Over the weekend, I had the pleasure of attending the "Wisdom of the Elders Pillars of Peace" conference focusing on peace, compassion and ethical leadership.
"The Elders" is a group of independent global leaders working together for peace and human rights. Three very impressive Elders came to Hawaii to participate in the conversation and to share ideas on how to create more equitable and peaceful solutions to worldwide issues ranging from starvation, inequality, war and global terrorism.
In our world that at times reflects a mass insanity, characterized by beheadings, germ warfare, threats of nuclear proliferation, the Elders remind us that compassion, understanding, persistence and fearlessness, will lead us to a better tomorrow.
Hina Jilani (61 years young), is a Co-founder of Pakistan's first all-female legal aid practice and has been active for decades in movements for peace, women's equality and human rights. Joining her were Archbishop Desmond Tutu (83 years young), a South African social rights activist and defender of human rights and Gro Harlem Brundtland (75 years young), the former Prime Minister of Norway, and international leader in the area of sustainable development and public health. Together, they led an insightful and moving conversation for students, teachers, and members of the public.
Our world faces numerous challenges, which are magnified by a universal lack of trust, cultural misunderstandings, social and economic inequities, militarism, terrorism and fundamentalist dogmatism. The Elders have devoted their lives to bringing about peaceful and equitable solutions to the many challenges we face. As they shared personal experiences and answered questions from the audience, they modeled peace, compassion and ethical leadership.
Hina Jilani emphatically states, "Either be engaged in the struggle for peace, or don't complain."
Gro Harlem Brundtland encourages us all who consider ourselves to be compassionate individuals, to work together with a strong sense of determination to bring about change. She states that change can happen, but we must all contribute to the process.
Archbishop Tutu, responding to every question with a smile and sometimes a warm chuckle, emphasized the importance of being at peace with ourselves and practicing peace in our everyday lives.
When someone asked the Elders about whether or not their idealism was realistic, Bishop Tutu responded by stating, "I am a prisoner of hope."
With that comment, I left the event feeling hopeful and inspired. I have a deeper appreciation for the simple but powerful idea that peace begins at home. In order to achieve a peaceful lifestyle; we must first find inner peace. I am now committed to taking some time everyday to focus on my goals and intentions to create peace in my own life and to help support people in my life to do the same. I know it's a small step I can personally take to create the greatest impact in the world around me, because I too, am a prisoner of hope.
I feel incredibly fortunate to have been given the opportunity to learn from and reflect with three Elders who continually strive to bring about positive change. Mahalo to the Hawaii Community Foundation and the Omidyar Ohana Fund for making the Pillars of Peace a reality for Hawaii and for inspiring our community with some much needed hope and a vision for peace.