Tamera Peace Village -
education for inner and outer peace
Peace Antenna Interview with
of the Institute for Global Peace Work - Institutes
für Globale Friedensarbeit (IGF) - Co-founder of the
peace village, and
nominated as one of the 1000
Women for the Nobel Peace Prize
In 2005, Sabine Lichtenfels - a theologian
and political activist -was nominated for the
Nobel Peace Prize as one of the 1000 Women for
Peace - a project aimed at gaining public
recognition of the relentless efforts made by
women across the globe to promote sustainable
peace and social justice. Sabine Lichtenfels is
a political activist and peace worker dedicated
to bringing peace to the Middle East and to
teaching young people to "think and act
responsibly and with commitment". She is the
director of the Institute for Global Peace Work
(IGF) and is the co-founder of the Tamera peace
village, Portugal, a model settlement dedicated
to researching the concept of non-violent,
sustainable livelihoods. Around 100 people live
in Tamera and a few hundred more visit each year
as students of the Mirja Peace School and the
Youth School for "Global Learning". In November
2005, Sabine Lichtenfels lead a Peace Pilgrimage
through Israel and the West Bank.
Rossi - TFF Peace Antenna
conversations with peace visionairies around the
are listed at her CV page here
and collected here.
April 21, 2006
Vicky Rossi: You
are the director of the Institute for Global Peace Work
(IGF); what is the mission of the IGF and its affiliated
organisations the Mirja Peace School and the Youth School
for "Global Learning"?
The main work that I've been
doing for many years now is to build a foundation for
peace education. What is "peace"? We use this word a lot.
My main involvement is to build up future culture
projects where all aspects of peace are integrated. We
have been doing this since 1978. Then we started building
a community model where we could say this is a social
structure where peace can be developed. Within this
development we started the Institute for Global Peace
Work (IGF). This is mainly for networking - to make
contacts all over the world, to look at which initiatives
exist and with whom we want to cooperate. We have young
people in our project and more and more showed an
interest in learning about it so we started the Youth
School for "Global Learning". This was mainly so that
young children could have the possibility to learn by
travelling on the planet and so we started different
Vicky Rossi: Are
these exchange trips?
Lichtenfels: Yes we do exchange
trips, but we also travel with young people to different
countries and to visit different projects.
Vicky Rossi: Do you
mean countries where there are conflicts?
Lichtenfels: With the children
we are not so much looking for "conflict", we are looking
more for where they can find a source of peace, for
example, we travelled with them to India, to an old
tribe, the Toda. With the older teenagers, we travel to
areas of crisis.
Vicky Rossi: What
age groups are we looking at here?
Lichtenfels: In the
Mirja Peace School, they start when they are 18 years
old, and in the Youth School they attend until they are
Vicky Rossi: The
IGF, the Mirja Peace School and the Youth School for
"Global Learning" are located in the Tamera model peace
village in Portugal, also referred to as "Healing Biotope
1". What is the main purpose of this self-sufficient
Lichtenfels: Peace is not only
a question of personal aspects. It is also the question
of how we can build up social structures and how we can
build a culture which is really based on trust. We have
done a lot of work to strengthen communication tools in
order to find out how we can speak the truth. We feel
that for a long time now Western cultures have been based
on competition, mistrust and lies. It takes a lot of work
to create new forms of interaction.
Vicky Rossi: Are
those persons living in the Tamera village Europeans or
are they international?
They are becoming more and more
international but at the moment there are many Germans,
Swiss, Greek and some Portuguese. But more and more they
are coming from other countries, from Columbia, from
India and mainly from Israel and Palestine, this is very
important I think.
Vicky Rossi: There
are about 100 people living in Tamera?
Yes, however, in May 2006 we
start the next phase and we call this Monte Cerro. It is
a 3-year project and there we'll start with 200 people
altogether. It is also a programme for students - to
enable them to study all aspects of peace. I mentioned
the social aspect, but for us the ecological aspect is
also very important - how we cooperate with nature. We
discovered that in the old traditional form there are
many "enemies" in the images we have of the garden. We
say this is good and this is bad. So we want here also to
find new forms of cooperation. Because of this we call
Tamera the "Healing Biotope". If you really study the
form of the universe, how the energies are working
together then you can find peace in action. The way is
not to suppress things. It is not the way to say this is
good and this is bad. It is much more about complementing
and balancing the energies. Everything is useful in its
Vicky Rossi: Why
have you found it necessary to live in a community
setting? Does that not give the world a message of
"exclusivity" and does it not lead to accusations of
being a cult group?
Lichtenfels: Those are
very important questions because people always experience
fear if there are things that are strange for them. This
is a psychological phenomenon. Because we understand this
we are trying to develop a form of living together which
is open to the outside, for guests to visit. On the other
hand, we need a place for research work. The main idea is
that this project has a global perspective but we need
places where we can create models and where we can find
out how peace works. This is research work. I think it is
very important that people are informed about it and that
things are transparent. I think we have a chance of being
successful if it is accepted also by the outside world,
if they see the necessity of this work. Within society it
is very difficult - you need to step out of the system
but at the same time you need to maintain the
Vicky Rossi: As a
theologian and a political activist, how would you define
the current relationship between politics and
religion/spirituality and in what ways do you feel that
relationship needs to evolve in the future?
Lichtenfels: We try to have no
special religion. I think at this time transformation is
needed because if you see how war happens in countries,
it is very often a question of different religions and
different ideologies. If I'm doing my peace work and
going out to different countries, it is important that I
am there firstly as a human being - not going there
telling people what they should do to attain peace, but
rather listening, deep listening. My main research work
is how we bring together the spiritual aspect - you could
also call it the "inner" aspect - with the social and
political aspects. I think you really only can develop
peace in society if you know about peace in your inner
world. This is mainly the work of meditation, of bearing
witness to your inner processes. At the moment, there is
a movement that says it is enough if you do mediation, or
your spiritual work. I think that is not enough because
many people have lost the connection between this and
what is happening in the world. I try to bring this inner
work and the political work together. I think it is very
necessary that we take a good look at what is going on -
not to fight against the system but to tell the truth
about what we see - if there is injustice, for example.
If you really find inner peace, you naturally try to
change your outer world. If the outer world is not in
peace, how will you be in peace yourself? We are all
Vicky Rossi: That
links to a statement you have made that for peace to
prevail globally "
the outer revolution has to be
accompanied by an inner one". You also say that
there can be no peace on earth as long as there is
war in love". What do you mean by this latter
When you build a community and
you are together for a long time, you see how much
mistrust there is between men and women. I have visited a
lot of communities and normally they very quickly close
their doors. Then there is a lot of competition that is
not spoken about. Recently when I was on my pilgrimage, I
met many, many people who are divorced or they do not
know how to go on. We say that it is very important to
become aware of love issues and how we can develop new
forms of living together - social forms - how the
partnership can be integrated into the bigger community
so that you are not separated. We think this is a very
important point for our society as a great deal of
sickness is the result of unresolved love
Vicky Rossi: Does
that link back to your idea of education?
Yes. In our community seminars
where there are young people, we discuss our human
longing for truth and love - how we can support partners
so that they are truthful to each other, not hiding
things, not lying. We also discuss how to develop our own
self-love as a woman or as a man. We are doing a lot of
education on this issue.
Vicky Rossi: In
November 2005, you conducted a 25 day Political Peace
Pilgrimage from the Golan Heights, through the West Bank
and into Jerusalem. You were joined by over 50
participants - Arab Israelis, Jewish Israelis,
Palestinians, Europeans and Americans. What were the aims
of the pilgrimage? In what ways were you able to achieve
It's a way which will never
end, I think. I actually started my pilgrimage in June
2005, here in the Black Forest. I sent out a letter
through the network saying "One peace research village
instead of one tank". This was when I heard about the
planned war in Iran in February of last year. I thought
to myself, "No, I don't want that". I asked myself how I
could make my voice heard without demonstrating against
politics, yet giving a clear sign that in the peace
movement - I mean it very seriously - we have to give all
our energy into peace research. Money is also an issue
here. I spoke about the "humanisation of money" saying
that for the price of one tank a whole peace research
village - comprising 2,000 people and all the research
work - could be financed.
Vicky Rossi: For
how long could it be financed?
It would be financed
sufficiently to get it up and established. So my letter
went out on the internet and I was interviewed by
journalists and by the television. On my pilgrimage I
walked mainly, but on occasion I took a train. I walked
without any money, eating what people gave me, sleeping
where I was invited - or outside. I went everywhere where
I was invited to speak about my vision and
Vicky Rossi: This
walk started in the Black Forest but then where did it
I walked through south Germany,
Switzerland, Italy, Austria, Slovenia, Greece. From Italy
to Greece I took a ship. From Greece I took an airplane,
there was no ship. I would have preferred to go by ship
to Israel. At the end of October I arrived in Israel.
There I met Benjamin and Vera. They prepared the whole
pilgrimage in Israel. Around 50 people - sometimes more,
sometimes less - walked with us. We walked from the north
through the whole country.
Vicky Rossi: Did
the aim of the Pilgrimage change at that point? You said
that at first you were motivated by the planned war in
Iran, but in Israel and Palestine was it for the peace
process there that you walked?
When we arrived in Jerusalem I
felt a strong sense that that was not the aim, that the
"way" was the aim. In a sense I think I can say that
nobody who walked with us was the same after the
pilgrimage as before it. It made a deep change in all of
us. The point was to bear witness on both sides - really
to see the suffering and then to look at how we could
provide support to the building of solutions. I will do
my very best to inform the international world more and
more that they really also are responsible for what is
going on in these countries or in the crisis areas. I was
astonished that we had a lot of support. We met a lot of
people from all walks of life. Sometimes it was like
opening a window. They started to change their views. In
this I think we were very successful.
Vicky Rossi: Were
these local people? Were they politicians?
Lichtenfels: All kinds of
people. We came together with soldiers, with officers,
with political people, with the alternative movement,
with settlers, with Palestinian farmers, with everyone.
This is what is special about doing a pilgrimage; that
you come together with all sorts of people.
Vicky Rossi: Do you
feel there is a will between the Palestinian and Israelis
people to find peace?
A lot of will. They need a lot
of support but if you meet the people most of them say,
"We don't want the war". They feel powerless. We also
often felt powerless. The point was how to be empowered
again. Now I feel the responsibility deeper than before
that we have to go on. What we feel is in our power to do
is to build a peace research village or to support this
Vicky Rossi: Would
that be the same as the one in Tamera?
It cannot be the same because
there is a big difference whether you live in Portugal or
the Middle East. But the main idea - to build a model and
to build a culture of trust and cooperation and
solidarity - this is the same idea, yes.
Vicky Rossi: When
would you like to see the foundations of this peace
village established? Or has it already been set
A core group has been set up.
We will start when we feel that the core group is strong
enough. Our idea is to first find protection from
outside, mainly by building up an international advisory
board. To find people from all spheres who feel
professionally responsible for the social aspect, the
technological aspect or the ecological aspect. We are
still looking for this main group and then after we will
look for the land.
Vicky Rossi: During
this Pilgrimage, the Tamera theatre group staged the play
"We Refuse to be Enemies" at eight venues in Israel and
Palestine. What role do theatre and art have in the
transformation of conflict and the creation of a
Art always provides a
possibility to change the structure of your normal view.
It can enable you to create cracks in your perception.
The theatre play was developed by different peace groups.
Palestinians and Israelis had come to Tamera and we had
heard a lot of stories from both sides. We tried to bring
this in pictures. We had the feeling that if we brought
it in a very simple way - almost like a stereotype, for
example, showing a suicide bomber or a soldier who wants
to protect the country - if you see these stereotypes you
can find yourself in them. This really worked. It was
like a catharsis for the soul. They cried and they said
you are bringing something like a light to our country.
They sometimes said you are bringing it in a "conscious
naiveté". And this was true in a way. This was
touching. The first thing is to be touched. From this the
changes can happen. Without being touched you will always
be the same.
Vicky Rossi: When
you staged the theatre play, how did it work? Did you put
up a notice in a public place announcing that there would
be a play? Or did you organize it through schools?
Benjamin can explain that
better because he and Vera prepared the whole pilgrimage.
Mendelssohn: The play was held
in public places or cultural places like youth groups.
There it went into their network. In two places we had a
plan, an agreement with a school - for example in
Bethlehem - but it did not work out for organisational
reasons. But this would be the next step - to really
involve formal education. Until now it has been public
places with oftentimes school classes and youth schools
invited. They were chosen by our local network as we have
been working there for some years now. It is important
for us that local people take the responsibility and say,
"Look now we are the local organisers and we have all our
contacts and we can find the venue" because for us it is
very different - we come as outsiders.
Vicky Rossi: In the
Tamera "Manifesto for a Global Peace Culture", it states
that, "The foundations of our current form of life can no
longer be ethically justified" and you talk of the
"humanisation of money" and "universal human principles";
how would you group those concepts together?
[Laughter] Oh, that's
not so easy to give a short answer to. We could study the
economic world and how nature is working. We could build
new economic forms, for example. I think there are human
social structures which exist in cooperation with nature.
I think this is very important for whether there will be
war or not. As long as ethics are against the nature of
human beings or the nature of Mother Earth or the nature
of energy principles, war is nothing ethically bad - it
will happen. For example if you always make ethical rules
that are totally against the body system then suddenly
the violence will come out. So, we are looking for social
structures which are in harmony with the universal
structures of life. There is the money question as well
as the question of how we use the resources. For example
with light, are we taking away energy or are we
cooperating with energy. I think solar energy is a very,
very good possibility because there is a lot of available
energy and then we don't need to have wars because of oil
for example. There are a lot of ethical issues, but not
in a moralistic way. I believe there is an "ethics of
Vicky Rossi: There
is great debate over whether there is any such thing as
"universal ethical values". Where do you think we could
find the source of "universal ethical values"?
If I consider human longing,
then there is in every being the longing for the right to
live. Nobody should be able to take that right away from
any human being or any animal. So I think that life
itself can show us the way to a natural ethics. Of course
I know that people say that a universal ethic doesn't
exist, but in evolution you can discover there is a
longing for humanity, for a real human society. This has
not been developed yet. I don't know whether it will ever
exist, but I am interested in looking at this "inner
revolution" of humanity because there, I think, can be
found an ethics which is to be true, not to lie, to have
compassion and respect for all others. This I would call
a natural ethics.
Vicky Rossi: Those
kinds of values are embedded in a lot of religious
traditions, are they not?
Yes, in religious traditions
there are ethics, but in the Christian ethics, for
example, they made a separation and said this is good and
this is evil. I think this was often the start of war
because they made that separation. An ethics of life
would be different because you know there are many, many
different cultures, many different traditions and you
have to give them all respect.
Vicky Rossi: Peace
work is usually associated with conflict transformation,
so where does the idea of a solar eco-village, like the
one to be build in Tamera, fit into the concept of
Lichtenfels: For the "Solar
Power Village" we are cooperating with a man -
Jürgen Kleinwächter - who has been doing
research work into solar energy for 30 years now. This is
mainly to have new forms of energy storage that are
really ecological. He is trying to develop forms that are
very simple to build because he does not want to go the
way of big companies and big industry. He wants that
people themselves can learn how to build these forms and
that they can then take them directly to their countries
- to Africa, to Columbia, to different countries.
Jürgen Kleinwächter is cooperating with us in
Tamera. In Monte Cerro we will try to build the first
"Solar Power Village" where we will build up this model
incorporating social, ecological and solar/technological
Vicky Rossi: So if
you were to break down "peace" into constituent parts,
you would see it comprising social, ecological and energy
Yes, that's right.
Vicky Rossi: In
2005, you were nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize as one
of the 1000 Women for Peace. The project 1000 Women for
the Nobel Peace Prize 2005 had as its objective the
nominating of 1000 women who would collectively represent
the millions of women worldwide working for peace and
global justice. Despite the fact that the project did not
lead to the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize, what do
you think was its main achievement?
I think the idea is great. The
idea, which is at this time very necessary, that we don't
look to the big, one-person, Nobel Prize winner - but
that we are looking to a network of cooperation. I hope
that these 1000 women are not only on paper but that they
start to create communication with each other. We have
contacted all those from the 1000 women who are in Israel
and Palestine. When there is injustice, for example, it
makes a difference if you write a letter and there are no
names attached to it or if you write a letter and 1000
women have given their name to it. So for me this is the
beginning of a possible network for peace.
Vicky Rossi: Are
you suggesting that in the future the 1000 Women for
Peace could work together to support certain initiatives?
Yes, I would really like that.
Vicky Rossi: You
mentioned that you have contacted the women in Israel and
Palestine; to date, how much communication have you had
with the other 1000 Women for Peace?
If I am visiting a country, I
try to make contact with the women from those 1000, who
are living in that country, sometimes by email of course.
This is a start. Also in Columbia we are in contact with
Gloria Cuartas - she organised the 1000 Women in Columbia
so the beginnings of a network exist. I think it could
get much stronger. It is only a beginning.
Vicky Rossi: What
is the purpose of your current visit to
I was invited. A lot of Swiss
people support our work. I think it is not by accident
that this country has a certain tradition of supporting
the peace movement. I was invited to give some lectures -
yesterday in Weil am Rhein (Germany), and today in
Zurich. I also use this as an opportunity to maintain
some friendships and to strengthen the network.
Vicky Rossi: I have
heard that you currently involved in setting up a Peace
University. Is that right?
You can call it a Peace
Academy. In Monte Cerro over the next 3 years we plan to
set up a place where students can come to study the
different aspects of peace. People from outside the
community have also been invited - for example Max
Lindegger, from Australia, who is very well known in the
ecological world; and from the world of architecture,
Professor Minke is also very well known. They will come
to Tamera for a certain time to teach. The main reason
they are coming is because they all like the fact that
there is a "functioning" community. They say we have
worked because of this but we have not met any
communities that really function before. So the time is
ripe for cooperation.
Vicky Rossi: For
clarification, what are the age brackets for the Youth
School, the Mirja Peace School and this Peace
Lichtenfels: The Youth School
is from 14-18 years, the Mirja Peace School is from 18.
The Peace Academy will also be from 18 years.
Vicky Rossi: What
distinguishes the Mirja Peace School and the Peace
The Peace Academy forms part of
the next basis in that it is more accepted by the outside
world because it will offer a real professional programme
with vocational training.
*This transcript represents an accurate but
non-verbatim representation of the original
For further information, please contact:
Director, Institute for Global Peace
Monte do Cerro
Women for Peace Project
Lichtenfels, 1000 Women for Peace
Peace Research Village
for the Middle East
Healing Biotope 1
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