Peace Mala (The Peace Mala Youth Project for World Peace), along with Young Peace Mala, is a Swansea-based organisation dedicated to the "promotion of understanding, respect, friendship, tolerance and peace between all communities, cultures and enlightened, compassionate faiths". Peace Mala promotes global citizenship and invites all people to treat each other with respect and compassion regardless of race, colour, religion, gender, sexuality, ability, size or age.
Peace Mala was founded in the year 2002 by Pam Evans, former Head of the Department of Religious Studies at Coedcae Comprehensive School in Llanelli, Carmarthenshire, Wales. The idea came after a series of class discussions about the Tuesday September 11, 2001 attacks in New York. Pam and her students soon realised that the attacks had affected not only the victims of the atrocity, but that they had also contributed to the rise in Islamaphobia, racism, religious intolerance and fundamentalism witnessed in the world today. Racist taunts had been suffered by a number of Muslim pupils and other children from ethnic minority backgrounds.
This was particularly felt by Year 11 student Imran Sheikh, whose family originated from Pakistan. During an interview by BBC Wales, he commented "I suffered from racist taunts and our local mosque was attacked following September 11 and that is when the Peace Mala all started
Peace Mala was officially launched in the UNA Temple of Peace in Cardiff, Wales on Wednesday 27th November 2002 by the Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams (then Archbishop of Wales). He was joined by members of the fourteen faiths represented on the Peace Mala bracelet, NGOs, students and teachers of schools from across Wales, lecturers from the University of Wales, and pupils and staff of Coedcae Comprehensive School.
The ceremony opened with a procession of representatives from the fourteen faiths found on the Peace Mala bracelet. These were Christianity, Buddhism, Sikhism, Islam, Judaism, Bahá'í, ISKCON, Zoroastrianism, Tribal Religions, Jainism, Earth Religions, Taoism, Hinduism and Yungdrung Bön, respectively.
The Most Reverend Dr Rowan Williams Archbishop of Canterbury was patron of Peace Mala from 2003 until 2008 as the patronage of the Archbishop only lasts between 3 - 5 years. He continues to be an enthusiastic supporter of the project. Lama Khemsar Rinpoche, Spiritual Director of the Yundrung Bön Study Centre is the current patron of the organisation.
In 2003, Pam Evans asked Dr Williams if he would be a patron. He accepted the offer saying he would be "honoured to hold the position.
His patronage ended in 2008 as the patronage of the Archbishop only lasts between 3 - 5 years. Peace Mala were lucky to have his patronage for the full five years.
Lama Khemsar Rinpoche also visited Coedcae School prior to his involvement with Peace Mala. At the school he became known to the children as Smiling Lama. Rinpoche left Tibet in 1959. He is the first resident Lama of the Yungdrung Bön tradition in Europe and also teaches widely in the USA.
Pam Evans asked Lama Khemsar Rinpoche if he would be a patron of the organisation after a 21 day peace retreat he undertook in Los Angeles. He replied saying that he would be "very happy to accept the position, valued the trust placed in him and that he would do his best to support the great vision of the Peace Mala.
Since then, Lama Khemsar Rinpoche's students have made use of the main room in the Peace Mala Registered Office for their weekly Bon Zogchen Ngon-Dro prayers and meditations. The Tibetan room at the centre is often used by Rinpoche when he visits Wales.
The Peace Mala website was created in 2002 using money granted by the Princes Trust Millennium Award. It was designed and published using 100% solar power by the web publishing company Arcania. The website includes news articles relating to Peace Mala activities and endorsements from prominent religious leaders, political dignitaries and celebrities including the His Holiness Pope John Paul II, His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, Jillian Evans MEP, Sir Mark Tully Beth Nielsen Chapman, Bonnie Tyler and Barbara Dickson.
A Peace Mala is a symbolic bracelet used to promote the message of the Golden Rule of mutual respect recognised by many spiritual paths. It consists of 16 beads arranged on black or clear elasticated thread and is accompanied by a colour explanatory booklet. Each coloured bead (following the order of a double rainbow) represents a different faith or religion (Christianity, Buddhism, Sikhism, Islam, Judaism, Bahá'í, ISKCON, Zoroastrianism, Tribal and Native Religions, Jainism, Earth Religions, Taoism, Hinduism and Yundrung Bön) with the central white bead representing the wearer and whatever path they may follow.
The beads of the Peace Mala are held in place by two knots which also have messages for the wearer. The first knot symbolises the wearer at the moment of their birth and emphasises their uniqueness and equality regardless of race, colour, religion, gender, sexuality or ability . The second knot reminds the wearer of the effects that our everyday actions have on other people and asks each person to "follow the path of peace and friendship to help create a better world.
All Peace Malas are currently hand made in Wales and are protected by UK Design Registration No 3008422.
Launched on Tuesday 8th November 2005 at the Peace Mala Registered Office by Welsh star Bonnie Tyler, the solid sterling silver Bespoke Peace Mala with hand carved symbols of the faiths, was designed by award winning Welsh Designer Jewellers, Mari Thomas and Nicola Palterman. Money raised from the sale of Bespoke Peace Malas is put towards the Peace Mala International Awards for Youth.
Young Peace Mala is the branch of Peace Mala that promotes Peace Mala in the age group of 4-21, a fundamental age group. Young Peace Mala, like Peace Mala, is an innovative, creative and award winning educational project that cuts through all forms of prejudice and intolerance.
Young Peace Mala aims to treat others, as we would wish to be treated . We empower the marginalised and bullied, promote greater understanding, respect and tolerance, celebrate cultural and religious diversity, promote creative education that is fun and empowering, teach good values and perceptions, promote sustainable change, teach conflict resolution and respect animals and the environment.
The Youth Awards allows entrants from educational institutions, youth groups and faith groups. Two prizes are awarded. One for juniors (5-11)and the other for seniors (12-18).
In 2007, the Peace Mala Awards for Youth became an international competition with youth groups in the USA taking part in the project.
As a surprise to the winners, commemorative framed posters signed by Gary Marlon Suson from the Ground Zero Museum Workshop in New York were given as gifts to Pam Evans for the winners. Gary Marlon Suson was the official photographer appointed by New York Fire Department to be with the recovery workers at the site of Ground Zero after the attacks of September 11th.
The awards ceremony included many acts included a Native American Hoop Dance performed by First Nations descendant Malcolm Edwards (Rising Eagle), a performance of whirling by the Naqshbandi Haqqani-Mevlevi Dervishes led by Sheikh Ahmad Dede, songs performed by the Hemiola Young Musicians, and a song performed by Pam Evans herself (under the pseudonym of Magic).
On Wednesday 18th August 2004, the Peace Mala Registered Office was officially opened during a ceremony attended by the Lord Mayor and Consort of the City of Swansea. They were joined by Stephen Thomas, Secretary of UNA Wales and Director of the Welsh Centre for International Affairs, various NGOs and faith representatives who celebrated the achievements of Peace Mala since its launch in the Temple of Peace in Cardiff with the Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams two years previously.
Faith representatives who attended included members of Govindas ISKCON Centre in Swansea, Native Indian 'Rising Eagle', the Granthi and members of the Guru Nanak Sikh Community Centre and Temple in Swansea, Tibetan Buddhists, Pagans, Hindus, Orthodox, Catholic and Anglican Christians, Bahá'í's, Sufi Muslims, members of Swansea Orthodox Synagogue, and Yungdrung Bön practitioners. Venerable Robert Williams Archdeacon of Gower represented the Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, and Lama Khyimsar Rinpoche, one of the patrons of Peace Mala, lead the opening ceremony. A candle for world peace was lit by Rinpoche and the Archdeacon. Prayers for peace and reconciliation were given by the representatives of all the faiths.
The Registered Office is currently used as a base for Peace Mala activities including workshops and public talks. Yungdrung Bön practitioners in Wales also use the centre for their weekly Bon Zogchen Ngon-Dro prayers and meditations. Yungdrung Bön (meaning Eternal Light or Enlightened Teaching) is the pre-Buddhist Bön faith of Tibet. According to the booklet which accompanies every Peace Mala, Yungdrung Bon "promotes indiscriminate love and compassion for all sentient beings."
Attached to the Registered Office is a peace garden designed for use as an area of peace and tranquility. The garden has many features including a shrine to Saint Francis of Assisi, Buddhist statues and prayer flags, a miniature Zen-style stone garden, water features, and a tree area which has been blessed in a ceremony lead by Witches, and Druids. There is also a tranquil area facing Mecca, which is dedicated to the Muslim faith.
The organisation views the acceptance and celebration of the plural global community, along with its diversity, as one of high importance. Peace Mala works with youth groups, state schools and colleges, religious schools and inter-faith groups across the UK and further afield. The desire is to educate young people and encourage the growth of a more tolerant generation.
Peace Mala had outlined its "Main Aims" as:
In total, £460 was raised and used for the production of 100 Peace Malas to be sent to a school in Iraq as a "symbol of peace, friendship and hope for the future". The rest of the funds were sent to a children's ward in an Iraqi hospital.