PRAMUKA.ID – SaeManGeum, South Korea – at least 43.160 young people aged 14 to 17 and volunteers from 158 countries across the globe gather at the scouting movement’s largest gathering, the World Scout Jamboree. This gathering has its roots in early 1920 when the founder of scouting, a retired lieutenant general in the British Army, Baden-Powell, organized the first world jamboree where youngsters from 34 countries gather together in the United Kingdom 13 years after the scouting program was first introduced in 1907.
Since the very beginning of this 116 year old educational movement has aimed to construct world peace through a vital instrument of education for young people. “Peace cannot be secured entirely by commercial interests, military alliances, general disarmament, or mutual treaties unless the spirit for peace is there in the minds and will of the people. This is a matter of education”, said Baden-Powell in his opening speech at the 4th World Scout Conference in Kandersteg, Switzerland, in 1926.
Similar ideas are rooted in the liberal traditions in international relations, from Immanuel Kant to Woodrow Wilson, that perpetual world peace is possible under predetermined conditions. This is achievable through a world guided by morality, freedom, democracy, and mutual respect between people and states. Long story short, people to people contact, interactions between civilizations, and engagement among people of different nations matters to achieve peace.
Is this concept a utopia, or has a real chance of probability at a particular time in our civilizations? Regardless of the debate, from this 25th World Scout Jamboree, which was first introduced as a world peace rally and a medium to heal the wounds of World War I after ended two years, there is a strong reflection of the world peace prospect in reality.
Scouting and Peace
During the jamboree, scouts learn the basic concept of peace through directly experiencing intercultural and interreligious interaction. For instance, major religious activities like prayers are carried out simultaneously during the jamboree. Muslims, Christians, Jews, Buddhists, and others pray harmoniously and respectfully. Countries with tension, like Israel and the rest of Muslim majority countries as well as the Russian Federation with Ukraine and the rest of Western countries, live side by side for whole weeks, sharing foods, inviting each other to dinner, engaging in various joint activities, exchanging badges, and proudly displaying their flags without fear.
The jamboree also reminds us of inclusivity’s importance in achieving sustainable peace. The event is friendly for those scouts with disabilities. During the day’s heat, scouts help each other with cold waters regardless of their origin. The jamboree is not merely peaceful but a cheerful gathering where young people foster friendship across nations, exchanging cultures and cuisine by opening food houses. We can easily hear gibberish songs sung by large groups of scouts cheering and dancing. This is proof of harmony beyond language and cultural barriers.
Unlike the vision of traditional international relations, where there are no permanent friends nor enemies but permanent interests, the idea of peaceful cooperation, not a mere coexistence, is embodied in international scout law. “A Scout is a friend to all, and a brother to every other Scout, no matter to what country, class or creed the other may belong”, imagine when such laws are recited by more than 40.000 young people during the opening of the World Scout Jamboree.
Because of scouting’s effective value internalization process, UN bodies have worked closely with the World Organizations of the Scout Movement (WOSM) and across 173 National Scout Organizations in various programs. In Indonesia, UN Office on Drugs and Crime in Indonesia has started to support the Messengers of Peace program, a program of World Scouting aimed at peace-building through education.
Indonesia’s Contribution and Trajectory
In the World Scout Jamboree, Indonesia, with 1.569 participants from all over the country, actively participates in this prospectus worldwide peacebuilding effort without exemption. Gerakan Pramuka is involved in the jamboree planning team, a team dedicated to planning the whole technical and substance of the almost two weeks program, with 97 volunteers in the international service team assisting the program.
Inspired by the country’s long-standing history of advocating peace and international cooperation, Indonesia and its young people have great potential to influence the world toward a more peaceful state. As reflected by some scholars like Munirah Alatas, historically, Indonesia has played a significant role in proposing a more peaceful international relations concept.
For example, the concept of bebas-aktif, aspirations to interact freely among nations without any interest to intervene, and the idea of Nusantara, which was proposed as the name of post-colonial Indonesia and Malaysia in 1945, embodied the concept of nusa (island) and antara (in between). Seas as the unifier and medium of connectivity and engagement between people that can foster peace and cooperation. Similar to Joko Widodo’s vision of maritime Indonesia.
The similarities between the two concepts are connectivity and engagement, the same reflections from the World Scout Jamboree. Where education in practice provides a space for interaction and engagement between nations. Suppose the idea of building peace through inclusive interactions, not segregation, that can be widely adopted in the case of interreligious groups in Indonesia is embedded in our curriculum and youth activities across the countries. In that case, Indonesia will move toward becoming a champion of peace education and an example for many.
Challenges are continuously emerging. Earlier this year, SETARA Institute released a survey highlighting small yet growing 5% active intolerance and more passive intolerance, reaching 24,2% among Indonesian students. Yet, the effort of peace building through more inclusive education, one way is through scouting, shall prevail. If not perpetual peace, moving toward a less conflictual and more lasting peaceful world, starting from education in Indonesia, through young people’s active role is still a worthy cause to pursue.
Prakoso Permono, PhD Candidate in Comparative Politics, Messengers of Peace National Coordinator for Gerakan Pramuka