By Dakota Peterson

A final bosanska kaffa with friends early in the morning after a night out. At this point I was half awake while the soft aroma of coffee filled the air around our table. 

I was sitting with Paul, Kelly, Mucyo, and later Laial. Paul, also known as Po, Buhl, or Paulinho was my roomie during the symposium. We met late on Saturday, the 6th of July, when I arrived in Sarajevo. We talked about football–real football–and bonded over laughs and fights throughout the week.

Kelly is spiritual, full of energy, loves to do kitty cat voices and always willing to have a good laugh. Laial is quite funny herself, with a sort of dark humor that is able to capture what everyone is thinking, but with a light touch. She is also brilliant and steadfast in her commitments. Mucyo is a peaceful soul who has seen a lot. A man of grace and powerful words who can’t keep a gentle smile off of his face.

These are but a few of the people that became family over the past two weeks. These people are making a difference in the world around them. Whether it’s checking in to see if others are ok, thinking deeply about the challenges that plague the world around them, or placing themselves in some of the most difficult situations that exist just to lend a hand.

Though these people are doing incredible things, what makes them amazing is not what they do, but how they do it. They approach their careers with a sense of purpose that is unwavering. Each and everyone of them sees a situation slightly different, but all of them are right. Unique as they are, they still understand coming together, finding common ground and how to give more than you take. This is important to my concept and desire for a collectivist way of life. One thing I learned at the symposium these past two weeks is that collectivism is crucial to creating sustainable, enjoyable, and fulfilling peace. That said, it is something we are far from producing.

To feel equal, as one, with a group of people. To move beyond power dynamics or stealing energy in a manner that creates insecurities in a group that eventually leads to its demise sometimes seems like an insurmountable challenge. Grassroots peacebuilding efforts and locally owned projects certainly helps cultivate a sense of tribe that creates peace, but it still needs more attention. The speakers and participants at the symposium knew that local ownership is and will be the answer, but how to achieve it intellectually, emotionally, psychologically, is something we have not been able to attain. It must also be understood that this step is not just meant to build peace in post war areas, but to envision and create a new world, ultimately answering some of the root causes that leads to conflict of all sorts. All the inefficiencies and insecurities are connected.

At times I felt this collectivist connection during the symposium. I also felt the insidious nature of ego and fear that caused deep divides. How can the former be manifested and the latter let go. In the end, I think the people I mentioned above are part of the answer.