| Children plan an upcoming campaign for PeaceWorks at the Seagull Arts and Media Resource Centre. Picture by Aranya Sen
War sucks. Peace works — fighting words from a band of soldiers refusing to take up cudgels in the anti-war battle. Pro-peace — in every sphere —is what school students across the city are crying out for. Their call for proactive cooperation — in schools, and out —will be hard to miss, and tough to ignore.
PeaceWorks, a coalition striving to promote peace, is set to launch its public student campaign. An initiative undertaken by the Seagull Foundation for the Arts, the action group encourages and enables students to learn themselves and educate their peers about peace through appreciation of alternative ways of life and thought. Pro-peace campaigns — galvanised by the support of peers and teachers — will soon hit town, in the form of film screenings, events at fests and public-awareness promotions.
For around two months, students have been meeting to give shape to PeaceWorks, defining the issues and deciding the agenda. “What I really liked about the concept was that it calls for peace on all planes. It’s not just about not supporting war,” explains Dipanwita Das, who just completed her ISC from La Martiniere. “When you think about it, so many of us aren’t even at peace with ourselves,” smiles the 18-year-old.
To give the students with will the means to find their way, Seagull Empire will be hosting monthly events to raise funds. Blue Moon, a jazz and blues concert featuring veterans like Pam Crain, on June 5 at G.D. Birla Sabhagar, is the first in that series. And it will also be the first platform for the crusaders to make their point.
But the movement is about more than creating activists. “We want to train and groom the students to be catalysts,” explains Sumit Roy, collaborating with Seagull’s Navin Kishore for the project. The adman is also guiding the group, which, on Thursday, started creating banners to grab attention for the cause at the concert.
Theatre workshops are also on, with Jayant Kriplani training them for a July 7 production. “The kids want to be better speakers, so rather than take them through a ‘leadership workshop’, we felt training for the stage would give them greater presence,” adds Roy.
Students aside, parents and teachers are an essential part of the process. “We felt the need to reach out to young minds, and they have the most direct access,” Kishore elaborates. At a recent meet with school principals, the PeaceWorks idea was floated and participation invited. The children at the frontline are a “conduit” to reach out to a broader spectrum of students. So, on their initiative, film and theatre shows promoting tolerance and peace could be taken into schools. Integrating the messages into classrooms is also part of the long-term plan.
PeaceWorks, however, is not restricted to the youth programme. It is a more holistic campaign to create dialogue on peace through the arts. The idea for such a movement was triggered off by the Gujarat carnage last year. It involves activists, NGOs, artistes and, most importantly, the public. “We invite anyone who has ever wanted to do something positive, but didn’t know how, to come to us and we will try to provide the resources,” says Kishore.