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News & Topics
October 13, 2017

MOMRI Director Gives Keynote Speech at Conference at Abo Akademi University, Vasa, Finland, on Musicking & Nonkilling for Peacebuilding

Report by Dr. Olivier Urbain, Director

Dr. Urbain delivering his keynote speech

Co-organized by the Center for Global Nonkilling (CGNK) and the Programme in Peace, Mediation & Conflict Research at Abo Akademi University, an international conference on “Musicking and Nonkilling for Peacebuilding: Crises, Dangers and Opportunities” was held from Mon. Sept. 18 to Wed. Sept. 20, 2017 in Vasa, Finland. It was the third event in an annual series on “Nonkilling” that started in 2015.


A working session

Among the unique features of this conference was the fact that more than 20 Master Degree (MA) students from the Peace, Mediation & Conflict Research program participated fully in all sessions. They will publish a multimedia report that will be shared with similar MA programs throughout the world. MA student Jason Yabal commented on the topic of musicking as follows: “its full potential has not yet been fully understood or utilized. That’s why we felt it was important to reach out to peace students all over the world in an effort to raise awareness and provide the chance for them to carry out further research.”

Another special feature was that participants were not only academics, but also activists, and musicians, with several fulfilling two, or even all three of these roles.


Group photo with MA students

Two intense and rewarding working sessions involving most presenters and the MA students were held on Monday evening and Tuesday morning, in order to establish a basis for networking and collaboration before the public event started.


I gave the keynote speech on Sept. 19, taking advantage of the full hour of presentation and thirty minutes of Q&A allotted by the organizers. I introduced and developed the theme of the conference, and explained the work of Min-On and of the Min-On Music Research Institute (MOMRI) as concrete examples to illustrate some of my points.


My keynote speech was titled “Musicking & Nonkilling for Peacebuilding: three conceptual triangles to explore music in peacebuilding.” The main purpose was to provide basic tools to understand and analyze the connections between musicking, nonkilling and peacebuilding. The three conceptual triangles in the subtitle were labelled “music, philosophy, and integration.” The music triangle was already presented at the APPRA conference in Penang, Malaysia in August (ambivalence, musicking and boosting, see related News & Topics). Since music is ambivalent, it is crucial to clarify one’s philosophy and ethical guidelines when applying music in peacebuilding activities. The second triangle focused on nonkilling (Glenn Paige), structural violence (Johan Galtung) and the dignity of human life (Daisaku Ikeda) as three major components of a peace philosophy that I find most useful when evaluating musicking events.


These three concepts emphasize different aspects of peacebuilding, and reinforce each other. If one starts with an emphasis on affirming the dignity of human life, one cannot avoid exposing and tackling the structural violence made of the numerous injustices, oppressive and exploitative practices that constitute attacks on the dignity of life and almost inevitably result in direct violence, including killing. At the same time, an approach that would only emphasize the dignity of life and confront structural violence would risk leading to chaos and confusion, and that is why the specific, precise and measurable philosophy of nonkilling helps us regain our focus. Together, human dignity, structural violence and nonkilling allow us to navigate the complexities of our world and how we can make improvements in the direction of peacebuilding.


Finally, I emphasized the importance of collaboration and joint endeavors between peace activists, musicians—and all people musicking—and researchers to find ways to work collectively to advance research and application regarding musicking and nonkilling in peacebuilding. As mentioned above, the audience was composed of members of all three groups, who were able to practice this type of collaboration during the conference itself.


With Joam Evans Pim

With Alexander Harang

With Prof. Kaj Bjorkqvist

There were more than 50 people in attendance, including


  • Joam Evans Pim, director of the Center for Global Nonkilling, one of the most outstanding disciples of the late Dr. Glenn Paige, the founder of the nonkilling philosophy and movement;
  • Alexander Harang, the President of the Norwegian Peace Association;
  • Kaj Bjorkqvist, Chair of the Department of Developmental Psychology at Abo Akademi University, and one of the architects of this event.
  • The speakers and artists introduced below in Wednesday’s program.


The rest of the evening was devoted to musical performances related to peacebuilding in different ways, with the participation of Barbora Xu (Chinese zither, kantele and voice), A Bigger Heart Choir, and Pedavoces (two multicultural/inclusive choirs based in Vasa), and Lina Teir (singer/songwriter, storyteller, director, teacher and human rights activist).


On the final day, Wed. Sept. 20, full presentations were given by


  • Joam Evans Pim: “Improvised Musicking for Nonkilling Conflict Management in Educational Settings,”
  • Barbora Silhanova (Xu): “The Social Role of Music in the Bunun Tribe in Taiwan,”
  • Innocent Tinashe Mutero: “Towards Endogenous Arts Based Peacebuilding in Repressed Environments: Case Study of Mkoba in Gweru, Zimbabwe),
  • Alexander Harang: “An Activist Approach to Musicking in Peacebuilding,”
  • Kari Anne Naess (Project Manager of the Peace Culture Group of the Norwegian Peace Association): “Building the Courage to Build the Peace Culture Group;”


Finally, several very interesting presentations regarding concrete activities in Vasa and other cities in Finland by Nadia Zhandr, Olga Terentieva, Lina Teir, Isik Ulubas and Francis Oyeyiola. Francis is leading an original project with music, dance, food and language at the center of community building and cultural exchanges, called 13Studios). Adding a non-musical element to this musicking event, a poster exhibition showcased the first graphic novel of Tim S.


Barbora Xu performing

Performance on Sep. 19

A Bigger Heart Choir

Activity “Heartbeats and Stones” led by Kari Anne Naess

With Tinashe Mutero and Kari Anne Naess

On behalf of the entire MOMRI team, I would like to thank Ingrida Grigaityte (Lecturer and PhD candidate, in charge of logistics and communication for this conference), Joam Evans Pim, and Prof. Kaj Bjorkqvist for setting up a very meaningful and engaging conference, which was one of the most well-organized I’ve ever participated in. MOMRI looks forward to continuing the networking and joint research that was started in Vasa, as well as to informally pursuing long-term projects with the MA students of the Programme in Peace, Mediation & Conflict Research at Abo Akademi University.