Monday, December 7, 2015

Born in Toronto, Ashley Muller first met IofC while she was a student at the University of Calgary. After an internship with the IofC team in the city, she completed the Caux Interns Leadership Program in the summer of 2015. She is currently working at IofC’s office in Oxford, UK, fulfilling a wide range of responsibilities. One of these is her role as Coordinator of Peace Circles. She traces her journey from initial scepticism to a deep appreciation of the value of these circles as instruments of peace.

Young Canadian discovers power of Peace Circles

All this talk about Peace Circles really used to agitate me. From my entitled and selfish outside perspective, it sounded to me like an escape and disconnect from the realities of the inequalities and injustices facing our world. If I am honest in exposing my pre-peace circle judgements, it seemed like an outdated way to vent about conflict, to talk about the problems in life in order to make yourself feel good about engaging in world issues, and then continuing with life with no sustainable solution or forward thinking.

However, I was completely wrong. 

Despite being involved with Initiatives of Change (IofC), and advocating on behalf of IofC projects for one and a half years, I had yet to experience a Peace Circle – a foundational tool used within IofC towards peace building, trustbuilding, and reconciliation.

After moving to Oxford, UK in September, to work full time with Initiatives of Change, I was given the opportunity to attend a Peace Circle. Our group of ten women met on three different weekends throughout October and November, composed of two full day and one half-day training sessions. To be honest, I was quite hesitant towards it.

First impressions

My first impression, when I entered the room where the Peace Circle was held, was one of intimidation by the diverse representation of the women. I immediately became insecure, as I felt an expectation of necessary transparency and vulnerability creeping over me -- one thing that my generation is not good at embodying. These insecurities heightened within the first hour of the Peace Circle, as all members of the Peace Circle went around and introduced themselves, exposing bits of who they were. Women from Somalia, South Africa, the UK, Russia, and Barbados were attending, highlighting a complete mix of cultures. Through further sharing and introduction, and as I began lowering the walls I had put up, I began realizing that these women in the room were even more empowered to combat injustice, to bring a voice to the voiceless, than I could even imagine. It was an opportunity to learn from other women how to meet the needs in their own communities, introduce authentic ways of sustainable living, and seek peace in new and creative ways.

We discussed topics including: What is peace? Where is your place of peace? What are the qualities of a peace maker? Identify the peacemakers in your family line; the importance of team building; forgiveness of perpetrators (of violence), and overcoming victimhood; addressing core IofC values and principles: honesty, purity of intention, love, unselfishness; identifying our personal judgements towards ourselves and reconciling with those.

Discussions were followed by quiet times that allowed us to process our thoughts.

Power to create peace in fellowship with other women

The Peace Circle is a place of coming into alignment with your personal convictions.  Far from leaving you with you with nothing to do after ‘venting,’ it empowers you to join in fellowship with other women attempting to play their role in trustbuilding, peacebuilding and making change at every level of society.

Ashley Muller, Oxford, UK