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Having a long holiday for this festive season, I am excited to share 12 documentaries that inspire my worldview and thoughts. Ranging from global affairs, poverty, philosophy, history, religion, science, and so on. Most of the documentaries are from BBC Horizon and they never fail to widen up my curiosity,  passion and discoveries about life and the universe at large . I hope my readers enjoy the documentaries shared and do not forget to give your valuable comments/ feedback. Remember: Question Everything. =)

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My passion of travelling has taken me to many places, including Indonesia. It is a country that is close to my heart because of its exotic beauty, friendly faces and diverse cultures.

Fresh from decades of dictator-rule, the modern Indonesia is climbing confidently in the chaotic sea of the free market economy.

Nevertheless, one thing that Indonesians are still struggling to eradicate is poverty.  Strolling around the Jakarta city, it is obvious to see the anak jalanan (street kids), prowling around mindlessly amongst the busy roads and tall buildings. They live day by day begging on the streets.

It was very heartbreaking seeing young kids and sometimes holding a toddler, begging for a few Rupiah coins under the hot sun. Not to mention the danger of the traffic itself. For an outsider like me, it is easy to assume that the government and society are not doing their part to resolve the issue, but is it as simple as that?

My humble observation and discussion with some of my Indonesian friends makes me think otherwise. I believe it is a combination of a lot of factors.

Some Anak Jalanan are the genuine, hard-core poor who ended up begging on the street to survive. These kids have nothing left for them, abandoned by their parents, no shelter, not old enough to get a decent job, forcing themselves to the street. These kids are prone to abuse and exploitation, especially by gangs. These gangs would recruit these kids to beg on the street in return for a little food, shelter and protection.

Some are kids who just want a taste of the outside world. The idea of being independent without any parental control is tempting. These are mostly teenagers who earn a living on a street by either singing/playing guitars, or selling food/goods on the street. I came to know a friend who once ran from home and became an anak jalanan for two years in Bandung. He slept on the street, begged for money by singing, and even bathe in the toilets inside the shopping malls.

On the other hand, there are also kids who are used by their lazy parents to beg on the street. These parents are usually very poor and ignorant. Instead of working for a living to support their family, they force their children to become street kids. Worst is, when these kids do not get enough money by the end of the day, they will be punished. These kids have to sacrifice their education and future just to serve the needs of their selfish parents.

Nevertheless, with high unemployment and higher population growth, it is no surprise that people would have no else place to go except to the street. This is one issue that the government should take a deeper look. With growing income gap between the rich and the poor, city like Jakarta do attract poor Indonesians from other islands to find job opportunities. The over-crowded city may not be able to cater jobs to all.

In an effort to understand the plight of the anak jalanan, we decided to go further to investigate the lives of street kids. When my friend documented his meet with the street kids, he was surprised how tight-knitted the anak jalanan community is. There are kids, adults and a leader to ensure the security of the community. The street is their life, where everybody look after everybody’s back.

Ironically, the street kids community appeared to be ‘happy’ and showed the good side of living as anak jalanan. Without the responsibility of working or finding a job, they even received money and shelter from a local NGO. I was thinking to myself, their lives are not that bad after all. In fact, they refused to get off the street, saying that they are already used to such carefree street life. But in reality, the ‘happy’ faces could be just a façade. My friend saw them addicted to sniffing glue, smoking, exposed to bad influences and social ills.

The issue of anak jalanan will cause a huge burden to the government and the Indonesian society. The sight of street kids in a modern developing city like Jakarta is definitely not a palatable view. Besides, it is bad to the Indonesian’s growing economy.

The problem of street kids is a complex issue that should not be resolved simplistically by the Indonesian government. It ought to be holistic, involving all parties especially civil society groups. More over each cases should be approached differently based on the circumstances. Nevertheless, one thing for sure, these kids should be prioritized to get good education, no excuse for skipping school.

This is how I feel throughout my life as a mixed race Malaysian. Even though they are Americans, their story is spot on.

Yesterday I attended a forum on “Wikileaks Saga: The Malaysian Chapter”. It was a small intimate crowd, with 3 speakers Jac Sm Kee, Sonia Randhawa & Edmund Bo from Centre of Independent Journalism (CIJ).

The topic of Wikileaks and Julian Assange is a well-known subject to everyone, but the impact of Wikileaks on future of information seems to be the interesting point here. Personally, I do not care much about the impact of Wikileaks in Malaysia shores. To me, a few snobbish Singaporean officers bitching about our country should be taken with a dose of laughter. It’s just their opinion, not factual encounter with evidence.

The bigger picture I see is the world has changed. With Wikileaks and other new emerged whistle-blower sites like Openleaks, it could pose a threat to the information and informant itself as there’s no universal protection and ethics for such channel of information dissemination.

First, the cyber world is unlike the real world. There’s certain ethical rules and procedures that the mainstream media and journalists must abide in order for them to prove the worthy of the source credibility. Although Wikileaks did a smart move by partnering big news agencies such as Al-Jazeera, The Guardian and New York Times, other whistleblower sites may not have the luxury to do so. The thing is, there’s no standardize or universal binding law that can monitor sources credibility, it makes it harder when a lot of these sites are exposing such high level confidential documents.

Second, the whistleblower itself. The forgotten hero in the Wikileaks saga is not Julian Assange, it’s Bradley Manning. A young guy doing the right thing. But in the process, he risked his life, and now is sitting in jail. This beg the question of whether there’s any law that truly protect the lives of these informants. If a self-proclaimed democracy like the United Stated is jailing its citizen of exposing the atrocities of the Iraq war, then what about other developing nations that has fragile laws on freedom of information.

Third, the right of government and corporate institutions themselves for privacy. It easier to pin-point the right for freedom of speech when the world is exposed to the brutality of war in Iraq and other hidden agenda that will harm the public interest. But what about the countless gossiping among diplomats on other countries? It seems that the diplomatic cable leaks pose more laughable red faces than protecting the public interest rights. I mean, opinion from US officials should not be taken as facts, in fact it will hurt the relations between nations, like what is happening now between Malaysia and Singapore. Besides, these diplomats are merely doing their job, reporting on behalf of their government.

Forth, the safety of the internet users themselves. The new term “Hacktivists” started with the attacks on major corporations whom had stopped their services to Wikileaks. The attacks were severe to the extend where corporation websites hacked and brought downed. In fact, this will only create a fear among the public as the internet is a free zone without any regulations. Any anonymous internet users can spy or hack any sites they dislike which will only reduce the freedom of cyber net itself. The non-consensus on freedom of speech and the issue of privacy, will only trigger unending discourse on this issue.

In a nutshell, the emergence of this new form of Whistle blowing sites is a change that the world must embrace and be prepared. I think we should have a standardize and universal protection on informants, on journalism ethical law and procedures, and on the top-secret resources itself. Wikileaks is already the beginning in a new era where the mightiest are the ones who rule the virtual space.

It’s official, the establishments are mad. A geeky unknown guy from Australia has piss them off. Welcome to Wikileaks. A website that leaks top-secret information by governments, and corporations. Julian Assange, the mastermind behind Wikileaks is working on a mission to expose naked the global hypocrisy of the world’s super powers.

I was really impressed with the site, although the only way to access is though the hundreds of its mirror sites. The frankness of the site gave me a sense of admiration for Julian Assange. Call him whatever you want, but to me he’s a hero of the 21st Century. He’s extremely smart, suave, globally mobile, easily available women on his lap (look at the sex charges by 2 women), with a tinge of that Australian accent, and that cool silver white hair, even James Bonds will have a run of his money. Seriously, James Bonds is outdated, in today’s world, he’s nothing. To expose a conspiracy so huge, you need a mind like Julian Assange.

In fact, he’s so popular that he’s everywhere. Prior to his arrest in London, he was in TED, Aljazeera, CNN, even on comedy talk shows like The Colbert Report. Some suggested that he could be receiving the Noble Peace Prize anytime soon. Whatever it is, he’s the real deal. I mean, only an eccentric and courageous person like him would dare to change the world. Totally.

Now the world order will be dramatically changed with watchdog Wikileaks. Yes, it is no longer a unipolar world order, the freedom of information has never been freely accessible and exchanged until now. With the new balance of power between the world’s super economies like the EU, Brazil, India, China, Russia and U.S., Wikileaks will serve an even vital platform for journalists and ordinary citizens everywhere to expose the lies behind diplomatic sheets.

Take for example the civilian killing footage from the Iraq war entitled “Collateral Murder”, showed the evil truth of war that was cowardly hide by the U.S. government. Thanks to Bradley Manning, a young whistle-blower Cadet that bravely leaked the files to Wikileaks.

Among the 250,000 U.S.  diplomatic cables leaked were even more outrageous and funny, to the extend where it sounded like everyone is gossiping about everyone. World leaders were bad-mouthed in the most humorous way that made me feel – Perhaps these intelligence and diplomats were so free and had nothing else to do?? Gosh, stop poking fun of world leaders! We already know how terrible they are anyway… On the other hand, one cable that caught my attention was the instruction by Mrs. Hillary Clinton to spy on United Nations by collecting DNA, security numbers, personal data, etc from UN officials – including the Secretary General Ban Ki Moon. That is outrageous! The United Nations is not a safe haven for the rest of the world anymore.

Back in Malaysia, Wikileaks has caused a little stir with our government and the opposition too. I guess the Singaporean government loves us so much that pretty much a lot of our dark secrets are bad-mouthed (which comes as no surprise to us Malaysians). Incompetent politicians? Check!  Malaysia as a dangerous and confused state? Check! Secret dealings with Iran in procuring missile technology from China? Check! Anwar is gay? What? Really?? Should I check that? Hmm… Well, I don’t mind a gay PM, as long as he’s the lesser evil.

No doubt, all these episodes from Wikileaks has caused a major embarrassment to major governments, especially the U.S. Obama Administration. The self-proclaimed democratic leader is hunting down Interpol’s most wanted “terrorist” Julian Assange – dead or alive. While at the other spectrum, the banks and corporations are scared, really scared, because Julian told he’ll leak more files containing the wrongdoings of big banks and corporations. Major banks like Paypal, Master Card and Visa had already frozen Julian’s account. But that is not the end of Wikileaks.

Right now, Wikileaks supporters from around the world are filling the streets with protests, while hackers have joined forces for a cyber war attacking major corporations. Iceland, the haven of freedom of press for journalists has taken a stance to protect Wikileaks base there. And Wikileaks servers are safely tucked in a nuclear-proof bunker in Stockholm.  In fact, many more tech-geeks will be agents like Wikileaks. He has inspired ordinary people like us to rebel against big governments and corporations with a little help of the internet. I think this is the new age of cyber freedom, a world without borders. Julian Assange is definitely the man of 21st Century.


I’ve been thinking on writing on this topic since a while ago, but only now I think I can write more about it. The new atheists, as they called, has been on the offensive side even since Richard Dawkins famously publish his ground breaking book – The God Delusion. In youtube and online sites, you can easily see people writing about atheism. Being someone who’s interested in the topic of faith and creator, I was curious to understand more about the ideas behind the god or no god.

Before I go further, I just want to let you know I am on the neutral, I’ll try to analyse the whole scene about religion and atheism with a grain of salt. There’s basically three camps – organized religion, atheists, and people who are in between. Most people fall under the organized religion category. Call it Islam, Christianity, Jewish, Hindu, Buddhist, etc. They can believe in one god or multiple gods, but what they share together is an organized belief structure, with a set of rituals, holy scripture, pious lifestyle and dogmas to follow. While atheism is not a religion, it is the lack of belief. They do not place their understanding of life on faith nor god, instead they based their knowledge and understanding on science. While the in-betweens are what I call agnostics. They do not have any organized religion, just a belief that perhaps there’s a higher being out there somewhere.

As we know, religion has been the cause of conflicts and wars throughout the world. Yet, faith leaders from organized religion justify their existence by claiming that religion is the main source of morality and most importantly, the answer to the human purpose of life. Interestingly, it is in the nature of humans to questions his own existence in this short life on earth. I guess, psychologically, humans has an innate feeling to find meanings to his own life. There’s the reason why a lot of people turn to spirituality when the material world could not satisfy their inner desire for happiness and peace. That explains why it is hard for people to disregard religion as it defines the whole aspect of an individual’s life.

The problem with religion is it is both a force of evil and good. I always believe that in order for religion to be less corrupted, it is important to have the separation of religion and state. Although, I do agree it is the right of every individual to believe in whatever they want to believe in. Yet, the thing is, the nature of religion (at least the major ones) has always been about politics and expansion, as they claimed, “saving the souls of the sinners”. Thus, every organized religion is always scouting for new recruits, propagating the idea of heaven & hell, or anything to do with the afterlife. Hence, it is easy to politicise religion to naive individuals especially when politicians use it to gain votes and popularity. It is easy to see why. Being humans is not easy especially there’s so many uncertainties in life – lose jobs, suffer illness, broken relationships, stress from work/exams, etc…. it’s good to get the comfort of a creator to give you the assurance that God loves you and everything is going to be alright. Well, as long as you follow the rules written in the book compiled by His beloved prophets and disciples.

The in-betweens or agnostics are the neutral bunch. They are like the Hippies, everything is all about world peace, happily in their own little cocoon. Which is nothing wrong, just that deep down they are closet atheist, I suspect. They could just be happy with a faith of their own choice, yet they prefer to stay away from the idea of religion, thinking that it has a more evil force than good. Still, questions linger in their thoughts about religion, what if they are wrong? What if there’s a god that punishes? they do not want to go to hell either. Thus, to cut the deal off, they put a tiny hope of afterlife in their heart, perhaps there’s a higher power somewhere, perhaps the higher power is a good old man that do not judge a good person like them. The agnostics also suffer a high degree of self-esteem issue, especially when they stare at the wide universe on a clear dark night, or at faraway mountains on a high peak, they see themselves as a small ant in the mercy of a creator, without knowing if there’s ever such existence.

Finally, atheists. Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens and Sam Harris, may ring a bell to a lot of people, but the real reason why atheism is popular among the intellect crowd is because of a rebel called Charles Darwin. He wrote a famous book ‘Origin of the Species’ which rocked the world of the organized religions, claiming that it is not God, but evolution and natural selection that had played the part in the existence of everything, including us human. Christians tried to create their own defence by teaching ‘Intelligent Design’, Harun Yahya of Turkey published ‘Atlas of Creation’ book for Muslims, while other organized religions quietly dodge off the topic. Organized religion tried to spin the whole Evolution Theory by saying that it is not a fact, it is mere theory, while making fun of atheists on their ‘monkey theory’. According to Darwin, we are cousins of apes (which explains why we share 98% of the DNA of a Chimpanzee). While recently, Stephen Hawkins even claimed that the universe cannot be made by a creator, as he said the physic theories themselves showed how the universe can actually appear from nothing.

Regarding on finding the meaning of life, asking the “why we are here?” questions… A lot of the atheists said you do not need a religion to be spiritual. Perhaps there’s never a meaning to life at all. Perhaps we are all here merely to survive, you know, survival of the species. Thus, the meaning of life could be merely finding happiness through altruism. Because happy people live longer thus have a better chance at survival right? It is interesting also to understand that being good and moral is in our nature as human species. Evolution is more like behavioural science, instead of observing at humans/animals behaviour, we observe the behaviour of the genes. In Richard Dawkin’s the Selfish Genes, he explained thoroughly on why our genes want us to be good, even to strangers. Why morality can be scientifically explained. I realized that atheists are making a huge come back, in fact they are on the offensive side now. Numerous documentaries, debates and forums are filling the Youtube channels, not to forget Atheist groups are sprouting like wild mushrooms in internet forums, chats and websites.

Just a thought – on one end there’s science and evolution, showing our evolutionary existence through the famed ‘Tree of Life’, that clearly translated into God as mere an extended childhood imaginary friend of ours, and that spirituality do not need to be about religion or god; while on the another end, it is in the nature of human beings to find comfort in a creator that can provide them a sense of certainty, and only a god can made a person to be calmed in a chaotic world, to feel loved by something greater than themselves. I am eager to see how this tussle will lead to.

The Great Rift Valley…. The word itself sounds very exotic, like a far away land in a world where mystical enchantments exist. Oh perhaps, it sounds similar to one of the journey in Lord of the Rings. Nevertheless, my quest to the Great Rift Valley is nonetheless a spiritual discovery of a people that I usually would hear from the television and magazines.

The Global Peace Festival (GPF) team journeyed deep into the Great Rift Valley to learn an interesting initiative by the GPF Kenya. The initiative was a partnership with several key groups in eradicating tribal conflict that had hit Molo, a peaceful country side, home to tribes which included the Kikuyu, Maasai, Gussi, Luhya, etc. The worst bloody conflict was during the 2007 Election violence which saw young people from different tribes killing each other in the name of hatred and fear.

Along the road, we saw wide open space of the Great Rift Valley that went on and on without end, absolutely mystical and beautiful. There were huge serene lakes and picturesque long-dead volcano crater from afar. Once a while, there were baboons, zebras and donkeys passing by on each sides of the road. I also saw African children looking curiously at us (as we are the only foreigners), small shops quietly doing their daily business, and endless rows of golden corns/millets, giving a pleasant rustic view of rural Africa.

The initiative by GPF Kenya focuses on Character Education. It is not the typical Character Education that one would normally associate with. It doesn’t have a curriculum nor a syllabus. It does not contain any rigid evaluation. What’s interesting about the Character Education is the sustainability of  long term cooperation between all community. The core idea is to change the mindset of young people by getting all community to participate.

To better understand the whole concept of the Peace Process in Molo, we went to the Rift Valley Provincial Headquarters in Nakuru. The military police had set up a team of Peace Cops, their role is more of a peace maker rather than carrying guns catching criminals. The unique aspect about Peace Cops is they are supposed to mingle and gain the trust of the community. This will enable them to get first hand tip off on potential tribal conflict. Besides, they also do frequent patrol in hard-to-reach rural areas, joining forces with tribal leaders. The Peace Cops initiative has been very successful as the police forces presented themselves as a trust worthy ally in the peace process.

Back to the Character Education, as we drove to the school which had suffered badly during the 2007 Election Violence, we learned ever since the school implemented the Character Education and having committed alliances between police forces, government, GPF and the community, there hasn’t been any conflict happened. The success of the Character Education is due to – cooperation between the Police, the government, community, GPF, school and young people. The Peace Cops represent the committed efforts by the police; the government has been fully supportive of the initiative and provided funds to the community; the community has been very involved by having frequent meeting with all tribes; the school authorities play a vital role in creating a safe education environment; young people from all tribes has been organizing workshops and youth activities ; while GPF has been behind the scene in assisting the schools and young people by providing resources, training and guidance.

The never ending rows and rows of greenery hills were the homes of the people of Molo. The weather was cooling and welcoming, with rich agricultural cultivations of potatoes, corns, millets, and vegetations. Once a while donkeys carrying goods and humans would pass by our vehicle. On the other side of the view, I saw cows freely roamed the grasses chewing their meal, houses made of mud and dry plants stood rustically, while housewives busy doing their back-breaking chores. The humble setting of the rural scene made me realized the people of Molo are very lucky to have the vast nature as their home. One of the my friend who tagged along told he was sorry with the poverty there, but I do not feel the people there were ‘poor’. In a materialistic sense, they may not own shining cars, big mansions, high-paying jobs, and designer clothes, but they have everything they need – fresh air, beautiful nature, rich agricultural land, mud houses as shelter (it doesn’t cost a thing!) and a close-knitted community. One thing lacked were the access to clean water and good education.

Arriving the school – Mutate Primary School, we were greeted by young school kids, wearing their humble clothing and wide beautiful smiles. The kids were extremely adorable, to the extend I would perhaps do an Angelina Jolie and adopt one of them as my child! I was shocked to see the humble school, considering this is the best in Molo. It is everything I had saw in the TV. It broke my heart to see how worn-out their school books were, and the school principal told us they do not have the funds to build more classrooms, thus the kids have to cram together in that small classroom. Yet, they seemed to be extremely excited, singing and smiling joyfully, I did not see a hint of sadness in their faces. I can understand why, the nature is their classroom, and with this much freedom, they thrived. Mind you, I was shocked again when I saw the school work of these kids, considering they are mere 13 years old with limited education resources, I didn’t expect to see such impeccable English and Maths performances in their work books. They even spoke to us in good English that made me felt very proud of them.

The scar of the 2007 Election Violence had left a deep wound to the Mutate Primary School, all the teachers left Molo as part of the school was burnt down with only the school principal stayed behind. Nevertheless, his will to educate the kids motivated him to re-build back the school. He got funds from the Chandaria Foundation (the richest man in Kenya) to re-build the classroom, and recruited several new teachers. In cooperation with GPF, the school and community form a committee represented by all tribes in Molo, where they have frequent meeting on peace-building. On the other hand, the school also introduced Character Education in the classroom, not as a subject, but through frequent dialogue/discuaasion, sports activities (especially football), and youth workshops. More over, the school did a smart move by making sure the kids from all tribes are schooled together. The reality is, segregation is the main cause of conflict. Segregation causes people to lack understanding and empathy with people of another tribe, subsequently disregard those people as lesser beings to justify the killings.

On the way back, we dropped by at a small town in Molo. We met the representatives of the youth initiative who were the driving force in educating other young people. They organize numerous programs, such as sports and youth development workshops. As we spoke to the young leaders, they expressed hope and enthusiasm in the achievement of the programs. The Football Competition managed to bring together young people from all tribes for the first time, while the youth workshops taught young people about basic life skills to earn money/do business, and empower them to be peace makers. Youth empowerment is important because the lacked of economic development may add fuel for hatred and tribalism to slip in, as land issues has always been the source of conflict. According to the youth, the workshops has helped to improve the livelihood and interaction of the people in Molo. Nowadays, peace is in the mind of everyone here, the scar of conflict is too deep for a repeat.

Sustainability in peace-building is the aim of Global Peace Festival. Mean while, it is the role of the Molo people to maintain peace and stability through education and cooperation by all community. There’s a saying “If there’s peace in Molo, there’s peace in Kenya”. Politicians may be blamed for inciting tribal hatred and civil conflict, but it is vital for tribal leaders, schools, the police forces, NGOs, the government, the community and young people to rise against such tribal mentality and foresee that we are One Human Family after all.

I was lucky enough to get the opportunity to travel to Kenya for the Global Peace Festival (GPF), the first for me to the African continent. Thanks to the international news, preconditioned ideas ran though my mind about Africa: the civil war, the tribal clashes, the extreme drought and poverty, the safari animals, apartheid, and AIDS. Though some of it are true, but it doesn’t really paint the colourful, vibrant and peaceful nature of the Africans or the Kenyans.

It was an eye opener for me as I stepped out from the Nairobi Airport, the weather was really cooling, despite the fact that Kenya is situated at the Equator. The next day, which was the opening for the Global Peace Convention, me and the GPF media team quickly start working on the our assignment. There are photographers, video persons and me, the interviewer/reporter for the event.

The 2-day Global Peace Convention (18-19 November) was officiated by heavy weight politicians. Namely by Mr. Mwai Kibaki, the President of Kenya; Mr. Raila Odinga, the Prime Minister of Kenya; Mr. Kalonzo Musyoka, the Vice President of Kenya; Representative Minister of Nigeria (forgot his name). For those who are not aware of the Kenyan politics, they are formed by a coalition government, due to a bloody 2007 Election violence between the Mr. Kibaki’s party and Mr. Odinga’s opposition side. Former UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan was credited for hasten the peace process between both sides. A Coalition government is something that is interesting because it allowed better political stability and lesser internal strife where the demographic population are diverse and divided. Yet, one thing apparent for Kenya is its commitment to strive for democracy and peace, although being surrounded by volatile neighbours.

The Global Peace Convention (GPC) was also attended by Dr. Hyun Jin Moon, the Chairman of Global Peace Festival Foundation. I think by now most are very much aware of the tarnished image of the Unification Church, initiated by his father, Rev. Sun Myung Moon. The Moonies as they were called, was considered a popular cult 2-3 decades ago. Due to the internal split between Dr. Hyun Jin Moon and his siblings in 2008, he left the movement for good and the rest is history. One thing interesting about the nature of GPF is it’s non-sectarian, non-partisan and inclusive nature. It’s vision of “One Family Under God” may sound religious, but the orientation is very much universal. The three core pillars – Strengthening Families, Interfaith Cooperation and Community Service – are meant to build better bridges among societies and communities. Nevertheless, being new to the scene, it had faced countless challenges and setbacks in proving its legitimacy in the Non-profits world.

Another thing strikes me profoundly is it’s dedicated commitment on world peace – specifically on religious and ethnic cooperation. That is what Global Peace Convention was all about, bridging gap between world leaders, creating the space for dialogue and cooperation.

The topics discussed in GPC were wide and diverse, ranging from genocide, peace process, interfaith cooperation, to youth development, entrepreneurship, Character Education, etc. During the Opening Speech of a minister from Nigeria, he really raved up the audience with cheers as he spoke seriously against bad governance, corruption and politicizing tribal conflicts (tribalism is a big problem in Africa). Suddenly the quiet (and rather mundane hall) mood changed, young Kenyans were clapping and shouting slogans of peace, giving hope that Kenya will rise against the stereotype of what an African ought to be. I was in awe.

Seeing the numerous workshops, forum and talks during the GPC, I came into a conclusion, there’s a bright hope for Kenyans. One of the sub-event was the Youth Summit, which was attended by the Vice President of Kenya. He was also very much interested with how young Kenyans can bring about change to Kenya. I was personally inspired, most Politicians in Malaysia failed to see the power of young people in effecting social change, that’s a sad truth.

My job assigned was on media and communication. I got the chance to interview and speak to a lot of prominent leaders in their own field. Among the leaders that I admire deeply were the Hon. Jose De Venecia, Former Speaker of the House of Representatives in the Philippines. He was very much a humble gentleman, truly believed in the vision carried out by Dr. Hyun Jin Moon. The same goes to Dr. Manu Chandaria, the richest man in Kenya and prominent Businessman, and Sir James Mancham, Founding President of Seychelles. Their experienced yet humble personality truly reflect the charisma of a true leader. I personally believe Dr. Hyun Jin Moon has aligned himself with the right leaders, leaders that shared his vision and embraced the the idea that we all come from one human family. It is important for people to understand that, scientifically speaking, human beings are all originated from Africa as written in our DNA, through the millions of years of migration by our ancestors, that is how we came to be so diverse and different. Yet, it is important for us to celebrate diversity through unity and equality, by seeing the similarity in our human values and principles.

On the other hand, I do understand for a lot of people in the world, religion and spirituality is an important fundamental in their daily lives. Realizing that religion has and always been a source of conflict between different faiths, by using the metaphor of god in the vision “One Family Under God”, people of different sects are able to see beyond the external complexity of faith, instead embrace the idea that we all come from one human family, while God is placed as the centre of the human spirit. This is why I believe the United Nation has failed to see, the UN has became a dry vehicle for politicians to merely ‘fix the problem’ without understanding the complexity of human behavior. By understanding the nature of religion in playing a role within the human spirituality, instead of sweeping aside the importance of uniting these moderate religious leaders, they should be given a role in influencing their community to end the exiting religious/civil conflict.

Nevertheless, I do acknowledge Global Peace Festival is still very new, and with the word ‘festival’, it might perhaps gave a rather inaccurate idea of what GPF is all about. Of course, celebrating peace is a symbolic aspect of GPF, especially in promoting peace among the younger crowd. Yet, the efforts of GPF are beyond just events, GPF is branching out from the comfort zone of feel-good events, reaching out to grassroots communities, working on issue-based projects, working together with young people, organizing interfaith dialogues, and so on. Using a multi-pronged approach, GPF has formed dedicated partnership with world leaders, young people, grass root communities and the government in realizing the dream of building “One Family Under God”.

I left the Global Peace Festival in Kenya feeling rejuvenated. There’s still a lot to be done though. Peace is not a destiny, it is a journey of discovery.

This is the kind of Ulama that we should have in MALAYSIA…. calling for saperation of Religion and State…. and have the far sightedness for a modern civil state!

jewish synagogue taken care by an muslim man, that's what i call 'MYANMAR TRULY ASIA'!

*jewish synagogue taken care by an muslim man, that’s what i call MYANMAR TRULY ASIA!

Going to Myanmar is like going back to Malaysia 50 year back, exactly what I would usually see in my favourite P. Ramlee’s old movies and black & white photos of the ‘good old days’ of my grandparents. Everything is so laid back, underdeveloped and culturally rich. The men and women still wear their sarong (they call it lungi), like nobody’s business, you see them wear it everywhere, from the airport to the shopping mall too! gosh, seriously reminded me of my grandma and grandpa… You see, there’s something very melancholy and sentimental about Myanmar (apart from it political dictatorship), I feel like stepping back in time: the 70s and 80s looking old cars, the lush greenery in the city of Yangoon, and the warm hospitality of the Myanmar people.

I still remember before coming to Myanmar, my fellow friends and family were so worried and gave a lot of warnings that the place is soo dangerous and soo underdeveloped and unstable… When I went to the Myanmar Embassy in Ampang Hilir, that didn’t help either, my imagination about Myanmar was getting more and more obscured. The visa counter was very rundown; it looked more like a rural kampung area in the East Coast. I saw Myanmar people squatting and sitting around the embassy, probably just waiting to get their visa extended, and a humble-looking kedai kopi, filled with Myanmar people. But one thing I noticed was, the people were so varied in their looks, resembled exactly like the Chinese, Malay, Indian and dan lain-lain ‘race’ in Malaysia.

I was boarding the MAI (Myanmar Airways International). The ASEAN project coordinator, Phillip Danao issued the ticket right after I got my visa done. I was packing like mad, since I didn’t expect to leave Malaysia so soon. After almost 2 hours of on the flight, I finally arrived at the Yangoon International Airport. The first indication that I am in Myanmar was the huge number of people wearing traditional sarong and kebaya-looking blouses and also robe-wearing monks. I met my other ASEAN volunteer friend from Malaysia, Mangala, she’s also like me, was very taken aback by the tranquility, warmness and greenery of Myanmar, totally unlike what we were told back in Malaysia.

We are staying at the Summit Park View Hotel, managed by a Singaporean. Our place is near to embassies, Ministries buildings, the famous golden temple of Shwedagon. The first few words that we learned was – je zu ther ma lay (thank you) and, mangelaba (hello). You know, I felt very uncomfortable that most of the locals here when they know we are Malaysians, they would say ‘oh, good Malaysia, rich country!’…. It’s so misleading coz our government is screwing up the ordinary Malaysian lives that it sooo never rich, our lives are still as difficult as them, maybe only a bit more modernized.

The first day in Myanmar, we decided to explore around the area. We went to the nearest shopping area at City Mart and Dagon Centre. A Indian looking Myanmar asked if we wanted to take a taxi, he charged us 1000 jet (Myanmar Currency) 100 US Dollar = 1080 jet. The taxi driver was actually an Indian Muslim, his ancestors came from India as merchants. At the Star Mart, we saw lots of the Myanmar ladies wear something like bedak sejuk on their faces. It’s actually teneka, a natural form of sun screen protection derived from a tree. There were a lot of buses, some packed with people, so unlike Malaysia. In Malaysia, the public transport is really bad; the ordinary Malaysians have to wait for a long time just to get a bus. There weren’t any beggars or homeless people on the street, but there were a lot of police securities inside the shopping area. I was quite surprised, I believed Myanmar is way better than Indonesia and Philippines, I didn’t feel insecure or unsafe being a female traveler. In fact, from what I heard Myanmar is famed for having one of the lowest tourist crime rates.

The food in Myanmar is rather interesting though. It was not bad at all, in fact quite similar to our local Malaysian food. The bihun that we eat is called vercimilli in Myanmar, it’s quite a popular dish there. One thing I realized that there’s frequent power failures in Myanmar; when we were shopping at the mart, there were a sudden blackout for a few second, but the people were very calm and non-complaining about this. I remember in Malaysia, once there was a huge power failure resulting the whole of Peninsular Malaysia with no electricity for a few hours, Malaysian were complaining like mad and shouting. Here, the country is very poor that it’s a luxury to even have electricity. Thus, the power failure is seen as only minor imperfection.

At nite, we went to the Shwedagon Pagoda, just a couple of walks from our hotel. It’s so amazing looking at the Pagoda, so huge and golden, and the top of the pagoda was filled with lots of diamonds shining brightly in the dark night sky, especially as we saw through the telescope. If the diamond filled pagoda was situated in Malaysia, I think in no time it would definitely be looted and stolen, no surprise, typical ugly Malaysians. We befriended a monk, named osman (that’s what we heard he said), who could be the only one there that can speak English. It was rather hard for us to mingle with the locals, as the only English they knew was YES and NO. The monk was so kind, he explained all the detailed information about the pagoda. Without him, we might be at lost coz all the writings were in Myanmar language. He said the pagoda has a historical root over 2500 years. It is plated with real gold, amounted with 60,000 of gold leaves. It has 4200 of precious stones on the surface of the ‘umbrella’, such as ruby, sapphire, diamonds, emerald, etc. On the very top of the pagoda is a huge 1800 carat diamond…wow!!! The monk, even show us a secret where we can see the huge 1800 diamond shining in red, yellow and green colour by standing in different spots, amazing!

The locals come to the pagoda for praying and worshipping, there’s a hint of Hinduism as we saw several small temple around the pagoda resembled the Balinese and Thai and even Chinese architecture. Around the pagoda were small miniature statures of Buddha and different animals, it is supposed to resemble the day of birth of a person. I was born in 26 June 1985, so my day of birth was on Wednesday, which is symbolized by the elephant. So for self-well being, the monk told me I can pour water to the Buddha and Elephant statures. Quite a unique experience for me.. I can say the Myanmar people are very devoted to Theravada Buddhism as they would meditate and pray for a long time in front of the pagoda, the similarity does reminded me of the performing of Haji in Mekah. Around the pagoda too were candles and candles lighted and flowers were decorated around many of the Buddha statures.
The first day of Myanmar, I felt very invigorating, it’s an irony that there’s so many fallacy and myth about Myanmar, when actually there’s more to the book than its cover. I believe the term ‘truly Asia’ in our tourism advertisement should be reserved for Myanmar, coz Myanmar truly preserved the South East Asia cultural heritage, its multiculturalism and not to forget the people here are so nice and kind, reminded me exact what was used to be good about Malaysia that is increasingly gone now…

gorgeous love lavender

Timely Rain Drops

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bitter butter beer ginger~

dusty attic

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