Ever since primary school, Sharon Lai has dreamed of a world with no wars, disease or struggle. The naive musings of a young girl? Perhaps. But as the young girl matured, so did the dream. "I realised that the two words 'world peace' carried a much deeper meaning than just shouting the slogan and doing nothing," she says. "I came to realise that peace comes from one's heart. Living in material and modern Hong Kong, we are prone to enjoyment and luxuries, and learn to only care about our own interests. But when I joined World CARP, I realised that a culture of peace can be created, if only we are willing to believe in the idea and put our belief into action."
World CARP's philosophy is that peace comes through co-operation beyond the boundaries of ethnicity, religion and nationality. It encourages respect for all religions and beliefs, and bringing people from all walks of life together in an atmosphere of mutual respect.
In one October, World CARP arranged a trip to Malaysia for 20 HKU students, who attended the Global Peace Festival (GPF) as Collegiate Ambassadors for Peace. The festival was organised by the Universal Peace Federation and other NGOs and organisations that share a common vision for peace. The organisers also wished to assist the United Nations in achieving their Millennium Development Goals, which encompass the alleviation of poverty and hunger, combating disease, improving education and gender equality, and ensuring environmental sustainability, among others. The GPF had three main objectives: inter-faith co-operation; strengthening the family; and creating a culture of service.
For Sharon, the trip was a re-enforcement of her long-held beliefs "During our five-day trip, we realised that despite of our skin colour, language, ethnicity or religion, we are still one big family of humanity. What was most touching to me was Muslims, Buddhists, Christians and other young people from different religions were able to do the 'Service for Peace' programme together, where we helped Malaysian families to clean and paint their houses, collected their rubbish and so on."
"Any initial misunderstandings and suspicions seemed to fade away as we sweated, cried and laughed together with a common purpose and cause. What is even more inspiring is that as the residents saw that we were doing services for them, some of them even took the initiative of joining us, and we worked together to create a better living environment."
For Sharon and her friends, Service for Peace created public awareness of the importance of inculcating the virtue of volunteerism and service in the younger generation, and of sparking a culture of "living for the sake of others" to create a caring and peaceful society. There was also a project at the festival called "The Power of 10 cents", which was jointly organised by UNICEF. The rationale is that everyone, no matter how poor, can afford to donate 10 cents. The money collected was donated to UNICEF to help eradicate hunger in Cambodia.
After coming back to Hong Kong, Sharon and the others were inspired to do more, and began preparing a Family Filial Piety Festival to promote the awareness of the importance of duty to family.
"We also planned to work with the Malaysian Collegiate Ambassadors of Peace and a group of orphans in a hand-in-hand service to make Easter gifts for the elderly," she says. "The aim is to help the orphans by helping them help others, which adheres to the theme of filial piety, as well as teaching respect for the elderly through true love in action."
From schoolgirl to activist for peace and love, Sharon actions for others speak even louder than her inspiring words. "I believe that if we are willing to do at least something to change the world, world peace will not just be a vague slogan but will really be actualised one day, when all humanity can gather together hand-in-hand."
The famous words of one John Lennon come to mind: "You may say that I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one. I hope some day you will join us, and the world will live as one."
Sharon Lai Yue-sum
(BA&BEd(LangEd), Year 4)