Have you ever had a dream, year after year, and it doesn't come true, but you keep dreaming it and you never give up and, 20 years later, it actually happens?
Well, my dream came true on Thursday, Jan. 27, 2022 when 4 artists from the South of Cyprus and 4 artists from the North of Cyprus began the Cyprus Singing Tree of Peace. We met on Zoom with Dr. Katia Petersen, former Director of Education for the Institute of Noetic Sciences and the founders of Visual Voices, Alden Jacobs and Marina Neophytou. As the Lead Design Team, the eight artists will create a Singing Tree together with the goal of then making one in each of their communities. Here we are on Zoom. Thank you, Technology.
For the first time in 20 years, Katia and I combined programs that we've created and devoted our lives to - Worldview Exploration and the Singing Tree Project - with young people from Cyprus. Yes, we've been talking about doing this for 20 years.
Katia grew up on Cyprus. She was 16 when the Civil War broke out. She was passed out a window just as the person who caught her was shot. In her first teaching job, thrust upon her during the war, she discovered that telling stories and making art with the children who had lost their parents was healing. This was the beginning of her career as a visionary educator, art therapist and psychologist.
In January, 2020, Alden Jacobs and I met through the Rotary's Eclub for World Peace, an international team of dedicated Peace Leaders. This young Rotary Peace Fellow, now living in Cyprus, and I presented a joint session at the Rotary's Peace Conference of 2020 on Peace-Building Through Art. Here is Alden at the conference in front of a little canvas Lili Lopez and I made of flying to Cyprus.
He and his partner, Marina Neophytou, founded Visual Voices in Cyprus. Their mission is to be a non-profit supporting youth artists from communities affected by violent conflict. They promote the creation contemporary visual art that reflects the desire for positive social change and build the space for these ideas to be shared. They brought together the eight artists, succeeded in getting funding from the Cyprus Ministry of Culture with Unity Through Creativity and made arrangements for the Cyprus Singing Tree of Peace to go on the wall seen below of the United Nations Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNPFIC).The mural will be on this wall, Alden and a UN soldier are measuring showing how long the mural will be.
Emel Ramiz, one of the Cypriot artists, was on fire after the first session and sent her study of the Pomegranate/Olive Singing Tree right off. The Lead Design Team, Visual Voices, Katia and I will put together a vision of Peace with people from different sides of Cyprus, the world's longest occupied country. Katia and I waited 20 years for this. Cyprus has waited 50 years for Peace. Can we add momentum to bring connection over division? That is our impossible dream. And the dream is bigger: Inner Peace, Family Peace, Neighborhood Peace, International Cities of Peace, Countries at Peace, a Peaceful World.
The visionary co-founder of the Rotary EClub of World Peace is Barbara Muller. I was honored to have this author/educator activist interview me on her Peace Podcast last Thursday. She also sent me a book about her deceased husband, former UN Assistant Secretary-General Robert Muller who dedicated 40 years of his life to the UN. I want to end with his words: I will help this planet, with all my abilities and love, to become what it was always meant to be: a planet of God, a true miracle in the universe, inhabited by a happy, fulfilled, peaceful loving humanity, thankful for the miraculous gift of Life.
I hope the fact that Katia and I did not give up for twenty years to do our work together gives you faith to hang in there with your dream. I'd love to hear your long term dream stories.