Peace can come only when there is a deep sense of calm in a human being.

Director of the Peace Building Program at the International Association of Human Values (IAHV), Dr. Katrien Hertog, shares her ideas on how to bring about peace in the world with culture, art and music.

Born and brought up in Belgium and currently living in the United Kingdom, Dr. Katrien Hertog holds a Ph. D from the University of Leuven with her thesis on the role of religion in peace building. She is a peacebuilding researcher, trainer and practitioner with over 15 years of experience in the academic field and in peacebuilding international NGO’s. She has also authored a book on peacebuilding.

Dr. Katrien emphasizes, “In peacebuilding, we analyze how to build peace on a lasting basis in a holistic manner- aiming at not only structural change but also individual change.”

Sharing her personal experience, the charismatic doctor narrates: “When I was studying about peacebuilding in the last years of my under graduation, I realized that although we studied about arms rights, human rights and civilizations as part of the peace-building program, there was still nothing about the human being. On analysis, I realized that all these strategies and rules did not prove effective because they do not really change one’s deeper layers of existence. As a result, I began to analyze the role of religion in peacebuilding since religion has a lot of the human element and is one of the primary forces that makes us humans and moves the world, promotes peace and, in instances, even creates war.”

It was after Katrien did an Art of Living course that she realized that minds as well as hearts have to be effectively transformed for peace to come about. “When I did the Art of Living course, I realized that peace can come only when there is a deep sense of calm and a profound transformation in a human being. As a result, I started working for the International Association of Human Values to integrate pearls of wisdom and breathing and meditation techniques into international peacebuilding strategies in order to create long-lasting and effective impact in (these) strategies.”

Queried on Belgium’s cultural tradition, she says to be honest she is not particularly attached to her own culture. “Culture has its appropriate role in education and society but the case doesn’t apply for me. I always sought a spiritual significance in my culture which I didn’t really find for myself,” says this dynamic woman.

We need to retrieve our cultural tradition to get a sense of security. All this intolerance occurs because people are looking for a sense of security - something that is not changing - and culture provides that sense of being for people.

Given the choice of creating her own world, Katrien says “I think the best of all that exists on the planet is shared amongst all human beings – that is what I call the common human core across all cultures. These are values such as compassion, honesty, helpfulness, cooperation and the like.”

For this Katrien opines that arts and music are uniting forces for human beings. “Music for instance, is uplifting and uniting, unifying and mobilizing for people of all over the world. It does not need a language because it touches something deeper within us. We especially need the arts, music and other cultural art forms today so that we are not lost and stuck in technology and all its gadgets,” says Katrien.

Of late, the world has been experiencing regionalism, racism and hatred which are born out of conflicts related to religion, race and intolerance towards harmonious co-existence. Importantly, Katrien avers that the solution to stop these violent acts, born out of trivial issues, is that when we know our own culture and are deeply rooted in our own tradition, we create and promote openness to welcome every other culture.

“We need to retrieve our cultural tradition to get a sense of security. All this intolerance occurs because people are looking for a sense of security - something that is not changing - and culture provides that sense of being for people,” she states.

Katrien believes that religion is a part of culture and sometimes a religion becomes culture. Thus, there is often a strong overlap: religion is a part of culture and culture influences a religion.

Her interesting suggestion for preserving local traditions, rituals and cultures is to revive it in a way that it is attractive for modern life and interesting for people of various backgrounds today.  However, achieving cultural balance is the challenge nowadays. She maintains that social media could be one of the key tools in helping cultural exchange and awareness.

Katrien would like to contribute in the Art of Living’s 35th- anniversary World Culture Festival, 2016, by bringing as many people as possible from Belgium to experience an event as momentous and impactful as the WCF. She would also like to bring peace builders to the WCF to show that culture can help in peace-building efforts.

What does the idea of a one-world family mean to Katrien?  “When we feel connected to each other and our human nature: when we feel connected to our inner selves and the core of our being, then we feel connected to everything around us - the environment, people, and creatures. Because we come to a realization that it is all one. This feeling of oneness that emits out of us when we realize this and see it in everyone is what a one world family means to me,” she concludes on a unitive note.