International Peace Partners visit the Temple of Peace and Health

On 23 May 20 students and 12 staff from Romania, Turkey and Wales were hosted by WCIA at the Temple of Peace and Health for an interactive day as part of the ‘Becoming a Peace School’ Erasmus project.

The group were given a glimpse into Wales’ rich peace heritage as embodied and exemplified by the Temple of Peace and Health itself. The group also took part in a Model UN on a critical peace issue. International partners plan to run Model UNs back in their countries.

Students and staff meet each other in a getting-to-know-you exercise.

On arrival, Rebecca Wilson, WCIA’s Peace Education Coordinator, facilitated some fun, interactive ‘getting to know you’ exercises.  Students took part in a carousel where they shared information and put together a composite face of the various people facing them.  Mr (Simon) Tilley from Nant-y-Parc primary school also led participants in an energetic game of ‘Simon says’. 

Having broken the ice, the students divided into 2 groups and took part in a Temple tour led by volunteers Gunel Marmedova and Tom Chambers.  They heard about the vision history and purpose of the Temple, then visited the crypt housing the WWI Book of Remembrance, the Council chamber and the peace heritage timeline on the first floor. 

After the guided tour, students were given time to complete a peace quiz which highlighted some of Wales’ peace heritage over the last 100+ years, including the hosting of refugees, the women’s 1923-4 peace petition, the youth Message of Peace and Goodwill, and the establishment of international links and partnerships.

Participants said the Temple had had a deep impact on participants.  Asked at the end of the day what had affected them emotionally, many mentioned aspects of the Temple tour – e.g. the Book of Remembrance; the story of Minnie James – a bereaved mother from Dowlais who opened the Temple in 1938; and the story of the poet, Hedd Wyn, who died at Passchendaele. 
One person commented that they had learnt about conscientious objectors.  Two students from Romania were so inspired that they were prompted to ask ‘How do we get to work here?!’

Before the lunch break we gave the students some time to prepare for the Model UN.  Schools had been allocated countries and possible topics prior to the visit, but some had been able to do more preparation than others.  They opted to discuss the question: ‘How do we end the war in Ukraine’.  This was a challenge, as the group included both secondary and primary students, who were able to debate at various levels. We got round this by allocating to the primary pupils the role of the Press, and they took on this role with enthusiasm.

Students read out their statements in front of their peers

After lunch the Model UN took place, with students representing Turkey giving an opening speech and proposing a draft resolution.  Other students representing Romania, the UK, Ghana and Brazil, replied with their points of view and a debate took place. 

Students explored the points of view of the countries they were allocated (usually their own countries) on the topic.  Other countries (Ghana and Brazil) were chosen because they are currently on the Security Council, and also because they brought a perspective from Africa and South America.  After a period of debate, representatives from countries negotiated to amend Turkey’s proposal.  The final proposal, agreed upon by all, included a ceasefire, room for negotiations and the establishment of a neutral buffer zone. 

Peace Education Coordinator, Jane Harries, said:

“The way students engaged in debate and negotiations was impressive.  The ‘Press’ were also very active, listening in to negotiations, and drafting ‘headlines’ as they proceeded – sometimes emphasising discrepancies between delegates’ public and private behaviour!  They had great fun!” 

Participants said:

‘I’ve learnt how to negotiate and how debate works’

‘I’ve learnt how to be diplomatic and how to solve problems in a diplomatic way’.

The primary students from Nant-y-Parc school reflected that ‘the Press can be good – but they can also lie or misinterpret’ what’s going on. 

Reflecting on what they would take back to their own contexts, participants said:

‘I’ll take back the UN debate and work with my colleagues’

‘We will start up a debating team.’

To finish the day we took part in a peace trail round the Temple Peace Garden, visiting some key monuments and plaques. 

Back in the Marble Hall, participants then reflected on what the purpose of a peace garden is and what they would put in their personal peace garden. 

Jane Harries said: “All in all, the visit was a rich and positive experience – part of a fitting end to what has been a great ‘Becoming a Peace School’ Erasmus project.  Partners have forged deep connections, which we hope will continue beyond the project itself and have embedded a culture of peace into their schools in a variety of international contexts.”