Life Onboard
Ellis Brooks: Peace through Education, May 23, 2017
Guest Educator Ellis Brooks shows participants the Fly Kites Not Drones' education pack, used in schools in the UK to introduce the topic of armed drones.
Ellis Brooks, a Peace Educator who works for the Quakers, a Christian group that works to support peace education in Britain, joined Peace Boat's 94th Global Voyage from Colombo to Piraeus, during which he held a number of lectures and interactive workshops focusing on peace education. In his first lecture onboard, Brooks introduced the term 'armed drones' or 'unmanned aerial vehicles' which carry missiles and bombs. Their use is a new form of warfare, with countries like the UK and USA claiming to use them as part of counter-terrorism efforts in places like Afghanistan. Brooks warned that armed drones are on the rise, comparing this to the way nuclear weapons grew in the 1970s, with drones now being part of the arsenal of a dozen countries or more.

A young Peace Boat participant gets to try out the kite she made during a kite-making workshop run by Guest Educator Ellis Brooks.
To illustrate their use, Brooks showed several imagesa blue sky, a drone operator in a control room in the UK, a black and white camera view of white silhouettes, children flying kites in Afghanistan, an armed drone and a protest outside the air force centre where the drone operator works. He then explained that all these situations could be happening at the exact same momenta member of Britain's Royal Air Force is sitting in a control room in a very quiet part of England, and on the screen he or she might see bright shapes moving fast. These shapes represent people over 5,000 kilometres away, in Afghanistan. They are children running to fly their kites. Above their heads, much too high to see or hear, there is an armed drone, with missiles and bombs. Outside the operator's base in England, there might be a group of people protesting against armed drones and their effect on people like children in Afghanistan.

Participants act out scenarios that illustrate children's rights in one of Brooks' workshops.
It is this scenario which inspired the project, Fly Kites Not Drones. Brooks shared that this project was set up because for children in Afghanistan, and large parts of Pakistan, a clear blue sky has now changed from a symbol of hope to one of fear, because although a perfect condition for flying kites, in their skies there may also be drones armed with weapons and there is no telling when they might strike. Peace Boat participants heard that the project was established by Quakers, a peace group known as Voices for Creative Non-Violence UK, and an organization called Afghan Peace Volunteers. Brooks told the story of Raz, a member of Afghan Peace Volunteers, who lost his brother-in-law to a drone strike. He was not a fighter, he was not armed, he was simply relaxing with his friends one evening, and they were all killed without warning by a drone strike. Peace Boat participants learned that Raz helped to write an education pack that is used in British schools to introduce the topic of armed drones, enabling young people to reflect on the human rights and ethical implications raised by this form of warfare.

Brooks invited participants to write out their wishes on illustrated kites.
Brooks ended the lecture by sharing some Afghan folklore that every time you fly a kite, a much loved pastime in Afghanistan, you can send up a wish to the sky with it. Every Persian New Year (21 March), the Afghan Peace Volunteers fly kites as a sign of defiance and solidarity, and encourage people around the world to fly kites for peace. Brooks then asked participants:"So the next time you fly a kite, what wish will you make?" Morishita Ikumi, a Peace Boat participant, commented:"For people in Japan, everyday life is peaceful and you don't question if you'll live or die. You take for granted that each day will happenI learned today to be grateful for that."

In Brooks' workshops on conflict resolution, participants learned that to better understand conflict, we need to look at the needs, thoughts, feelings and resulting actions of the those involved.
With the continued theme of peace education, Brooks held a lecture and two workshops focused on teaching conflict resolution in schools. Participants were invited to think about the meaning of conflict, and learned to differentiate it from violence, which is just one approach people choose to resolve conflict. Participants learned that instead of traditional kinds of discipline based on reward and punishment from adults (like a parent or teacher), the model of a restorative approach to conflict is being introduced in schools in the UK. This restorative approach is about someone resolving conflict with you (rather than for you), and involves restoring relationships, repairing harm, and meeting the needs of the people involved. Brooks cautioned, however, that for peacebuilding to work across society, one must model what one teaches: "We can do our best to teach young people restorative approaches, but unless we're practicing them in our homes, in the workplace, on the sports field, in politics and international relations, we are teaching something else."