Surrey art contest held for ‘dictionary of peace’

Surrey’s Global Peace Alliance aims to ‘engage people in peace in this troubling time’

SURREY – Artwork is sought by the Surrey-based Global Peace Alliance group for a contest that aims to “engage people in peace thoughts and actions.”

Group CEO R.B. Herath said as global tensions rise, it’s time to talk about what can be done to address that.

“So how do you do that? This is one way, through art work,” said Herath. “Even in the worst of times people still convey through art. Art has some special power of communication.”

Though the Global Peace Alliance held its inaugural Give Peace a Chance Festival last year, they hope to more heavily promote their artwork contest this year.

“We are trying to engage people in peace in this troubling time,” said Herath, an author, poet and peace activist who established a political party in Sri Lanka when the country was threatened with a separatist war in the 1970s. “We want to develop a language of peace, replacing our common traits and habits that promote conflicts and war to those that will promote peace. So we believe as an organization that the starting point is children because they’re innocent. They don’t have those prejudices, they don’t have those issues. Children can teach us, children can be an example to us, exemplary behaviour.

“So engaging children in that direction and learning from them,” he added.

The group aims to develop a “language of peace” through an annually expanding “Dictionary of Peace for the Children by the Children.”

But they look to engage adults as well.

They hope to develop a “database of peace thoughts” for adults.

“There are many, many people around who are concerned about the present situation and thinking what can be done?” said Herath. “We want to compile these ideas, we want to have our database of how different people think. They may have different approaches, (we want) to learn from all that, for the benefit of future planning.”

Submissions can be in the form of poetry, story, drawing and painting for children and youth, and the adult component is literary (prose or poetry). Prizes in each age category will be given out at the group’s year-end Give Peace a Chance festival, a multicultural variety show with music, songs, dance and other cultural traditions such as food, dress and art.

Herath formed the Global Peace Alliance in 2013 to spread his vision, which he outlines in his book, A New Beginning for Humankind: A Recipe for Lasting Peace on Earth. It looks at the globe gearing up for the next world war and proposes a simple approach to global peace, empowering ordinary people to take centre stage.

He said last year’s first-ever festival, held at Fleetwood Community Centre, was a success with groups from all the major cultures in the world participating.

“Aboriginal, Latinos, Europeans, Middle East, Africa, South Asia, South Eastern Asia and far east Asia, even China. Even a Syrian group from Syria, they want to join this dialogue of cultural diversity,” he added. “So it’s encouraging. When the opportunity is there, people as people, they want to get together.

“It’s like a bunch of flowers,” Herath mused. “If the whole bunch is just one colour, one shape, one size, or another bunch you have different colours, different shapes, which one would you like? It’s celebration of diversity, but in the same process, by letting everyone to understand each other’s cultures and traditions, to understand the differences and to accept the differences, respect the differences and to live like one family.”

As for the contest, story submissions must be under 500 words for children and 1,500 for adults, but there is no length limit for poetry.

The minimum size for drawings and paintings is 8” by 11” and must be hand-drawn, sketched or painted on paper or cardboard. Children’s submissions should “have a theme of love and compassion, friendship, social justice and peace” and adult submissions should “relate to any one or more of the existing conflicts in the world and ponder on possible ways to bring peace to all those involved.”

Entries can be emailed to info@peacealways.org, or sent to the Global Peace Alliance office at #301-8972 Fleetwood Way, Surrey. The deadline is Aug. 15, and submissions received after that will be in the running for the following year’s contest, as the group’s “Give Peace a Chance” program is ongoing.

amy.reid@surreynowleader.com