Bad news is good news: The notion that disaster and despair are more newsworthy than peace and harmony is widely known. Countries like Columbia, Israel, Northern Ireland and the Philippines have had their fair share of disaster and despair, but this is not what the Peace Counts project is focusing on. The photographic exhibition arrived in Colombo last week for the beginning of an international tour. Peace Counts portrays the work of people from all over the world who have successfully promoted peaceful co-existence in their community, often in unusual and creative ways. One of the images tells the story of how deadly gang warfare in Cape Town prisons has been drastically reduced as a result of a project encouraging inmates to engage in drama, song and dance together. Another depicts the improved relations between young Israeli and Palestinian women after participating in an initiative where they locked themselves into a room for three days to voice their opinions and concerns in a constructive way. Then there is the Peace Boat, where students are taught about conflict resolution at sea whilst sailing to areas plagued by political or social unrest.
Michael Gleich, Journalist and founder of the Peace Counts project, stressed that there is a need to showcase the work of doctors, priests, human rights activists and countless other members of civil society who have managed to build bridges and create a peaceful environment against all odds: Ã¢Â€ÂœNormally their work is not covered by the media. You know very well the slogan that bad news is good news, but people who have a positive approach and who stand for the solution of a conflict; they are very rarely seen in the media and the spotlight in the camera.Ã¢Â€Â
The main objective of the Peace Counts project is to identify role models for peace making and to give them broader exposure by creating fascinating features and photo essays. Sri Lanka’s contribution to Peace Counts is a photograph of a deaf boy, touching his teacher’s throat in order to feel the vibrations of her voice. This moving image was taken at a school for the deaf in the North East, founded by Social Economical Environmental Developers (SEED). Singham Ponnambalam, Political and Social Researcher at the organisation has dedicating his life to working with vulnerable people in order to bring about social change in Sri Lanka: Ã¢Â€ÂœWhere I am mostly working is the people who are in the ground level who are affected in different ways: war, economy and all kind of things and what I feel is that it is very important to explain to people who don’t have the facilities to understand what is going on.Ã¢Â€Â
This exhibition is not only visually stunning, but it evokes a sense of hope that is often difficult to achieve in countries that have encountered years, or in Sri Lanka’s case decades, of conflict. Peace Counts also brings home that the concept of Ã¢Â€ÂœpeaceÃ¢Â€Â is so much more than simply Ã¢Â€Âœno warÃ¢Â€Â. It is something that begins from birth, drawn from the role models we grow up with; the education systems that teach us; the relationships and experiences that shape and define us; right through to the politics that govern us and beyond. As part of the project, a series of workshops will be held in order to broaden participant’s understanding of what peace building really involves. The exhibition will then be open to the public from the 2nd to the 4th March 2007 at the Sri Lanka Foundation Institute. This is an opportunity to not only see a truly unique collection of photo journalism, but also one portraying that, with dedicated individuals with inspirational ideas, peace is indeed possible.
By Nia Charpentier
Listen to a YATV podcast of this story at http://radio.voicesofpeace.lk/page.php?0/v/341