The "Pema Peace Project" honors the late Pema Norbu '12.

“Pema Peace Project” Will Promote Active Nonviolence in Tibet

April 19, 2013

Inspired by the vision of Kathryn Wasserman Davis Projects for Peace program, Earlham College has a tradition of funding an annual student-initiated peace project with $10,000 from the President’s Discretionary Fund.

This year’s selection, the “Pema Peace Project,” honors Pema Norbu ’12, who died in a car accident the summer before what would have been his senior year at Earlham. His friends Leif DeJong ’13 and Benedikt Urban ’14 learned that Norbu had been working on a Davis Projects For Peace application at the time of his death. Using a draft written by Norbu as a starting point, the two developed a proposal to provide training in an approach known as “active nonviolent action” at schools for Tibetan refugees in Dharamsala, India.

“A growing number of Tibetans turn to violence because they mistakenly believe that nonviolence is old-fashioned, passive, and ineffective.” wrote Pema Norbu in his original proposal. “I can understand why they are angry and frustrated, but I remain confident that active nonviolence is the only and best way to resolve our problem with the People’s Republic of China.”

Training in "Active Nonviolence"

DeJong and Urban will travel to Dharamsala this summer and lead workshops in active nonviolence at four schools in the surrounding area. Urban, a politics major, is a graduate of one of the schools and very knowledgeable about Tibetan culture and the situation that Tibetans face. DeJong, who grew up in a different region of India, is a computer science major with a passion for using computer technology for peace.

They will develop a website about the project, pemapeaceproject.org, which will allow participating students and workshop personnel to blog about their experiences. The site will also help preserve what is learned during the workshops and serve as a forum for all who are interested in nonviolence education as it relates to the Tibetan cause.

“We believe that this project will help the Tibetan youth use strategic and tactical nonviolence as an approach to conflict resolution as they learn about the history of other nonviolent movements, theories of nonviolent action, and discuss amongst themselves how they can effectively apply this to the Tibetan context” says DeJong.

“With the wide spread diaspora of Tibetans around the world, we plan on creating a collaborative curriculum that allows students to apply strategic nonviolence whether they are in exile, abroad, or directly living in Tibet” says Urban.

“Pema dreamed of changing the lives of many people by inspiring change from deep within. This is exactly what we hope this project will accomplish now and in the long-term struggle for peace in Tibet, ” says DeJong.

Earlham's new Tibetan Studies Program, a partnership the Institute of Buddhist Dialectics, entails a semester of rigorous academic work, language study, cultural immersion, contemplative practice, and field research. Learn more about the Tibetan Studies Program.

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