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C. Bakboord: The Orchestra of Love and Peace

Paper submitted to the International Leadership Conference
Seoul, Korea - February 9-13, 2013

For decades that I have been lobbying and advocating at the national, regional and international level for the observance of human rights of women, children and ethnic minorities. Domestic violence has been my main focus. It was some years ago that I came to the conclusion that I should make a paradigm shift toward domestic violence.

Combating domestic violence

While developing strategies to combat domestic violence I focused on the causes and consequences and at the same time looking for responses from scientific and human rights approaches. From this “fighting against” approach organizations in Suriname (since the 1980s) and worldwide have been developing policies and implementing projects and programs in the field of: counseling, shelters, training sessions for first line workers (police, the judicial, relief workers, religious leaders and medical doctors) awareness campaigning and conducting studies. This approach aimed at“fighting against”, I qualify as an important first step toward a life free of violence. It has helped us to make people understand that violence is wrong. It also gave us insight into which strategies to implement to make the violence stop. Domestic violence legislation, for example, came into force and we focused on empowering women and face up men to their responsibilities.

From the angle of ‘ fighting against’ I have developed training sessions and manuals for different categories and conducted research and made recommendations.

So I have made people aware of the consequences of violence for the individual, the family and societies worldwide. This is a good strategy developed from a worthy approach.

From fighting against to in favor of

However, throughout the years I experienced a gap in spreading the message in my training sessions, presentations and lectures. I noticed that I was more lobbying and advocating against something and sometimes this called for resistance. Hence I felt the need to make a shift in my approach by spreading messages that are not “against”, but “in favor of” and explaining my audience what to do instead of what to refrain from.

I noticed that I had to adjust the focus from causes and consequences of domestic violence to one that promotes how to educate peace, how to love, how to respect, how to bring harmony and how to observe human rights in our daily lives with family loved ones, friends and colleagues. This is the part we have not done enough.

I know this is not an easy task as many of our institutions such as the media, schools, government, political and religious organizations are more likely to teach us how to solve problems by means of violence and do not exactly show us how to treat each other lovingly and respectfully.

Up till now we failed being in dialogue regarding the various notions of love, respect, peace, and harmony. And if we did, we merely used anecdotes or scratched the surface. In most houses of prayer and worship many religious leaders inadequately relate the Holy Scriptures or unwritten codes of behavior to our daily practices. Finally, we have not conducted enough research among people who honestly implement love, respect and harmony in their lives. Such studies can be very helpful to understand how to move from scratching the surface to practical application in our day-to-day lives.

Now we have to move to the next level and make that necessary shift in our thinking while continuing the first step making people aware that violence is wrong and that the consequences have an adverse impact on peace and human development. I will keep on empowering women and educating men their responsibilities. And this time I ill not do that only from an “against violence” approach ‘, but also from one in favor of love, peace and harmony.

I know this is the most difficult part. But it did not keep me from making a paradigm shift toward the issue of domestic violence. The conference theme, toward a new paradigm for peace and human development, already clearly shows the fluidity of change, which is essential.

How we did it

When the Ministry of Home Affairs in Suriname, which is a multi-religious country where all denominations respect each other, asked my organization Women’s Rights Center, to conduct training Intervention Domestic Violence for religious leaders of several denominations, I made the most of this opportunity and took the next step into action.

From the perspective of human rights, gender and religious values, I designed a six days training for religious leaders with the aim to make them understand how to use their Holy Scriptures and unwritten codes of behavior to promote, equality, equity, love, peace and harmony.

They learned how to relate human rights, gender and religious values and norms when spreading the message of love and peace to stop domestic violence. Many religious leaders interpret verses and unwritten texts in a way that justifies domestic violence. By interpreting for example the Bible’s statement that women are subordinate to men, or that men are the head of the household they are preaching men’s authority. And men are empowered to use all forms of violence against their wife and children.

The trainees were asked to search for verses or unwritten codes of behavior that clearly reveal how men and women have to respect and love each other and don’t justify domestic violence. It was amazing to observe how this approach forced them to make a shift in reading and interpreting the Holy Scriptures. In contrast with previous training sessions I now not only focused on our fight against, but also on how to promote a life free of violence.

Two examples

I will illustrate two examples given by two religious leaders during the training. In Hinduism the concept of nari means either “woman” or “nervous system,” depending on how you pronounce the letter R. In the Vedas it is said that one should control their nari. If you don’t, it can work out negatively. The pundit who brought this up analyzed that through centuries one has interpreted that specific verse one should control their nari as to control their women. By spreading the message through generations people have internalized this thought and placed women in a subordinate position. According to this Hindu religious leader, this could be one of the determinants of the age-long violation of women.

A Christian religious leader referred to men as being the head of the family according to the Holy Bible, just as Christ is the head of the community. She explained that Jesus Christ never violated women, children, the elderly or anyone. And enlightened how some religious leaders and members of the Christian community misquote the verse by only reading the first part and leaving out the second part that stresses: ‘Just like Christ, who never abused, is the head of the community.’ Consequently, according to the religious leader, men have to act and live like Jesus Christ in their role of the head of the family.

It became clear for the trainees that it is their responsibility to make a shift in their preachings and messages. They now agree to do their utmost to introduce this new kind of thinking in their communities from the perspective of human rights, gender and religious values by communicating their believers the real message toward love, peace and harmony in the family, community and the world. They will not only preach verses but will also link them to touch practices of everyday life.

Philosophy of the orchestra

I started by telling you that I need to bring my message clearer. Music is one of my favorite passions. I play the tenor sax in several orchestras and experienced that in order to find peace and love we can learn a lot from the philosophy of orchestras. Each individual musician has an important part to play and therefore a significant role in the orchestra. Even if their part is very small it is of great weight for the harmony. Therefore, all musicians have to know what and how to play. The conductor instructs us exactly how to play. What techniques we should use to make the sound of our instrument more in tune and a feast for the ears and also how to play passionately. When we all succeed in playing our part well, the harmony is amazing and we all feel satisfied and happy. We smile, we love, and we feel peace and live in harmony with each other.

I invite you all to be part of that orchestra playing the masterpiece “Toward a new paradigm for love, peace and human development.”