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Garland of Peace Initiative
Sandeep Silas is the founder of an initiative called "Garland of Peace." He conceived this singular plan some years ago. One of its main goals is to "Declare War Ruins as Peace Heritage Sites." What this aims to do is highlight the real face of war effects, war crimes, and life-after-war. The sites will place this before the public and ideally serve as a deterrent; so that world leaders would walk the extra mile to solve problems through diplomacy, and refrain from pressing the 'button' to war. The initiative would make a case for conflict resolution through dialogue and negotiation stronger. Sandeep earned his Executive MPA from Maxwell in 2008.
Sandeep, a career civil servant in India, would like the concept to become an instrument of education for the new generation, an expression of peace tourism and a framework for ensuring peace. Peace Tourism is a new brand of meaningful tourism whereby these memorials could also become major attractions for travelers and enhance the tourism potential of the countries. Introducing the idea, he asserts, "We must keep War Heritage Sites in constant view so that we do not traverse that path again and our children understand the value of peace. We must not allow the memories of mass destruction, rape and loot by invading armies, genocide of a race, that the world has seen before, to fade away from the sight of world leaders, opinion makers and the people. This could go a long way in working for the cause of peace so that wars never again plague the earth.''
The Launch Ceremony was held at India Habitat Centre, New Delhi on World Peace Day Sept 21st 2009, where it was dedicated to the people of the world. Distinguished guests Honorable Mr. Oscar Fernandes, former Union Minister of Labour and Employment; Mr. Raj Liberhan, Director of the India Habitat Centre; Mrs. Sudha Pillai, Planning Commission Secretary; and Bishop Franco Mullakal together with Sandeep launched the idea into public domain by lighting candles for world peace.
A display of the 11 places short-listed for the initiative to begin with was set up for people to see and endorse. Silas stated that he wanted war ruins like the St Paul's Church in Ambala Cantt- a reminder of the Indo-Pak war in 1971 and Buddha's statues in Bamiyan (Afghanistan) to be developed as centers for peace education. Also included in the 11 ruins that Sandeep said need to be declared as peace heritage sites were Pearl Harbor, domes in Hiroshima, Auschwitz camps and the Berlin Wall.
Since its inception, Sandeep has been making efforts to promote the "Garland of Peace" idea and generate common adherence around the globe. His hope is to present the concept before key decision makers in the UN/UNESCO; for inscription to the Agenda of the UN General Assembly; and for drafting a new Convention by UNESCO on Peace Heritage Sites as the next step in implementing the initiative.
Additionally, Sandeep has written a number of books which can be found in Bird Library at Syracuse University and the Library of Congress in Washington DC. The titles include "Discover India by Rail," "Morrow's Face," "Borough in the Mist," "Rainbows Don't Last Forever," and "Ranai-e-Khayal."
When asked about how Maxwell has shaped his career, Sandeep says, "[Attending the] Maxwell School was a turning point in my life. It became a learning ground and philosopher's stone both, for me. I knew I was on an unending quest for knowledge and wisdom. Maxwell put me on a course charted for a select few in the world. I gained in confidence, credibility and stature. I developed the art of presenting a well-crafted strategy for adoption at the national and international level. It made me a vital part of the whole, gave me courage to pursue my dreams at a global level. It brought me closer to my 'truth'! Maxwell School makes me stand tall!"
He continues, "Each building I lived in during my time at Syracuse University, each person I met at Maxwell is a living relationship. The numerous friends I made from my Class of 2008, make me feel so rich and happy. We remain in touch through social media on a constant basis, sharing our joys and holding hands in dull moments. They are a source of encouragement to me. My professors-Catherine Gerard, Neil Katz, Catherine Bertini, Alasdair Roberts, Jeremy Shiffman, Steve Lux, Larry Schroeder and others helped shape me as an individual with a purpose in life; a vision to pursue; many dreams to dream; and a sacred duty to fulfill on Earth….as enshrined in the Athenian Oath."
Sandeep found many resources available to him during his time at Maxwell, as faculty and staff helped him during his studies, and he took full advantage of opportunities available to him on campus. "I remember with fondness the daily conversations with Tammy Salisbury, when I would unload my worries, my apprehensions on her table and seek friendly advice, which was always forthcoming, and thereafter I would feel confident to take up everyday life challenges and those that lay hidden in the future. I have those moments, delivering the Student Address in Hendricks Chapel on the PA Convocation Day, fresh in my memory, and the applause that followed on conclusion. The several socially relevant films on public life I saw helped clarify public interest issues. The many lectures at Campbell Institute brought deep understanding on intractable conflicts in the world. Listening to the Symphony in the Auditorium of the Crouse College of Fine Arts inspired me to write more soulful poetry."
Not only were his classes and academics a vital part of his time in Syracuse - Sandeep also enjoyed being in the city itself. "Tea and soup sessions in Egger's Café with a friend, over freshly written poetry, can never be forgotten. The friendly sun of Syracuse, the cold winter, layers of snow over and under, the walks around Green Lakes, live within as part of my soul. The color of the leaves during fall attracts me again and again to Syracuse."