On Tuesday 11, Salesforce.org and Interpeace brought together inspiring individuals who are dedicating their lives to promoting peace in their own communities and beyond. Organized under the theme “Peace Without Borders,” The London Peace Talks inspired many to start taking actions toward building more peaceful societies.
Vice-President of Global Strategic Relations at Salesforce.org, Charlotte Finn, kicked off the event by reminding us of the importance of trust for both their own work and for achieving peace. In her own words, “The number one value of Salesforce is trust. If we are not trusted and if we don’t have the ability to trust in others, then we can’t be successful at everything that we are trying to achieve.”
Voted the world’s best teacher, Andria Zafirakou took center stage next to share with us her motivation to encourage each and every one of her students to reach their highest potential. Andria teaches at a school located in one of the most deprived boroughs in London and comprised of over 1400 students. Still, her school is one of the top performers in the UK. Andria shared that the secret to her success is building relationships with each of her students. In her own words, “find what makes them tick, what is it that excites them, what is it that would want to make them come into your classroom and be taught by you?” She finalized her talk by reminding us that “we must never underestimate who we have in front of us, we must never judge what their background is, because you will always be surprised.”
We then heard from international model, philanthropist and founder of Malaika, Noëlla Coursaris. She founded Malaika to foster the next leaders of the continent by focusing on high quality education. Malaika has rapidly developed into a recognized institution that is providing transformative opportunities for girls in the DRC. In her own words, “when I built the school and put the first stone, I never imagined that a 12-year-old girl will be seen by a group at Harvard University that wants her.” Co-founder of Project Everyone, Gail Gallie, spoke next and shared the interlinkages among all the Global Goals and why it is important for everyone to take ownership of them. Gail reminded us that “Everybody can do something, we can all find a way to promote peace.”
The youngest speaker ever in the history of Peace Talks took center stage next. Author and peace activist, Bana Alabed, shared with us how at the age of five she decided to tweet and inform the world about the horrors of life under siege in Aleppo. In her own words, “I told my mom ‘mom, why nobody hears us? Why nobody hears the voice when all the children are yelling and crying and running from bombs?’ And then my mom told ‘you can tweet,’ and then I started tweeting.” Having heard such powerful messages from four inspiring individuals, the London Peace Talks audience took a moment to reflect with the help of meditation expert and Program Architect Director at Salesforce, Ritesh Aswaney.
We then heard from Global Philanthropy Chair for Faithforce and Senior Corporate Counsel at Salesforce.org, Judith Bird, who shared with us the importance of understanding and respect in building sustainable peace, particularly in relation to faith and religion. She said, “If you force people into accepting some kind of behavior, you will never achieve real peace. Only true understanding can lead to real peace.” Great Lakes Policy and Programme Officer for Rwanda at Interpeace, Ariane Inkesha, spoke next and shared with us her journey of becoming a peacebuilder. Having survived the Rwandan genocide and working in peacebuilding for many years, Ariane has learned that peace is built from within. In her own words, “as an external actor to these contexts it wasn’t my peace to build, the only way I could contribute was to create the condition and the space for this community and society to sit and reflect and find their own solutions.”
Our last speaker of the night was Yetnebersh Nigussie. She is a human rights lawyer and disability activist who was awarded the Right Livelihood Award in 2017. Yetnebersh became blind at the age of five, and rather than representing a disability, this was her opportunity to become educated. She shared, “I turned blind and that became my window to escape early marriage.” Yetnebersh then reminded everyone that there is 1 billion persons with disabilities in the world who have developed multiple abilities to overcome different barriers and, thus, are the most capable people to promote sustainable peace. In her own words, “you have 1 billion persons in the bank who are not used to promote, protect and defend peace everywhere. Need us, use us.”
President of Interpace, Scott Weber, closed the night with the following powerful reminder: “Peace, like a tree, grows from the ground up. That is why the choices that you make, large and small, make a big difference. This isn’t the domain of governments or Nobel Peace Prize winner, this is everyone’s task.”
The full event and the individual talks are available at www.peacetalks.net
Pictures of the event and photobooth are available at the Peace Talks Facebook page.