Storytelling is Now Part of the International Day of Peace

Desmond Tutu Peace Foundation (New York, NY) , October 1, 2014

We are pleased to introduce you to Ms. Velma Mukoro, 24, of Nairobi, Kenya, and her award-winning story presented at the International Day of Peace this year. Our thanks go to the International Storytelling Center Executive Director, Kiran Singh Sirah and Ms. Mukoro for agreeing to share this wonderful story. Kiran says, “…having met Velma, I was incredibly impressed with the fact that she followed her dream and desire to use storytelling as a way to build peace and enable more people to hear her story. Velma’s story resonates with us all, as peace builders, as storytellers, and as human beings.”

Here at the Desmond Tutu Peace Foundation-USA, we think Little Pitchers exemplifies the power of storytelling to help us see how closely we are connected to one another. The Art of Storytelling permeates the walls that separate us, clearing the path for universal understanding among the cultures of the world.

Little Pitchers by Velma Mukoro

Someone once said you must go through storm to appreciate sunshine.

Listening to Nyankir recount her haunting moment of terror during Southern Sudan’s war, I couldn’t help being appreciative of the lasting peace and stability we had in Kenya. She was very grateful having the rare second chance to start over, as not many of her countrymen had made it across the border. My country was her safe haven. Maybe I wasn’t grateful enough, and was I just sorry for the unbearable capacity of cruelty she had been exposed to. It was humbling watching her stay, as Nyankir marveled at our inter-tribal harmony and peaceful co-existence. To me, these were just words pieced together in our national anthem after gaining independence from colonial rule. It was nothing to write home about. I didn’t share in her excitement.

Then came the fateful day when the disputed presidential elections of 2007 stirred up well concealed hatred, turning men into beasts of vengeance who littered streets with innocent blood. There were gunshots and cries, fire and burns. It wasn’t amusing running from an understocked food store to an out of stock pharmacy with hands lifted high as a sign of surrender. Extensive international calls for calm and dialogue cooled thing off leaving behind a dwindling economy and shattered trust.

For the first time, I knew why Nyankir had been thrilled to arrive to Kenya. It upset me that it had taken a war to make me understand the urgency of preaching peace even where it prevailed. The media, backed by the government and humanitarian organizations took to peace campaigns. Seven years later, the effects of the conflict are still evident, the scars still raw.

Amidst the blame game and uncontrolled hate across social platforms, I noticed them. Little pitchers, a generation of boys and girls that had been left out in the recent nationwide reconciliation programs. Harmless they are, until you hear them speak with venom trickled down to them from days spent eavesdropping on adults’ spiteful talk. So young, so faultless yet so corrupted. It was sad watching children, being caught up in all the hate and ethnic profiling. No child should be raised that way. I was concerned.

I remembered Nyankir and how the thought of peace had elated her. It had taken the shoe pinch to make me share in her excitement. What were ‘mere’ words of our national anthem now bring tears to my eyes. I know what we had and what we are missing. These children I saw in the street, don’t. In my own simple way, I will try to make them see that though they’ve had a rough start, it doesn’t have to be this way. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.”

I went through the storm to appreciate the sunshine.

Velma Mukoro International Day of Peace 2014

Subjects Covered: diversity, personal storytelling

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