Peace Boat celebrated its 20th birthday in 2003. This milestone was marked by chartering a new ship, TSS The Topaz. Operating as Peace Boat between 2003-2008, the Topaz was bigger than previous Peace Boat ships and gave new space for a larger number of participants and many more organized events onboard. Peace Boat’s educational, cultural and exchange programmes expanded with this new, larger ship, creating many new opportunities for participants to learn about world issues and enjoy the multicultural environment onboard.
The first around-the world voyage with the new ship was the 41st voyage, taking place from June to September, 2003. Jasna Bastic, coordinator of the International Students Programme on the 41st voyage, said: “It is incredible how Peace Boat had grown through those 20 years. With the Topaz and more space for our programmes, we could have many more participants, invite more students and guest speakers, and create so many new events and festivals. Peace Boat has been always expanding and growing, but it remains forever young!”
The 20th anniversary voyage was the second time onboard for Allison Boehm, still a staff member with Peace Boat US. She remarked that “after being part of a small GET (Global English/Espanol Training) team on the previous ship, Olivia, it was such an exciting time; it felt like everything about Peace Boat was expanding! Our International GET team almost doubled.”
A significant International Student programme was also held onboard the 41st voyage, bringing together young leaders from various conflict affected areas of the world to travel and learn together. One such student was Aman Azhar from Pakistan, now working as a journalist in Washington DC. He reminisced that “this was a voyage filled with inspiration, which gave me the opportunity to look at peoples and cultures across the many, many countries Peace Boat ventured through. I made lifelong friends and the spirit of positive change has always been with me since. More than anything the cross-cultural experience on board Peace Boat taught me to appreciate, respect and nurture the diversity and multicultural spirit of our interconnected world. This realization serves me everyday”.
Jasmina Opardija from Bosnia and Herzegovina shared that “Peace Boat had a profound impact on my personal and professional development. Peace Boat’s International Students’ programme taught me a great life-lesson, which is to dare to engage and debate complex historical and political issues even with people I strongly disagree with, while at the same time showing respect and a genuine interest to learn and develop. It therefore also made me a more tolerant person who understands and appreciates the fact that we are all connected, no matter how big or complex our differences or identities might be, and that our responsibility for peace and justice is shared. I talk about Peace Boat as the best experience of my young life, the best gift a young person from a conflict region could get”.
2003 was a tumultuous year for world events. The voyage thus not only celebrated the 20th anniversary of Peace Boat, but also provided opportunities for participants to directly take action in regards to what was happening in the world around them. Throughout the voyage many were active in numerous demonstrations to protest the US-led attacks on Iraq, as well as in organizing humanitarian support to victims of the Algerian earthquake, as part of Peace Boat’s ongoing disaster relief activities.