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Saturday, September 22, 2007

Peace Boat Voyages for the Truth - a report by Yumiko Kikuno

(Here is a report by Yumiko Kikuno of the Peace Boat call to Vancouver in May 18th, 2007. This was their 56th world voyage, which I participated as a guest educator between Acapulco and Vancouver. See the index on the right and click 'Peace Boat' for related postings. Thank you Yumiko for sharing this report with us!)

At this time of year, I see various types of deluxe cruise ships docking at the international ports in Vancouver. I sometimes guess their destinations, imagine their luxurious lives on board, and feel a little “jealous.” In May 2007, the ship, which has “Peace Boat” written on its body, called at Canada Place. It did not look like a “floating gorgeous hotel,” but its name “Peace Boat” stimulated my inquiry.

The Peace Boat is an international NGO whose mission is to build a culture of peace by linking people around the world, providing passengers with unique educational programs during its voyage. The Peace Boat’s first voyage, which set sail on September 2, 1983, was organized by a group of Japanese university students. At that time, the Japanese government was criticized by neighboring countries because they distorted history in school text books about Japan’s past military aggression in the Asia-Pacific. Young people, therefore, who started to have questions about history education in Japan, established the Peace Boat to research the facts of history and to focus on international exchange--people to people-- with a goal to build peace around the Asia-Pacific.

The most important characteristic of the Peace Boat is what brings reality into the programs: mobility. Because participants learn the issues of a country through workshops and lectures on the way to the next destination, they are able to address the theme more deeply when they explore the city and communicate with the local people. In other words, just after participants learn the topics of a country, they will actually see the real situation, not on TV or in a movie, but in person. Another exciting contributing component of the Peace Boat is that passengers have plenty of time to develop their new perspective and to organize their opinions without the typical distractions of work and family responsibilities. Moreover, after workshops or lectures, specialists (guest speakers) are still on the ship; participants therefore have many opportunities to ask them about the topics anywhere: at a restaurant, on the deck, and even in a washroom.

While the Peace Boat was sailing up to Vancouver, passengers had opportunities to learn some issues about Canada. This 56th cruise, North Vancouver’s Peace Educator, Satoko Norimatsu, founder of the Peace Philosophy Center, a place to facilitate learning for peace and sustainability, boarded the ship in Acapulco, Mexico as a guest speaker. She demonstrated at her work shops how to understand intercultural communication with her unique perspectives and introduced multiculturalism in Canada and peace activities in Vancouver. In addition, Theresa and Carrielynn, a First Nation’s hip hop group in Vancouver, accepted an invitation from the Peace Boat because they thought it would be a great chance to access different audiences, share their story, and they liked one of the Peace Boat’s philosophies: building a great understanding in cross cultural integration. They gave a lecture to tell what exactly happened to First Nation’s communities after Europeans had arrived. For example, abuse had never happened in their society till the residential school, where aboriginal children were taken from their family and forced to be institutionalized, era started. In fact, First Nation’s people deal with many issues: poverty, drug addiction, abuse, and so on. Theresa said, “We still suffer from colonization, but I do not intend to blame somebody for our tragic history. I just want to eradicate the wrong doings.” Finding out the root cause should be one of the paths to healing. At the end of interview, at the office of KAYA (Knowledgeable Aboriginal Youth Association), her face looked bright with hope, the young aboriginal hip hop star said, “We have survived, we are still here, and I want to be an example of how to find a way to fit to contemporary society with our own traditions.” When arriving in Vancouver, some passengers participated in a tour, visiting the Museum of Anthropology at UBC and the Aboriginal Women’s Center, where they enjoyed traditional meals, workshops, and performances.

Vancouver will be the destination of the Peace Boat’s 58th voyage in September 2007. When I see the Peace Boat at Canada Place next time, it will remind me of the message from Theresa to young aboriginals: keep your boat afloat. There are many problems all over the world, such as war, environmental pollution, and poverty. We should find creative solutions to preserve the space ship “Earth” as the Peace Boat floats on the ocean.

For more details:
Peace Boat: http://www.peaceboat.org/index_j.html

Yumiko Kikuno, peace journalist

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