During August of this year, 13 educators gathered in Hiroshima, Japan for the fourth edition of UME’s groundbreaking Oleander Initiative program.
Oleander educators arrived in Tokyo and were hosted at a warm opening dinner at Keio University, one of the leading universities in Japan. Keynote speakers included Shin Nomoto, a professor of Islamic Studies who recently made an officially recognized nomination to the Nobel Peace Prize committee and Kelsey De Rinaldis, CAO of the United States Embassy of Tokyo.
The following day, the Oleander educators traveled to Hiroshima to discuss, analyze and to be inspired by the city’s unique “culture of peace” in order to co-design effective and impactful peace education lesson plans for their students.
After a week long immersion in Hiroshima’s culture of peace, an American educator observed:
“Peace is not simple. It’s messy, ugly. Sometimes beautiful, awkward, inconvenient and uncomfortable.”
One of the major themes of the Oleander Initiative is the complexity of peace. Throughout the Oleander Initiative, educators experience the meaning of peace from multiple angles and viewpoints that are both universal and unique to the city of Hiroshima.
During the 2019 program, the Oleander educators experienced the complexity of peace from:
Individuals like Mr. Horie Soh, an 82-YEAR-OLD survivor of the atomic bomb who emphasized the need to learn from the lessons of the PAST.
Oleander educators also experienced the complexity of peace from YOUTH who grew up with Hiroshima’s peace education curriculum, the only educational system in the world that legally requires peace education to be incorporated into every level of education. Students from the Jogakuin High School shared their own vision for a hopeful FUTURE with the Oleander educators.
Oleander educators experienced the complexity of peace from an ACADEMIC perspective. Lectures included “Facets of Hiroshima,” “Hiroshima’s culture of peace,” “Hiroshima, When Sincere Wishes for Peace meet Reality,” and “A History of Korean Hibakusha-caught between Colonialism, Nationalism, and the Cold War” from some of the Hiroshima’s leading professors.
and from the GRASS-ROOTS ENTHUSIASM of thousands of attendees at the World Conference Against A+H Bombs.
Oleander educators experienced the complexity of peace from the FORMAL, GOVERNMENTAL commemoration of peace at the August 6th Memorial Ceremony
and from LOCAL, COMMUNITY-BASED commemorations of August 6th by Japanese NGOs, schools and organizations
But the real complexity of peace was generated by the OLEANDER EDUCATORS THEMSELVES. The Oleander Initiative includes Americans from the north and south, urban and rural areas, and Red and Blue States. They join educators from seven countries in the Middle East and North Africa that represent the major communities of the region.
It this constellation of diverse viewpoints that enables our educators to gain a deep, nuanced understanding of peace and their role in promoting it in their schools.
In 2019, the Oleander Initiative included two educators from South Korea, further adding to the rich dialogue about peace at the program.
With eloquence, sensitivity and grace, they added their own perspective within the current context of political tensions and controversial history between Korea and Japan. Their voices added another level to the complexity of peace at the Oleander Initiative.
During the last two days of the program, Oleander educators applied their newfound understandings into the design of student-led peace education projects.
As in previous years, we are confident that the 2019 Oleander cohort will impact the lives of thousands of young people around the world throughout the 2019-2020 academic year. To see examples of Oleander projects from previous years, click HERE.
Many Thanks to the United States Embassy in Tokyo, the Otterman Foundation, Hiroshima Peace Culture Foundation, World Religion Foundation, Jubitz Family Foundation, Jogakuin High School, Yano Minami Elementary school, and the Honkawa school, for making this program possible.