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The Tamera Peace Village -
education for inner and outer peace


Peace Antenna Interview with Sabine Lichtenfels, Director of the Institute for Global Peace Work - Institutes für Globale Friedensarbeit (IGF) - Co-founder of the Tamera peace village, and nominated as one of the 1000 Women for the Nobel Peace Prize 2005.


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.


 Interview by 

Vicky Rossi - TFF Peace Antenna

Vicky Rossi's conversations with peace visionairies around the world
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"?

Sabine Lichtenfels: 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 trips.


Vicky Rossi: Are these exchange trips?

Sabine 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?

Sabine 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?

Sabine Lichtenfels: In the Mirja Peace School, they start when they are 18 years old, and in the Youth School they attend until they are 18.


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 community?

Sabine 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?

Sabine Lichtenfels: 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?

Sabine Lichtenfels: 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 place.


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?

Sabine 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 contact.


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?

Sabine 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 connected.


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 statement?

Sabine Lichtenfels: 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 issues.


Vicky Rossi: Does that link back to your idea of education?

Sabine Lichtenfels: 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 those aims?

Sabine Lichtenfels: 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?

Sabine Lichtenfels: 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 projects.


Vicky Rossi: This walk started in the Black Forest but then where did it take you?

Sabine Lichtenfels: 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?

Sabine Lichtenfels: 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?

Sabine 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?

Sabine Lichtenfels: 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 process there.


Vicky Rossi: Would that be the same as the one in Tamera?

Sabine Lichtenfels: 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 up?

Sabine Lichtenfels: 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 sustainable peace?

Sabine Lichtenfels: 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?

Sabine Lichtenfels: Benjamin can explain that better because he and Vera prepared the whole pilgrimage.

Benjamin von 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?

Sabine Lichtenfels: [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 life".


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"?

Sabine Lichtenfels: 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?

Sabine Lichtenfels: 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.

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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 "peace"?

Sabine 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 structures.


Vicky Rossi: So if you were to break down "peace" into constituent parts, you would see it comprising social, ecological and energy components?

Sabine Lichtenfels: 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?

Sabine Lichtenfels: 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?

Sabine Lichtenfels: 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?

Sabine Lichtenfels: 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 Switzerland?

Sabine Lichtenfels: 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?

Sabine Lichtenfels: 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 Academy?

Sabine 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 Academy?

Sabine Lichtenfels: 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 interview.


For further information, please contact:


Sabine Lichtenfels
Director, Institute for Global Peace
Monte do Cerro
P-7630 Portugal

Tel: +351-283-635484





1000 Women for Peace Project

Sabine Lichtenfels, 1000 Women for Peace

Sabine Lichtenfels homepage

Peace Research Village for the Middle East

Healing Biotope 1 Tamera



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