Amidst the heat of early August in Islamabad, the extraordinary Peacebuilding Conference came about as a breath of fresh air, and a glimmer of hope that Peace is Possible. The conference was a combined effort by the U.S. Exchange Programs Alumni in working together towards peace through various mediums, strategies and methods.
While speaking at the opening ceremony the Acting Deputy Chief of the U.S. Mission in Pakistan, Christina Tomlinson said, “This Peacebuilding Conference brings together alumni of various backgrounds to discuss very critical and much-needed topics; patterning Asian communities; and working together toward peace. Throughout the conference, I hope you share your perspective and exchange your practical recommendations on how to transform your communities and achieve the global peace.”
This conference was primarily developed by Pakistan-US Alumni Network (PUAN) with support from the American Embassy in Pakistan and included peacebuilding sessions on youth engagement, new media, and citizen diplomacy and numerous other activities which focused on tackling and addressing conflict and peace related issues. The idea was to bring together the talented alumni to put their heads together and work towards international peace through community engagement in an immersive 4-day conference.
As elaborated by the American Ambassador to Pakistan, Mr. David Hale, in his message to the participants; “Peacebuilding begins within your own communities”. “As teachers, students, journalists, activists, artists, government officials, and religious leaders, you each bring diverse experience and skills to the table. Throughout the conference, you will have opportunities to share perspectives and exchange practical recommendations to strengthen your communities.”
The conference engaged over 200 U.S. exchange programs alumni in rich discussion, activities and constructive debates towards devising various strategies and ideas for building peace in the region and ultimately the world while engaging with the communities. With more than 22,000 alumni across Pakistan, PUAN is one of the largest alumni networks in the world. However what made this conference outstanding was the fact that this entailed not only the U.S. exchange alumni from Pakistan but also from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Nepal, and even Turkey. This became an opportunity for the young adults and professionals to join each other under one roof and brainstorm towards international development with the guidance of the esteemed mentors and facilitators throughout the daily sessions. An international participant Mesut Senol (Humphrey Fellow) from Turkey who visited Pakistan for the first time shared that this opportunity was one to remember for a lifetime. “After attending this conference, I have learned that there are still several untapped innovative, creative and humanistic ways to solve problems and build more peaceful societies, regions and eventually, the world. I am also delighted that now I have so many friends in Pakistan!”
The attendees of the Pakistan-U.S. Alumni Network (PUAN) International Peacebuilding Conference united to show coexistence & diversity through a MannequinChallenge.
The event proved to be much more than just trainings and talks as one would perceive any conference to be. Each session at the International Peacebuilding Conference was fun and filled with zeal and exuberance of the participants who couldn’t wait to add in their ideas and question the issues that needed to be addressed. As a very excited participant, Ms. Sonal Dhanani (an alumna of the Emerging Leaders of Pakistan program) added, “This peacebuilding conference has provided me with an opportunity to meet powerful youth and helped me to be a more effective and responsive peacebuilder in my community. I strongly believe arts and recreational activities can be used as a tool to bring peace, generate acceptance of diversity, and enhance critical thinking. Strategic design and implementation of peacebuilding events like this one, especially during times of conflict and violence, is necessary to ensure a positive outcome, empower individuals and reduce tension.”
The learning sessions were equally as fun as the recreational activities. Yes, there were a lot of activities and opportunities for the hardworking minds to just unwind and enjoy themselves! The highlight was the Musical Night with “Sounds of Kolachi” where participants dwelled in a night of music and symphonies. Sounds of Kolachi recently went to the U.S. for its American debut tour as part of the Center Stage program.
The conference proved to be an exchange opportunity like no other, of people, ideas and cultures. Here’s to the efforts of the participants, mentors, the team and all the contributions we hope to see in the future to make peace possible!