District 9980 is very proud to be hosting one of this year’s Rotary global peace scholars. Here, Sakhr Munassar, who is pursuing his Master of Arts at the University of Otago’s Department of Peace and Conflict, shares some of his journey, and how that has led him from his birthplace, conflict-torn Yemen, to Dunedin.
I was born and raised in Yemen.

There are so many things I can say about that place, I am just not sure if it will be about the glorious past, or the doomed present and uncertain future.

So, just to be fair, I will discuss a bit of both. I come from the country that saw the first skyscrapers in the world, in a city once known as ‘the Manhattan of the desert’, a country that the mocha coffee originated from, one that was also called ‘the kingdom of Sheba’.

Now, however, it is simply a place full of hate and destruction.

The hate is, of course, not because Arabs are in conflict and simply hate one another – as the media might convince you – but, rather, because of the international greed and a proxy war between great powers: those who are not concerned with the lives of the average Yemeni citizen, or anyone else for that matter, as long as it serves their interest.

It is no surprise that all this conflict and destruction of lives, structures and dreams are what pushed me towards the field of peace and conflict. Today, I am pursuing my Master of Arts degree at the University of Otago in the Department of Peace and Conflict, hoping to find some answers as to why there are other countries in a situation like Yemen, why there is war at all, and how we address each and every single conflict.

I came to New Zealand as a Rotary Global Grant Scholar after having been sponsored, and accepted, by District 6250 in Wisconsin, USA. It was at a time when I had to leave Lebanon, and Yemen wasn’t safe for me to go back to.

Rotary’s support helped me open a new chapter in my journey. I can say I am only here today because of Rotary.

I have only been in New Zealand for a little over four months now, and I have around eight months left here to finish my programme.

I have already been involved with Rotary and Rotaract, in addition to a few other organisations, through volunteer work in Dunedin, which has helped me in getting to know many outstanding individuals, make friends and be part of the community.

The thing with my degree is that people have the notion that we are only supposed to work on areas of conflict where people die or, at least, suffer the results of direct violence. Even though it is somewhat true, the extent of our work goes far beyond war; it deals with violence of many types.

Violence can be found in the United States, Europe and even here in New Zealand – not just in war zones or “undemocratic” countries. My field of study will enable me to identity these types of violence.

I have always been drawn into new adventures and starting new chapters in my life, and, I can say, this chapter has started perfectly, and I am certain it will be one that I will always look to with a smile.

Having been a guest speaker at a few Rotary clubs here in New Zealand, I am always asked: ‘What is next, what comes after New Zealand?’ – especially after Rotarians hear about the current conflict in Yemen.

I know that I can’t go back to Yemen now, or anytime soon, but I have known that for the past three or four years, and I have managed so far.

I didn’t know what I was going to do after my undergraduate studies in 2015 – and now I am a Rotary global grant scholar in New Zealand.

So my answer usually is, I don’t know. But what I know is that I will make it work somewhere, continuing to work on what I am passionate about, just like I always have.
By Sakhr Munassar | Peace scholar
Article Dated: 25 January 2017