„YMCA Europe is a working fellowship to strengthen movements where people grow in body, mind and spirit.“


22nd July 2017

Kristina Arakelova`s Blog

"Peace begins with a smile" - said Mother Teresa; "Peace comes from within. Do not seek it without" - the words of Buddha; "You'll never find peace of mind until you listen to your heart" - George Michael; "He is happiest, be he king or peasant, who finds peace in his home" - you can read it on Johann Wolfgang von Goethe's writing; There is a many other quotes about peace but peace is a very evasive thing - so how do we find it?

For a long time already, I am honored to cooperate and to be a part of YMCA Georgia and YMCA Europe's activities and involved on their projects organized in Georgia and other European states. Throughout this cooperation, from 2012 I was taking part in YMCA Europe's biggest project called Roots for Reconciliation and its Peace Work Institute. Afterwards, my journey to peace building has started and I became one of the "Rooters" so I felt very proud, excited and responsible.

YMCA Europe Roots for Reconciliation - Peace Work Institute Reunion - European Youth Centre, Budapest 2015

Roots for Reconciliation (RFR) is a YMCA Europe initiative for stronger youth activism towards peaceful transformation of conflicts in Europe. The Roots for Reconciliation project was established in 2007 with the objective to strengthen and extend the YMCA Movement in the region of South Caucasus, as a mass-membership, ecumenical network standing for integrity of creation, peace and justice. Central to the way the project has worked is the enhancement of camping programme as a shared activity that unites young people across socio-political and cultural dividers, with added value for the YMCAs sustainable development. The Roots for Reconciliation project has been very successful in devising a process that creates a safe space for relationship-building based on 'Do No Harm' principles. (Read more about the project) We, young people have used this space to build relationships across cultural dividers.

Now, I would like to share my follow-up and talk about the huge experience I obtained through the participation in RFR - Peace Work Institute and my way to peace.

My name is Kristi and I come from Georgia. It's a small country with two red points on the map, which means my country has two ethno-territorial conflicts - Abkhazia and Tskhinvali Region (South Ossetia). If I come back to the very essence of what I believe, and if I look at the value system from within the Christian tradition, the main question for me which is very particular to Christianity - though also universal - is 'am I on my way to peace?'

But If I take myself only as a human being I would ask myself - "What does happiness mean?" and the answer I got was "I do not know". That was the moment in my life when I got lost myself and could not find my way. The way of destiny took me to the YMCA project "Roots for Reconciliation" and when I was accepted for the project I said myself "I have to try". This decision of mine had a powerful effect on my future life. The main thing what we humans hardly can understand is what makes us really happy. By this decision I changed everything in my life but of course I did not realize it immediately. The most important belief of mine is - that if you want to feel what really makes you happy, you have to try! To try what you like to do or not very much, what are you interested at or what makes you excited. In that way, I tried myself in a lot of different spheres - teaching at school, writing articles, being politician, being youth worker, working on gender problems or peace building. These all we need in order to find ourselves and only after we can start the journey of our life.

Personally, for me the most impressionable, inspiring and powerful "click" from my experience was Simon Sinek's Golden Circle. For more clarification, this circle is based on three questions: Why, What and How? Yes, exactly! Firstly, it seems very simple, but when you are going deep and deep on this questions, answers are more and more difficult to find. Many people around ask themselves why they refer to the specific action, "Why" they are doing what they are doing, but not all of them have an answer to these questions, I would say only a few of them has. Moreover, I am one of them who is not fully determined about my "Why".

I frequently ask myself why I started to work diligently on the peace building, and did not select other topics such as government concerns. The primary answer to this question is that I would like to contribute to the development of the country in general, and the development of certain groups in particular. Other answer is that things are very bad here in my country, so I think that this is a high time for people like me to work seriously and sincerely for the betterment of my country. Yes, I strongly believe in my generation for proper changes and building the PEACE.

Almost two years passed after the RFR project and I still keep thinking about 'Why'. I realized very important 'click' for myself and probably for some of you - I work on peace building because intellectually, to be at peace is to never avoid questioning, but always be looking for answers. It is a process, we do not arrive but to ask - 'am I on my way to peace?' - means that has to be translated into many ways. Am I on my way to intellectual peace, to psychological and spiritual one, am I on my way to human peace - which is peace with the environment and peace with human beings. Peace is not just 'peace and love', peace is very demanding. We have to take it seriously both with our heart and mind. So when people are saying that their ultimate goal is happiness, I would say for me it is to reach a state of peace with myself and with humanity.

Two months ago, I won Rondine "Cittadella della Pace" Program Scholarship. Since 20 years Rondine, in Italy, works for the peace, proposing an original training program for young people coming from different cultures or from countries in conflict areas. The program teaches students to understand their own conflict and accept to live with their own enemy. During a two-year experience, participants deconstruct the idea of the enemy and work actively to develop projects with social, political and economic impact contributing to a peaceful development in their own countries and all over the world. To achieve these results, students receive high quality training on topics connected to conflict management, improve their communication skills and learn about the necessary methodologies to create concrete opportunities. In addition to this specific training, students develop a professional and academic, personalized curriculum by attending a university master degree.

Students of "Cittadella della Pace" Program Scholarship. Next to Kristi: President of Rondine and next to him is the Mayor of Arezzo city

All students of Rondine live in the World House, which is an international experience of civil commitment for the conflict transformation through the conviviality and daily activities, the education process and the training. Within the program participants are consciously prepared to become leaders, in a context of fast transformation, deep change, high stake conflicts and increased complexity of relations.
Today, I am living in Italy and I am continuing my way to peace but I believe if it was not for YMCA and RFR project, I would probably never discover the passion of peace making in me. This project has changed my whole life and the way it goes on. The RFR left a huge positive mark on my personality because it was the long process of learning by doing and it was an unique experience.

For this life-changing experience I am very grateful to YMCA Europe and YMCA Georgia. I would like to say special thanks to Mr. Vardan Hambardzumyan, YMCA Europe Executive Secretary, who is an inspiration of this project which provides young people with an opportunity to interact and to overcome prejudices persons may have about one another due to previous conflicts and strained inter-ethnic relations. This amazing project is to empower youth with new skills and tools, which will help them to transform conflicts in the future. "Rooters" have the opportunity to get to know each other, creating networks, to get to know deeply about the conflicts, possible ways of resolution through negotiation and advocacy skills, and most importantly - to build trust with each other.

I also would like to thank Marius Pop and Revaz Shavladze for the great work they did at the RFR, each trainer who was with us through four years. At the end, I would love to mention the people whom I got know from RFR. I have been participating in many seminars in my life and traveling a lot but I never met so divers group - this group was extremely friendly and very united. Thank you all of you and each of you for your contribution, for your efforts, for the friendship, for the smile, for the joy, for all the love.

Author/Source: Kristi Arakelova - Peace Work Institute Alumni

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