Walking for Peace in Panama

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A column of smiling people of all ages walk along a palm-tree-lined seafront boulevard carrying peace banner Panama City

On a sunny Sunday morning in March 2019, several hundred people gathered in three Panamanian cities for the Yo Creo La Paz (I Believe in Peace) walk, a five-kilometer walk to celebrate and promote peace organized by SGI-Panama (SGIP) for the third consecutive year.

Members of the public were also able to participate in activities including workshops, motivational talks and games for both children and adults.

We spoke to two of the organizers, Paola Miranda and Minoru Mojica, and several participants.

What is the purpose of the event, and how did it come about?

Paola: I Believe in Peace is an outdoor family activity, the main objective of which is to inspire people, mainly young Panamanians, to stand up for peace in their lives, homes, schools and communities through individual empowerment and commitment to dialogue and action.

The project started with a desire to carry out activities that would positively influence our community. It was initiated in 2017 in Panama City. The following year, the walk was also held in Chiriquí Province. This year, 2019, the event was held for the first time in Colón Province, where there is a high incidence of violence.

People of various ages sit at outdoor tables under canopies playing bingo and other games Boardgames help build community and provide fun during the event

Can you give an example of the activities and how they help achieve the aim of enabling young people to become agents of peace?

Minoru: To put on the activities, we worked together with different groups that are also striving to bring about change in our society. This year, for example, we held workshops on the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Participants learned practical ways to reduce energy consumption, recycle more, respect cultural diversity and lead healthier lifestyles.

Paola: In one of the workshops, children took on the role of superheroes who had to save the earth and make decisions about water usage, forest care, gender equality, and so on. They learned that the future depends on the decisions we make in the present, that we need to take care of our planet and that we can help solve global problems through our actions.

A close shot of a small group of laughing men and women

How did the youth of SGIP participate in the organization of the event?

Paola: The event was organized by the public relations group of SGIP, which includes youth. The youth took responsibility for things like obtaining the necessary permits and liaising with like-minded companies and organizations to promote the event and organize the workshops and motivational talks. They also advertised the event through social media networks and other media channels.

related article South Korea: A Conversation for Peace South Korea: A Conversation for Peace UNIPEACE: Creating spaces and opportunities for conversation, Korea SGI’s student initiative gets the country talking about peace. On the day of the event, they set up and dismantled stands, gave information to the general public and facilitated the games and other activities.

This year, we also had the support of student volunteers from the Universidad del Istmo Panamá. They helped run the workshops together with SGIP youth and were excited and eager to be part of the event.

Minoru: I don’t have words to express the joy I felt at seeing people taking part in this event. We are determined to continue expanding it and working to be agents of change in our society.

What did participants have to say about I Believe in Peace?

An outdoor shot of a woman with event participants in the background Fiona François

Fiona (Panama City): The event brought home to me that peace begins with each of us; it’s a decision we make and live out through our actions and behavior. We can start with small things such as saying “good morning” with a smile and generally being positive.

I participated in promotion of the event to the media and also in a dance performance on the day. I learned that when you are well prepared, even unexpected issues that arise can be solved without any problem.

An older woman poses with a sign in Spanish that reads “I am an agent of change”; event particpants mill in the background Mayra Botacio Carrillo—“I am an agent of change”

Mayra (Panama City): The activity helped me reflect on what I am doing to contribute to peace. On the day of the event, I helped in the section where people could have their blood pressure taken and receive information about ways to prevent chronic diseases. I’m convinced that when each of us makes an effort, peace is possible. It was lovely to enjoy the day together with everyone.

A young girl poses with a sign in Spanish that reads “Peace depends on me” at the event venue Alison Gómez González–“Peace depends on me”

Alison (primary school student, Panama City): It made me reflect on the fact that we must love and respect each other; this is also a part of peace. That’s why it is good to do activities such as the peace walk that attract the attention of people in society.

In the recycling workshop, I learned that I can reuse certain materials and create different kinds of things for daily use. This helps the planet.

 Posed outdoor shot of a young woman Sadhji Suñiga

Sadhji (Colón Province): Taking part in this event changed my understanding of peace. I’ve come to see that small actions, like this walk and talking to others, can generate positive change in society.

I helped with one of the children’s activities where we painted peace messages that highlighted the importance of living in a happy and peaceful environment.

Posed outdoor shot of a woman Claudia Robert

Claudia (Colón Province): The event reaffirmed for me that peace is created through dialogue. Through sincere dialogue, we can modify our thoughts and behavior and come to act in more positive ways. When we do this, we leave traces of transformation in any activity in which we are involved.

I helped take photographs during the event, and it was very satisfying to see the happy faces of the participants moving between different events, acquiring knowledge and above all experiencing a sense of unity.

A young woman holds a sign in Spanish that reads “I create peace” Justine Cummings—“I create peace”

Justine (Panama City): After attending this wonderful activity, I am motivated to share with other people how we can create peace in our immediate environment. What I took away from the activity was that change is not only possible but imminent and means being able to live in a society where we all value individuality and human dignity.

Posed shot of a man next to an event tent Luis Morán

Luis (Panama City): This activity has given me a broader definition of what it means to be human—we must learn to put ourselves in the shoes of other people and feel their pain. I know that this creates change and can prevent wars.

As a member of SGIP, I chanted a lot for the success of this event so that all the activities would touch the hearts of the participants and the message of peace would be conveyed to all.

Posed shot of a young woman next to an event tent Cynthia Massa

Cynthia (Panama City): Participating in this activity with people from different cultures who want to share the message of world peace influenced my view of peacebuilding. It inspired me to want to pass on to others what I learned and also to have more empathy for the people I live with.

Joining the walk, doing something outside of my routine, really lifted my spirits and energized me!

A young woman holds a sign in Spanish that reads “I create peace” Jenifer Zerda

Jenifer Zerda (Panama City): I believe that peace is up to all of us. I see that when people come together, you can create a clearer vision of peace in society. This event has been a great and fun way to come together and create spheres of peace in this city.

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