"There are risks and costs to action. But they are far less than the long range risks of comfortable inaction." - John F. Kennedy
Although having been brought up in the UK, under a liberal, irreligious and open-minded upbringing, my father's Nepalese heritage meant that my brothers and I had a unique cultural perspective from an early age.
During my adolescence, we often traveled to visit my Nepalese family, where we were of the unique privilege as to being accepted as flesh and blood into the womb of society yet escape judgment under the strict architecture of the cultural expectations, often much in contrast to the contemporary western ideologies we were used to at home. Although I was too young at the time to appreciate the complexity of the situation, in retrospective, the direct exposure to these dissimilar worlds formed some key foundations in my understanding of the individual, society and the world as a whole.
During the Nepalese civil war (1996 - 2006) I was separated from Nepalese soil for nearly a decade, a period of which essentially apexed my adolescence. When I returned in 2008 I brought with me the somewhat ignorant values of a western teenager, searching for a romantic escape from what I believed to be the heavy handed hypocrisy of the west, at the time still rooted in the war in Iraq.
Although I found the romantic society in the Nepalese, through their ever-dependable smiles, patience, generosity and a sense of community, I also faced the reality of the on-the-ground complexities that are so easy to discount or misunderstand from the comfortable distance of so many miles and boarders dividing us.
The experience left me with the awareness that no issue, regardless of its apparent simplicity, should ever be analysed from a single point of view. In a world where injustice, barbarism and abuse are so clearly observable, when and how do we act? Do we even act at all In the face of suffering or do we keep our mouths shut, maintain the status quo and avoid conflict, knowing that every action has a counter reaction, of which may form issues far beyond those we initially sought to resolve.
In the position I now find myself, I try my best to bring the lessons learnt from my teenage revelation to the table, both from an internal and external perspective. Conflict, no matter its consequence is to be both feared and respected and should be treated as such. It is our responsibility as individuals to make our decisions based on all the information at hand and for us to do our best to consider the issue from the other side of the table.
This, in my mind, is the very least we can do before taking action (or inaction) in response to an issue. With this in mind we are proud to present a variety of perspectives in this issue, each having a unique point of view in regard to the concept of conflict. We talk to Rashmi Thapa, European Affairs and Partnerships Manager for Search for Common Ground, the worlds largest conflict and peace-building organisation about the causes and counters in global conflict zones, Ester Keate documents 'Life Under Siege' with the Hill Tribes of Shan State, Burma, and Magdalena Siwicka explores the positive possibilities of conflict through following two friends in the martial arts community in east London.
Word: Benjamin Thapa