Chapter 2
 

Acknowledgements
Preface
Foreword
Introduction
Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Chapter 5
Chapter 6
Chapter 7
Chapter 8
Chapter 9
References

Peace-building Stories

Storytelling has for centuries been the tool used for sharing culture and tradition. A culture of peace perhaps can be created by sharing stories of hope and peace especially if they help create a peace-building consciousness.

Presented in this book are some possibilities considered to be healing molimo. But more simply these ideas are trialled peace-building activities, based upon stories, that are for everyone, not just peace educators or teachers, but for anyone who is focussed upon the establishment of a meaningful and lasting peace at all levels in our communities. We are all teachers, parents, friends, grandparents and can choose to not be limited by systems’ thinking and our defined roles. We are teachers to each other, especially teachers to all the children we encounter in our daily lives.

The stories our children often hear on the television, in newspapers and from their families and friends are stories of conflict and violence, stories of hopelessness, not stories a peace-builder would tell. As history unfortunately repeats itself again we continue to tell stories with unhappy endings, stories of war, stories that reflect our seemingly hopeless attempts to create peace, believing happy endings for everyone and sustainable peace are impossible outcomes.

Dr Ralph Summy, inspiring peace educator, who has recently retired from the position of Director of the Matsunaga Institute for Peace at the University of Hawaii, primarily has focussed his research upon developing an understanding of the true nature of nonviolent action. Dr Summy draws upon and acknowledges the power of storytelling and plot making in peace-building. From his article Pedagogy of Peacemaking: A Nonviolence Narrative

"Although the past of cultures has abounded with storytelling and the evoking of imagination, the focus of modern life on numbers associated with market-oriented goals impoverishes the human spirit and contributes greatly to the mounting malaise of people's alienation. Peacemaking entails, inter alia, an attempt to remove the malaise: it requires history as story with a new plot. Today's dominant history records the past twentieth century with plots of violence and economic fluctuations. Peacemaking needs to balance the history of nonviolence.

Since history is story, it has a plot. This plot is not something discovered, but beyond the story's events, it contains the historian's imagined words and invented explanations."                                                                   

(Summy, 2004)

Dr Summy's words invite everyone to become peace-builders who imagine and create different plots to the stories being told and shared every day, nonviolent plots with peaceful endings.

In Beyond the Script: Drama in the Classroom Take Two written by Robyn Ewing and Jennifer Simons (1997) it is stated that:

“Storying is part of being human. We live our lives, celebrate them and make sense of who we are through story. Children are initiated into their culture through story."

The authors quoted: From Ben Orki, Birds of Heaven

"The fact of storytelling hints at fundamental human unease hints at human imperfection. Where there is perfection, there is no story.”

(cited in Ewing&Simmons, 2997)

Indigenous peoples used storytelling to impart rules for living and stories of creation to their children. In Australian Aboriginal Dreaming, the vital elements to sustaining the environment and peace with the spirit world involved a conscious nurturing and devotion to the links between the Dreamtime and the physical world that brought about balance and harmony in these people's lives. Bringing peace to their physical world ultimately depended upon honouring the ancient spirits who lived among them as the trees and landforms, and lizards, birds and animal life. Their ancestral spirits created rules for living that guided Aboriginal people's existence through countless centuries, believing all life was sacred, all life was interconnected. Many other indigenous peoples throughout the world shared similar stories containing messages that called for humanity to reconnect to the spirit of Mother Earth and rekindle the flames of appreciation for the sacredness and interconnectedness of all life. This involved always choosing nonviolent options and treating each other and the precious environment with total respect knowing that survival depended upon it. Other indigenous peoples also honoured the power of dreaming and its relationship with dance, song and stories. In Dreamways of the Iroquois author Robert Moss (2005) also identifies the power of our creative spirits as envisaged by the Iroquois nation of North America.

“As Island Woman tells us, bringing something from the dreamworld into the surface world is not only a creative process; it is also a process of creation, a way of dancing a world into being, as Sky Woman danced on turtle’s back.”

 “…true shamans know the power of song and story to teach and to heal. They understand that through the play of words, the magic of the real world comes dancing into the surface world. The right words open pathways between the worlds. The poetry of consciousness delights the spirits.”

 (Moss, 2005)

The inspirational great peacemakers from history, Mahatma Gandhi[1], Dr Martin Luther King Jr and Nelson Mandela, the ones who imagined different plots in their own storytelling about the possible futures we could build together, continue to reconstruct our beliefs in relation to peace being possible.

Dr Martin K Luther King Jr dreamed very powerful dreams. His legacy is testimony to the fact his dreaming led to significant changes in human rights in America. Nelson Mandela's new South Africa[2] has been built upon his powerful dreaming also, a dreaming devoted to reconciliation and hope and most importantly to the transformational energy of forgiveness.

Peace-building Stories are stories that can be shared together by adults and children. They can be stories that are already published or be any stories created by either adults or children that contain the following identified peace-building elements.

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happy endings

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everyone winning

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nonviolent resolution

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imaginative and creative

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challenges existing stereotyping

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faith and hope

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peace with the environment

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finding personal peace

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elements that support the idea that peace is possible

Each of the elements is explored in detail in the following chapters. Each element, though, is connected to the others and finds a meaningful peace-building context due to that intrinsic connection. Generally picture books have been chosen for the activities because of their universal appeal, simplicity and accompanying intricate and colourful illustrations. Any story, whether for adults or children, or written down or orally shared can contain peace-building elements. The stories when shared create the transformative magic that can begin the building of a peace consciousness.

One story that typifies a peace-building story and contains all the peace-building elements is:

The Dragon Test” by June Crebbin and Polly Dunbar

(Walker Books London 2003)

Dragons are supposed to be dangerous, that is if you are familiar with the story of 'St George and the Dragon'. Within this simply presented publication lies a story that will enchant and challenge existing beliefs about dragons, even real ones and how to capture them. This surprisingly wonderful story for all ages to enjoy and share together contains all the peace-building elements.

A little girl became the hero in the unfolding adventure. A little princess was sent away from her family as she must learn skills that would assist her to pass the 'dragon test'. But, in order to pass the test, a captured dragon must be brought back to the castle alive, then afterwards it should be returned unharmed to the wild.

The little princess remained in communication with her parents informing them of all she had learnt and discovered while she is away from them. She also shared her fear of taking her horse, which was even terrified of rabbits, into the hills to find a dragon.

A sudden twist in the story revealed that the little princess had to use all her special skills as she became the one who was captured. Ah but she learnt the power of storytelling and magically turned her plight around by capturing the dragon's heart.

Challenging many beliefs this amazing little story truly delivered a very special message about the magical transformative power of storytelling. The happy ending in this story did involve everyone winning even the dragon. There was no sense or need for violence, killing or death that we so often read in stories involving dragons being captured by heroic knights’ intent upon saving princesses. Traditional stereotyping was challenged at many levels. The princess became friends with her dragon and she named him Arthur and began creating new stories for him that presented dragons as heroes and she stated:

"All that silly nonsense about eating me is forgotten!"

Critical questions to explore with children

bullet What test did the princess have to pass?
bullet How did she communicate with the king and queen?
bullet What things did she have to remember in order to pass the test?
bullet Why did a dragon capture the princess and what did he want?
bullet Did the princess want to be rescued?
bullet What did the king do about the situation? Was he worried about his daughter’s safety?
bullet How did the princess solve her dilemma?
bullet Did the princess pass the dragon test?
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Does the story have a happy win-win ending?

Creative questions to explore with children

bullet Do you think the princes also had to pass the same test?
bullet Why do you think the princess didn’t have to slay a dragon?
bullet What other things could have been included in the test?
bullet Do you think the dragon was brave and like other dragons?
bullet Do you think all dragons would like to hear stories?
bullet What would you have done if the dragon had captured you?
bullet Do you think the princess should have tried to escape?
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How else could the story have ended with win-win?

This amazing story truly captures the essence of peace-building.

How to use the peace-building stories

The stories and associated activities presented in this book have not been designed to provide a definitive or prescriptive list for peace-building activities or stories nor do they need to be done in any particular order. Hopefully by planting simple seeds, some new thinking will be germinated and inspire the telling and sharing of peace-building stories within and beyond families and communities. Everyone possesses different skills, heritages and interests that can be utilised in storytelling.

There are no specific or defined objectives for any of the activities but suggestions for anticipated peace-building outcomes are highlighted after each activity is described. The activities have been deliberately created to be open-ended and simply offer a place to consider beginning peace-building with children. Each activity will need to be adapted to suit the needs of the children being exposed to the stories and perhaps other curriculum requirements relative to the children’s learning and language levels will need need to also be considered. It is recommended that the children’s interests and ideas be paramount in determining any directions the activities take. Peace-building should be an enjoyable process.

It is also recommended that any integration of storytelling and story writing possibilities into school based curriculum should occur when the proposed story sharing will meaningfully complement any other defined learning outcomes that are not specifically peace-building but may be specific to literacy or personal development (examples of other curriculum areas). The integration should never be forced and stories chosen should comfortably fit into an existing programme. A peace-building story will find its rightful place if it is meant to.

Originally the peace-building activities were developed to be incorporated into Religion and Values Education Programmes for year 4 and year 6 students, but the Information and Communication Technologies used to support the storytelling and sharing allowed for many other integration possibilities and curriculum inclusions to result. Consequently initially established objectives and processes were constantly being adapted with many pleasant surprises surfacing. Possibilities were proven to be endless. The stories can certainly be shared with children as young as four years. Teenagers also found the stories interesting and they considered creating their own stories to share with younger children.

These peace-building activities have been designed for people working with children, not exclusively for teachers in classrooms. Each chapter explores an essential peace-building element and provides examples of possible stories and trialled follow up activities for children. Examples of children’s stories that were written as a consequence to the activities being undertaken have also been presented and each has its own powerful peace-building message to deliver and is worthwhile sharing as well. The possibilities arising from any of the stories being shared are definitely limitless.

Sharing stories does not rely upon anyone being an exceptional oral storyteller. All we need to do is choose peace-building stories to share with our children. Emerging from the sharing possibilities of these transformative tales can be more peace-building stories. There are no voices more powerful than those of children to stir the creation a peace-building consciousness. Children need to hear other children’s stories and be inspired by each other’s rememberings. The book could also act as a guide for anyone searching for other peace-building stories to use with children. 

Children who are unable to manage the literacy levels needed to create their own peace-building stories or even to independently read them, can certainly enjoy and benefit from the experience of being told a peace-building story. They could be given help from a peer partner or adult to create their own. Beginning readers can be inspired by peace-building stories that are written for them.

Children's imaginations will provide the key for creating sustainable world peace. Igniting their imaginations is truly all that needs to be done as their innate peace-building natures will unleash the powerfully transformative storytelling possibilities that will result.

The most important element, though, is fun! What could be more peace-building?

Publishing

Peace-building stories need to be shared in as many different ways as possible. Many of the stories produced by the children presented in this book were also individually published by them. Stories were typed, formatted and illustrated then presented on brightly coloured cardboard that was laminated. Stories were displayed about the room, shared with peer partners and other classes, taken home to share with family and friends and made available to the school library and published in the school magazine. Stories were even shared between families and friends. Webpages were constructed by the children and uploaded at the school website and this provided parents and community people with a window through which to view the storytelling activities the children were undertaking and also read their magical creations. Copies of stories were given as gifts to family and friends. The transformative magic inherent in all the stories was then able to affect many associated with the school community and their families.

But just imagine-

bullet oral storytelling
bullet story maps
bullet choose your own adventures
bullet  group or whole class story creating
bullet  cartoon creations
bullet  clay animation of stories
bullet  puppet shows (finger puppets, hand puppets)
bullet  drama productions and plays possibly videoed
bullet  radio plays, audio retellings
bullet  book publications of stories

Celebrating peace

Just as the stories need to be shared so do the celebrations. Imagine parties, focus days, fun days, inviting special guests, sharing stories with children in other schools or with families in other communities..the possibilities are endless.

 

Endnotes

1] Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi (1869 – 1948) was a major political and spiritual leader of India and the Indian Independence Movement and commonly known around the world as Mahatma Gandhi or "Great Soul" and he was a practitioner of non-violence and truth. Retrieved November 28, 2008 from http://www.mkgandhi.org/

[2] Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela (1918- ) was the first President of South Africa to be elected in a fully representative democratic election, serving in the office from 1994–1999. Before his presidency, Mandela was an anti-apartheid activist. Retrieved November 28, 2008 from http://www.nelsonmandela.org/

 

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