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The Ethnic Conflict Research Digest

1999, Vol. 2 No. 1 .

In Search of Peace
Edited by Yana Mintoff Bland

(Austin, TX: Plain View Press, 1998)
147pp. Pb.: $12.95; ISBN 1-891386-01-8.

In Search of Peace realistically confirms the hidden but salient truth that the search for peace is a spiritual journey. Every human being at one point or the other in life sets forth on this inevitable journey. Every collective of persons [usually referred to as State, Country,Township or Ethnic Group etc.] intermittently has been a sojourner on the track for peace.

The contributors to this unique compendium of literary admissions of personal experiences involving psychological, mental, physical, social, political encounters in the sometimes indeliberate quest for peace, have exhibited overt courage and a common desire to positively influence other potential influence other potential wayfarers to keep going on the often unpredictable but ultimately rewarding variant paths to peace. The book opens with an innuendo challenging male dominated status quo in the last literary testament of Moyra de Vere Mintoff [late] a founding member of the Association of Women of the Mediterranean Region challenging male dominated status quo and seeks alternative approaches to peace and governance. The challenge to involve women in ensuring the sustanance of peace is aptly supported by Matma Gandi's inverse depiction of the seven social ingredients required for peace including namely principled politics justifiable wealth, business morality, character based education etc as the vital components universally required for sustained peace.

The Editor, Yana Mintoff Bland, perceptively highlights salient conference contributions of AWMR members in Malta. She frequently uses the voices of the latter to project their perceived priorities, preferences and potentials for obtaining peace and as current and future antidotes to obliterating and assuaging the past and continued wartime experiences of women in their Region.

Susan Bright's "Personal Journeys" at page 11 reminds us in peace-times of our responsibility to tutor children on the causes of war, the price and effects of war and the inevitability of war when real peace is not effectively sustained by healing old wounds. Nineth Pouron-Kazantzis's "Stereotype of the Stranger" vividly exposes the inner turmoils of women born, nurtured and gradually crossing the line between an ethnic legacy of Greek/Turkish suspicion, hatred and war into one of peaceful deliberations in a hitherto unfamiliar atmosphere of growing trust and mutual recognition of each other's expressions, differences and expectations.

The personal psychological and emotional dilemma of a female Arab intellectual whose orientation from birth dismissed Israel and her Jewish citizens as evil, untouchable and alien. She admits that violent individual and collective behaviour is "primarily a function of internal socio-economic structures and that war and hatred towards other groups and nations" is a product of "conflict-ridded societies in order to create internal cohesion"[page 16].In her academic sojourn beyond her immediate world, She discovers Western perceptions and attitudes towards the Jews which defer from her own. Mother Nature compounds this attitudinal dilemma by adding matrimonial dimensions which result in residence in Jerusalem which was formerly regarded as enemy territory enemy territory by someone to whom an orange labelled JAFFA had symbolised an unacceptable product in her Arab household. The evident and healthy reorientation apparently having taken place following a re-examination of former die-hard attitudes and influences, She accentuates the significance of surrendering to divine will in changing circumstances which augurs well for peace which otherwise, would have remained elusive. "Debout,L'Esperant", is a poetic piece of twelve stanzas written in French. It speaks of the emergence of hope at the end of the tunnel of darkness and torment, calling for emancipation and an active reorientation towards a better tomorrow.

"Algeria Tomorrow" in very simple prose tells a different of intra and inter ethnic conflict in Algeria, the forceful loss of identity, the choice to freely associate within and outside artificial, war-defined combinations, the triumph of mediocrity and the victory of death in the land. Out of this bedlam of chaos, comes Aisha Boubaba's realistic awareness of the need for action to recompose tomorrow through collective effort aimed at identifying and unseating the enemy who foments war, thereby permanently enthroning peace amongst the people of Algeria. Still on Algeria, Aicha Boubaci reveals the silencing of women's voices and the resultant trampling of any notions of their rights through a male dominated cultural environment. The emasculation of the rights of women and children discountenances their wartime as well as peacetime contributions. In "Algeria Tomorrow", she enunciates strategies evolved with other like-minded Ethiopian patriots at home and abroad to rekindle the light of education, both formal and informal, for children, youth and women towards achieving ethnically healthy cultural reorientation and future nation-building. The importance of weaving peace by encouraging respect for the Constitution and legislations which protect and promote equality of rights for all citizens, women unexcepted through sustained group activity so that Bouabaci's haunting statement that because of war and the thirst for power, "I am no longer sister of anybody'[page 24] can indeed become a thing of the past.

Other contributions include an analysis of M.Vassilou's "The Cyprus Problem Today and Steps Toward Peace" which calls for changes in the leadership structure of the Turkish Government;Maja Kandido-Jaksic's The Transition to Peace and Humanity through Love" evaluates the strength of parent/children relationships, the devaluation of women's worth by undue glorification of men's martial instincts and contributions to societal development, calling for equal treatment of children irrespective of sex "in a democratic family atmosphere" with love and understanding to achieve lasting peace[page 49].

Dimitra Papadopoulou examines the goals and objectives of the Interfaculty Peace Education Program at Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, focusing on defined target groups such as students, primary and secondary teachers and a wide spectrum of influential people such as academics or journalists. With a staff of over 50 professors from various disciplines, including the Arts, Sciences, Social Sciences and law, over 40 contemporary issues such as AIDS, Drugs, Violence, International Organisations, International Law, Human Rights Protection Global Environmental issues, Sustainable Development and the Role of Education and the Culture of Peace have been addressed. Lessons learnt in the course of the project as enumerated include the need for hard, persistent effort to bridge the chasm between the conceptualisation of an idea and its coming into being; selflessness, feedback assessments of the work, enthusiasm, dedication, love, courage and inner peace. D. Vardarramatou compares "Two Different Peace Initiatives Between Greece and Turkey in 1997" and emerging realisations of similarities and differences between women of different cultures in the women's struggle for unity, dispute resolution, social equality and friendship. The shocking revelations in" Screaming in Silence" by Shadia El Sarraj relay the message apparently that basic human rights are neither basic nor universal to all, least of all, to Palestinian women. The freedom of movement and employment of such women she says is restricted, and 40% of Palestinian children are forced to leave school prematurely and work for small stipends to help their families where gang-ups frequently occur. Samiha's story particularly reveals the unsavoury connections between both forms of repression. "The Palestinian Dilemma" by Romi Ben Efrat continues the sorry tale of the fate of the Palestinian people and the political rights connotation to peace initiatives through Agreements signed by national leaders. Fatheia Salah Awaisy in "education for Peace" addresses participants at the AWMR conference, urging them to help encourage a rethinking of educational policies in order to allow political restructuring, respect for human rights and mutual tolerance. Issues such as mixed marriages, alternative approaches to Military Plans and weapons of Mass Destruction, Peace in the Context of Human Rights, Justice, Equality and Democracy, Racism and International Humanitarian Law etc. are also grand contributions to this magnificent medley of women's real efforts at making and sustaining peace in the Mediterranean. Anyone genuinely interested in ensuring lasting peace in the Mediterranean and other regions of the world should not only listen, but constructively give needed support to women when they speak of seemingly intractable problems and attempt to collectively proffer solutions from deep within. This is all the more so when they expose their vulnerabilities, fears, hopes and aspirations for themselves, their countries and their people for the world to see. This, simply put, is the message conveyed by the Association of Women in the Mediteranean Region and the various contributors to this thought provoking and very readable book: In Search of Peace.

Adefolake Y. Okediran ,University of Ibadan, Nigeria

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