A 28 year-old peace activist in Nepal is bringing people in conflict areas together through the simple act of giving a rose to a stranger
Nepal has offered much hope to the world throughout history. The birthplace of the Buddha himself, it has since been a place of global pilgrimage for people from all walks of life, searching for inner peace and enlightenment.
However, despite a promising history, within its own borders civil conflict has been rife. The country suffers from severe poverty and economic insecurity, and has clearly been in need of a breath of fresh air, a breeze of hope, and a path towards prosperity for some time.
Cue Sushil Koirala ñ at 28 years old, he describes himself as one of the world’s biggest dreamers; driven by daring ambitions and a deep passion to create a more just and peaceful society, not only for his country but for people across the world.
In 2008 he established Peace for Nepal; an organisation that to date has held over 60 national events and rallies promoting peace. At the same time, Sushil initiated the Rose Movement, where roses are exchanged between people in conflict areas as a means to bring about peace.
“The rose is a universal symbol, liked by everyone,” he says, adding: “It appeals equally to everyone’s heart. The exchange of roses, the shaking of hands and extending goodwill between people of different races, religions or parties in conflict, helps to create a more conducive and positive atmosphere for talks.”
The exchanges are a simple action but their symbolism and significance is very powerful, Sushil believes: “Just like the many colours of roses, we may be of different nationalities, ethnicities, religions or race. But no matter what colour a rose may be, it is still a rose, and likewise we are all human beings first. It reminds us of the oneness of the human family.”
Born in the farmlands of the Syangja district in Western Nepal, Sushil grew to be deeply concerned with the state of his country. Enrolling at medical university in China, it was there where he first began to campaign for peace in Nepal.
“I knew that I had to do something,” Sushil recalls. “It didn’t matter that I was in China at the time. At university in late 2004, I started an internet campaign by creating a website and posting petitions for peace online. I also published articles and appeals to attract more media attention. Then, as publicity for the cause grew, I started doing public campaigns at my university and other places that I visited during my years of study.’
Sushil’s commitment and passion at such a young age did not go unnoticed. He soon received scholarships to attend global youth summits all over the world and spread his message of the urgency for peace in Nepal. He amassed almost 1,000 signatures on his first petition for peace, which he presented to the peace minister of Nepal shortly after.
After graduating from University, he returned to Nepal more enthusiastic and driven for the cause of peace than ever. “I realised that peace would always be the priority in my life,” he recalls, adding: “It doesn’t matter whether my actions are big or small, as long as my ideals for peace are mirrored by my actions.”
Sushil’s work as an activist, despite being a full-time priority, would often involve a battle for resources in the early days of campaigning. “There were times when I would struggle simply to sustain myself,” he remembers. “There were new challenges constantly presenting themselves along the way… and sometimes I found myself questioning the purpose of my work. But by holding a commitment to my ideals and keeping a firm belief in the law of abundance, I refused to give up because the need for peace is an issue we can ignore no longer.”
After four years of tireless campaigning, Sushil officially registered Peace for Nepal and assumed the role of president. Although the organisation is essentially geared towards achieving peace, its work also incorporates many other aspects, as he points out: “Peace is such a broad term – so many other issues are involved in the nature of our work. While we are focused on peace in Nepal, we’re also supporting global issues such as human rights, the environment and health. We must strive for a fair and just peace.”
Committed to spreading the message of peace across the globe, Sushil took his creativity to yet another level when he set up the Rose Movement for World Peace. Since it began, rallies have been conducted in Nepal, India, Italy, the Philippines and most recently Switzerland, with over 6,000 roses being distributed. “I felt very strongly that it shouldn’t be guns and war but roses and peace that bring change and revolution to our world,” he says. “The smiles and happiness that’s created with the exchange of a rose between strangers is a special moment.”
The movement gained huge recognition in January 2010 with a rose exchange ceremony at the Nepal-India border. At this time, there was a great deal of documented tension between the two countries but Sushil refused to sit back and watch a negative situation unfold in front of his eyes, so he headed into no-man’s-land at the Jamunaha border point.
Sushil recalls the wonderful moment when the two nations came together that sunny afternoon: “There were hundreds of Nepalese and Indian citizens, hoisting flags, singing anthems and exchanging roses with each other in a bid for peace and harmony. The publicity and coverage of this historic event was huge, and the movement contributed significantly to calming tensions along the border. It was a momentous day for peace in Nepal.”
While the Rose Movement grows, so does Sushil’s devotion to peace and his contagious belief that ‘a more just world is within reach’. In his lifetime, he hopes peace can be delivered in all forms to his country and the world. He might just be that breath of fresh air and the breeze of hope that Nepal has been so in need of.
In recognition of Sushil’s dedication to peace, he was recently awarded by the Giraffe Heroes Project. The foundation honours people who are largely unknown risk-takers, who ‘have had the courage to stick their necks out for the common good.’
Contact: Peace for Nepal,
GPO Box 26238, Baluwatar,
Photo: © Peace for Nepal