History, Concept and Design
Peace Mala - an inspirational idea from Wales
Peace Mala is a multi-award winning project for peace that Pam Evans began in 2001 whilst working as Head of the Department of Religious Studies in Coedcae School, Llanelli, Wales, UK. The school is a coeducational comprehensive school with around 1,000 pupils aged 11-16.
When 9/11 happened, the world changed forever. The terrible events of September the 11th, 2001 brought with it an aftermath of fear and confusion. The rise in Islamaphobia in the world was to be expected, as a response to the attack. What was more shocking was the rise in fundamentalism, racism and prejudice that we are still faced with today.
Pam’s immediate concern was for the minority of Muslim and Asian pupils in her school who suffered bullying in the aftermath of 9/11. She realised that something educational needed to be done. The vision and concept of the Peace Mala was her response to the bullying.
Pam, seen here in her classroom in 2001, takes up the story - "I soon realised that our local community had not escaped the aftermath of September 11th. Islamaphobia and racist taunts had become common place in our school. Members of the local Muslim community had experienced extreme abuse. The mosque suffered a racist attack and one man had died from a heart attack probably brought on by the stress suffered during this shameful incident. Within the same year, the synagogue in Swansea was desecrated. It was one of the worst attacks on a synagogue in the whole of Britain.
I was appalled. I realised that something had to be done to combat the racism, religious intolerance, ignorance and lack of respect shown to certain members of our community.
I thought of something simple but effective that would engage the minds of young people; a symbolic bracelet, loaded with messages, that would be fun to make and wear.
When creating the design for the Peace Mala bracelet I was aware that the rainbow is an important symbolic link between heaven and earth in many cultures. Rainbows are rare and magical and double rainbows even more so. I also realised that the rainbow design would appeal especially to children and young people. "
"The Peace Mala bracelet comprises of fourteen coloured beads with a central white or frosted white bead strung between symbolic knots. The central white bead represents the wearer. The final single bead is used as a toggle to bring the bracelet around the wearer's wrist. This represents unity, harmony and peace. Running through the peace mala is a simple thread which holds all the rainbow beads together. This may be called the Golden Thread of Spirituality which connects us all through the love in our hearts: acknowledging the Golden Rule and our spiritual unity opens up the pathway to peace.
Peace Mala focuses on the Golden Rule. Its intention is to educate and remind everyone that this rule is recognised by many scholars, teachers and philosophers. It is also universal to all compassionate faiths. Simply stated, it is:
'Treat others as you would wish them to treat you.'
This is the central message of the Peace Mala bracelet. Its intention is to cut through all forms of prejudice, to confront bullying, to support human rights and to celebrate what makes us different from each other. Fourteen spiritual traditions, along with their individual versions of the Golden Rule, are represented on the bracelet.
Peace Mala reminds us that we all belong and that communities filled with colour and difference make life more interesting and exciting.
The word 'mala' is Sanskrit and means 'garland of flowers'. In the East a mala is a string of beads used in meditation or prayer as each bead or 'flower' focuses on a prayer or mantra. Our mala is different. Its purpose is not for devotional use though it may be used in that way if the wearer so wishes. The rainbow beads on this mala of peace focus on the Golden Rule. They also represent the human family in all its glorious diversity and Divine potential.
I hoped that it would educate my pupils in a fun way and help stop the bullying. To my great joy it did! It spread through the school like wildfire. Members of faith communities across South Wales welcomed it as a positive move in the right direction to encourage respect and harmony in the community.
With this encouragement, my students and I applied for a Prince's Trust Millennium Award which we were granted in October 2002. We were awarded the best part of £15,000. This gave us what we needed to set up a wonderful youth project that could promote peace, tolerance, respect and religious harmony in our local community.
Imran Sheikh, a Muslim student of mine who had experienced racist taunts, became one of the leaders of the Youth Team.
Further Awards and Praise
Since its launch, the Peace Mala has gone from strength to strength. It has been praised by Carmarthenshire County Council, Swansea City Council, The Co-op Community Dividend Award, ChildLine Cymru, The interfaith Network of the UK, The Council for World Citizenship (Cymru), South Wales Police, MEPEACE (International), UNboxed Awards London, Princess Trust Millenium Award and Trafford Education Authority. It is also being recognised by school inspectors of Ofsted, SIAMS (Church of England and Methodist School Inspectorate) and education advisors from ERW (Wales).
Many spiritual leaders and celebrities continue to endorse the Peace Mala. The Board of Trustees and I are thrilled with its growing success."
The Peace Mala bracelet was created as a simple representation of the world's religions living alongside each other in harmony. The first Peace Malas were made by pupils at the school during the week preceding the launch.
The following youngsters were the original members of the Peace Mala Youth Team. With the help of their teacher, Pam Evans, they won the Prince's Trust Millennium Award to promote Peace Mala as a Youth Project.
Imran Sheikh, Raja Chand, Peter Hong, Faye Hong, Kelly-Anne Thomas, Trudy Oliver, Katie Thomas, Stacey English, Darran Thomas, Jonathan Marc Freeman, James Peake, Jenna Cross