and happy. My last class is where I can say I was really able to Connect the World and fulfill the goals of the project. This was the class where I can say that I really was able to make a difference. These are irreplaceable moments in my life that can make me say and realize that, “Hey! I did make a change”. It may have just lasted for a day, an hour, a minute or even just a second, but the little things showed me that one person could really make a big difference.

This is the teaching experience.
This is the experience of life.
This is the AIESEC experience.
Thank you very much.

After the exchange experience, where am I now? I had the courage to take up law school and continue my AIESEC journey. I am currently a first year student of law and a member of the Finance and Legal Affairs Department of AIESEC DLSU. What am I grateful for? I am grateful that AIESEC shaped my life and happy that I was able to contribute to AIESEC’s vision of “Peace and Fulfillment of Humankind’s potential”

Here’s a tribute for my AIESEC experience:

“The exchange program is more than the learning you get from the four corners of the classroom, it is a life experience. It is about finding who you are and learning more about yourself throughout the journey. I began to open up locked chests that I didn’t know existed within me. Moreover, I’ve realized how life is so wonderful and it never fails to give you those little things that make you smile.
It’s also about never giving up and never losing hope.

It was also in this exchange program that I found what I am passionate and dedicated about — and AIESEC is one of those things. AIESEC taught me how to stand up for myself and be a leader — a leader who will be able to make a wonderful and positive impact in my country and also in the world.

Lastly, it is indeed an honor and a privilege to be part of AIESEC. I will forever and always be thankful for AIESEC.”

“This story was written in contribution to the AIESEC Everyday Leader Series, that showcases stories of everyday leaders who are changing the world. Share your story with the world.

Dancing our way to world peace

Martha Graham once said “Dance is the hidden language of the soul”. Agnes de Mille’s words were “The truest expression of a people is in its dances and its music…”  And Hans Bos said “When I dance, I cannot judge, I cannot hate, I cannot separate myself from life. I can only be joyful and whole, that is why I dance.” During a dance, joy and happiness bring up the best in people and differences are for a moment forgotten or embraced and cherished.

If you are not a part of AIESEC, but have met someone who is, you’ve probably wondered – So why do AIESECers dance? Why do they jump up at the sound of certain songs and start dancing enthusiastically, while you are in a complete shock as to what just happened?

At the beginning of every local, national and international conference we have the tradition of presenting each entity present and their culture by dancing roll calls. As decades go by, the tradition continues and AIESEC entities present their culture through different dances.

Imagine young people from over 124 countries and territories in one room, showcasing their culture and doing roll call by dancing, laughing and cheering for each other.  The barriers and borders disappear, bringing the world together at one place. Diversity, richness of cultures, the splash of colors and positive energy make the room come alive and connect people of fundamentally different backgrounds.

 

The beauty is not just in the moment, but in the fact that when the music stops and you hear the song again someplace else, you are reminded of the entity which danced it, of their colors, faces, smiles and culture.

AIESEC is unique precisely because it creates a global family of young people, who take time to get to know each other and learn each other’s dances, thus expressing respect and open-mindedness towards different cultures.

When was the last time you saw the world at one place?

We did today and that’s why we are passionate about cultural understanding and intercultural dialogue.

 If you believe cultural understanding is crucial in today’s globalized world, share in a comment your idea of how we can facilitate it!

dancing