Denmark asks: No, really, what’s so funny about peace, love and understanding?

Inaugural workshop for global peace draws thousands to Copenhagen

Thousands of people of all ages converged at Christiansborg Slotsplads yesterday for Denmark’s first-ever Workshop for Global Peace.

The initiative embraces the premise that passive and reactive events in response to acts of violence, such as  demonstrations or torch-light marches, are no longer enough, and that people need to learn how to prevent violence and create a more peaceful world through increased knowledge of topics like empathy, awareness and constructive conflict.

“We must learn how to diffuse our emotions rather than blow up as soon as we are challenged,” said organiser Pernille Lauritsen. “This applies both within our families and in the wider world, and it is a mistake to believe that people automatically know how to do it.”

A fresh start needed
Lauritsen was joined by notable activists like Alternativet leader Uffe Elbæk, one of the project’s founders,  renowned family therapist Jesper Juul, and Lisbeth Zornig, the former president of Børnerådet, the National Council for Children.

“Changes are occurring beneath the radar of the media,” said Elbæk. “Conversations around the kitchen table and among us all as individuals are happening and starting to create change.”

Several activist musicians provided entertainment, including singer/songwriter Monique, who offered up a stunning version of the gospel classic ‘Amazing Grace’.

“I sat over Easter and looked at the photos of everyone’s holiday lunches on Facebook and became more and more restless,” said Lauritsen. “It is great that people are enjoying their lives, but when bombs are exploding and the world is bleeding at the same time, the contrast is too great. I knew there were many others that felt the need to do something.”

Change begins at home
Lauritsen enlisted friends and family to organise a peace workshop for thousands in just two weeks.

“Just since November there have been terrorist attacks in Paris, Istanbul and Brussels,” she said. “Several Danish schools were briefly closed due to bomb threats.”

READ MORE: Students warned by police not to come to south Zealand school on Thursday

Lauritsen, who has taught empathy and compassion for 20 years, and her fellow activists see war and terror as the ultimate expression of conflicts that begin in our own homes, workplaces and schoolyards, and they want to start teaching the tools for conflict resolution at a grassroots level.

“We must learn how to create peace first within ourselves, and then communicate it to the world,” said Lauritsen.

A tipping point
She recognises that some may view her efforts as naive.

“Historically, it is always a small group that has created the changes we take for granted today,” she said. “We only need to capture 3.5 percent of the population to create a tipping point.”

Many of the speakers at the workshop called on politicians to use some of the billions spent on war and counter-terrorism efforts to start teaching about peace, empathy and compassion at the most basic level.

“We have military service for war,” she said. “Why don’t we have service for peace?”

Lauritsen said that the aim was to spread the teaching of peace “all over the world. It is a totally new approach”.

 

Uffe Elbæk said that change is happening below the radar (photo: Morten Fauerby)
Uffe Elbæk said that change is happening below the radar (photo: Morten Fauerby)




  • How internationals can benefit from joining trade unions

    How internationals can benefit from joining trade unions

    Being part of a trade union is a long-established norm for Danes. But many internationals do not join unions – instead enduring workers’ rights violations. Find out how joining a union could benefit you, and how to go about it.

  • Internationals in Denmark rarely join a trade union

    Internationals in Denmark rarely join a trade union

    Internationals are overrepresented in the lowest-paid fields of agriculture, transport, cleaning, hotels and restaurants, and construction – industries that classically lack collective agreements. A new analysis from the Workers’ Union’s Business Council suggests that internationals rarely join trade unions – but if they did, it would generate better industry standards.

  • Novo Nordisk overtakes LEGO as the most desirable future workplace amongst university students

    Novo Nordisk overtakes LEGO as the most desirable future workplace amongst university students

    The numbers are especially striking amongst the 3,477 business and economics students polled, of whom 31 percent elected Novo Nordisk as their favorite, compared with 20 percent last year.