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The Poetry of Questions

Reflective practice is not just something that is of value for practitioners on an individual level. It’s also something we can incorporate into our work with a group. I have just returned to San Diego after teaching on the first week of a three-month peace and conflict resolution course in Bangkok that’s part of Rotary International’s focus on peace education. There were twenty-four Rotary Peace Fellows in the class from almost twenty countries. All were highly accomplished and brought huge experience and insight from their work to this learning space. It’s humbling to be in the official position of ‘teacher’ when you know you will learn as much from your ‘students’ as they’ll learn from you.

As well as the formal lectures that helped introduce them to the academic field of peace and conflict resolution, we also incorporate various exercises and reflective spaces in order to encourage both group and personal reflections. One such exercise was on the first day of the class and its aim was simply to capture the range of questions that people were sitting with as they embarked on this twelve-week journey. Rather than the unimaginative and not particularly helpful method of splitting them into groups and asking them to talk about what questions they brought to the space, we gave them each a blank piece of paper and simply asked them to write out a question at the top. They then folded the top of the paper over what they had written and passed the paper to their left. We did this three or four times, resulting in over sixty questions.

I then took these away, typed them up, and arranged about half of them in a way that created a poem. I’ve used this process in various ways with a wide range of groups. What I love about it is that no one person owns this poem. It is a group effort. These are their questions and it is their poem.

Can you hear what I see?

What is my stake in this program?

How do I confront a conflict left in the past but still unresolved?

Will I be able to cope with what’s coming up?

How can I do something meaningful?

What is the future of this world? A world of peace or a world of war?

What are others’ experiences of forgiveness after the murder of a loved one?

How is it possible to maintain an open/empty mind while also holding fast to ‘the thread’?

What is expected from a Rotary Peace Fellow?

Whom among this group will I be working with in the future after the program?

How will I change in these three months?

Will I be a good example?

How can we continue to an unknown journey in our lives in such diversity?

What is so and so’s name?

How do values affect us when we bring them in peacebuilding activities?

Is it possible to change people and how they behave in private?

How to explain what war is to children?

I feel the colour, can you hear it?

Is the peace course going to build a bridge amongst all the Peace Fellows?

How to suspend moral judgement?

Why do we teach history via a timeline of conflict rather than one of peace?

What is the relationship between unconscious bias and racism or prejudice?

Can trees listen?

Who are the Quakers?

Why did the university not want me to attend this training?

What is going on?

Can we move on from a personal conflict of the heart?

How can we truly live in peace?

Can I find it in myself to forgive my father?

Are you willing to dig deep inside?

Will we have enough time and space to learn about peace?

Is everyone going to learn new things sincerely?

What will we have for lunch?

Peace?? Peace?? Peace??

What is going to happen to me?

Where am I going from here?

June 13th, 2016

Class 21 Rotary Peace Fellows

Rotary Peace Center at Chulalongkorn University

Bangkok, Thailand

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