A Message of Hope
Ipswich Times Interview
with Wendy Hughes
Journalist, Ipswich Times
What is different in Australia—I know you talk in prisons, and you do the PEP program, and you’ve been to some very poor countries…. But is there a need for peace in just, middle Australia, the people that are struggling to pay their bills and—is there a place for your message with them as well?
Yes, because, you know, we come in this world. There are two things that are given, one that we were born—and the other one is, one day we have to go. And the drama, trauma and everything is between those two walls. [Wendy: Umm-hmm.]
And, to me, once you understand the preciousness of life, the preciousness of every day, it only would make sense to understand, “Now, how can I take advantage of it to the max?”
Yeah. I look at the “Peace is Possible” message—[Prem: Umm.] and I saw the big artwork that’s in London. And I just think that’s such a beautiful, succinct three words, isn’t it? [Prem: Yes.] It sounds beautiful and it looks beautiful, and I imagine that everyone that sees that must go, “Ah, well, that’s hopeful. [Prem: Yeah.] That I’m glad I saw that in my day.”
But, do you really think that it is possible? Do you think that it’s—do you truly believe that we could have a peaceful planet one day?
Well, let’s take a look at that—that’s a very interesting question. Because I’ve thought about this, and people have asked me that: “Do you really think [Wendy: Umm-hmm!] peace is possible?”
So, there are things in this world that happen that make us believe that “maybe not.” But those things that make us believe “maybe not,” are they something that dropped out of the sky, or are they created by us?
And I have looked at it—and I see that “These are things that are created by us.” So that’s good news—because if they’re created by us, we can change them. [Wendy: Yeah.] And that’s where peace is possible. [Wendy: Nice.] Because the quest for peace comes from within us. [Wendy: Yeah.]
We have a history of war. We don’t examine the history of peace. [Wendy: Umm. Yeah.] But there have been longer periods of time of peace on this planet Earth than there have been of war.
Why do people focus on the negative? Yeah, how do you get everyone to slow down when our lives are all geared to be fast? And we’ve got appointments and we’ve got our phones, and everyone’s tapped into this bigger thing all the time; well, how on earth…?
Well, and what I have found—is that if we focus on you, me…. [Wendy: Umm.] Socrates, a long time ago, said, “Know thyself.” What does that mean? “Know your self.” We know our phone—do we know our selves? We know our responsibilities—but do we know our selves? We know what we should be doing—but do we know our selves?
And the thing is, you can have a lovely map—and most detailed map you can possibly imagine—but if you don’t know where you are on that map, how are you going to get wherever you want to go? [Wendy: Umm-hmm.] And that’s what knowing yourself is about. And once you start knowing yourself and understanding who you are, you start to see the relationship of everything around you.
The reality is never going to change—you were born one day, and one day you have to go. And between these two walls is this beautiful thing called “life.” And the thing is, to even understand that—you will. When you get really close to that wall, you’ll get it. [Wendy: Umm, wow, yeah, really?] Because I’ve seen that since I was a little kid.
It sounds like you had a, quite an extraordinary childhood—[PR: Yes.] that, and not many people on this planet would have experienced.
Well, at four years, I was already talking about peace to people. [Wendy: Wow.] And getting up on the stage and telling people these things….
That in itself is extraordinary. Like, well, and where did that inspiration come from?
Well, it happened…. Well, it came from within me. [Wendy: Umm-hmm?] I felt that—that there was something more than just the drama and the games and the, everything else. That everything was bigger than I could have perceived at that time. And I liked it; I liked it that it was beautiful.
You know, a lot of people can go into, “What is it that was…?” But to me, it wasn’t like I could figure out what it was.
So it was like, I loved the idea of peace—and if somebody was to ask me “Why?” I couldn’t tell them why—but I was enamored with peace. [Wendy: Umm.]
But what I was telling people is not much different than what I say today. [Wendy: Wow!] “That this is your life. [Wendy: Yeah.] You have been given an opportunity; this is a gift that you have been given. And the possibilities—of all the possibilities that are possible, one of them is that you can have peace in your life.” [Wendy: Umm.]
Because I still believe that. I mean, it’s not even a belief; I know that. I know that; I’ve experienced it.
What keeps you doing that now? You know, what keeps you getting up every day and doing this?
It’s that, it may appear very tiny, but the consequences of it are very big. When you can bring a smile to somebody’s face, (because you have the ability to), when you can cause somebody to think, when you can bring some sense of relief to a person—not everybody has that.
You know, and there are people who can sing—I can’t sing. There are people who can sing, and they can sing beautifully. And they bring something to that person. There are people who can play piano; this, magnificent—violin, magnificent. Paintings. Everybody has a gift.
Mine just happens to be—that I can bring something: contemplation, thought about peace, a reality about life.
You know, and I was—this is one of the things that I was explaining to them. It was like, “Look, there’s a rule.” And the rule is, “If you bring one lit candle and one unlit candle together”—[Wendy: Umm!] and this is the rule—“the unlit candle won’t put out the lit candle, but the lit candle will light the unlit candle.”
And, yeah. And yeah, that’s great. Umm-hmm.
Because it, that’s, [Wendy: Umm-hmm.] that’s what you have to become; you have to become a lit candle. [Wendy: Mmm.]
And so many of the inmates who are going through the Peace Education Program, then after they graduate from it, they actually end up becoming facilitators for other people.
Yeah. It’s a fact that there’s a huge population at some of those big prisons—that obviously, something’s broken somewhere that has led them to be in prison, [Prem: And yeah.] but in such great numbers. Is peace something that can solve that problem as well?
Yes, because—I think the number must be something like ninety-five percent of them say, “If we had this [Wendy: On the outside, umm….] outside, I’d not be here.” [Wendy: Yeah.]
And they plead with us, “Take this to our families.” [Wendy: Yeah.] This is the gift they want to send from prison to their families, so that they will not end up walking the same path and end up in these prisons.
Umm, umm-hmm. And how many prisons have you taken the program to now?
Well, it’s going to…. [Paul Bloomfield: Hundreds and hundreds—I mean, there’s nearly a thousand.]
Really! [PR: And, yeah!] Wow. [PB: Must be, yeah.] Umm, that’s incredible.
But it’s not just in prisons—the veterans coming from the war [Wendy: Yeah.] have been going through it. Because they come home; they’re totally devastated. [Wendy: Ummh!] You know, there is no ticker-tape parade for them.
It’s like, they realize it’s, they’re coming to a country in which people don’t even have any sense of what just, what they went through. [Wendy: Umm, mmm.] And they’re devastated. And they’re going through the Peace Education Program.
In England…. And in Zonderwater, in—I mean, in South Africa, it’s destined to go to every single prison. [Wendy: Umm.] And people see—people see the difference.
And this all got picked up by the University of San Antonio, Texas. Because in San Antonio, the Peace Education Program was happening, and the university is very interested in monitoring all the programs. And they looked at all the programs and they looked at all the statistics, and they said, “This program has the least rate of return. What’s going on?”
So I ended up going there to San Antonio and talking to all the professors, and so on and so forth. And the professor said—and this was actually on the second trip—he said, “I get it. I think I get it. Your message is about you—and like, not about me, but about you, about the individual: ‘Know thyself.’” No other program addresses that. [Wendy: Umm-hmm!]
Because, when the inmates come, they’re blaming everybody else. [Wendy: Yeah.] “Oh, my family got me here; the judge got me here; the police got me here; the this got me here; the that got me here.” But they’re not looking at themselves.
And this program causes them to look at themselves, and as soon as they start looking at themselves, the transformations begin.
A few pennies drop.
Too many pennies drop, I think. [Wendy: Oh, but that’s amazing….] But that’s the power of it.
Yeah. [Prem: Yeah.] It’s very nice; it’s great. One more question—I was told that you like food—and a bit of a foodie?
Well, I—yes, I do. Absolutely, I do. [Wendy: Do you cook or…?] Yes, yes, I do, yes.
Really? What things do you cook?
I like to…. Well, I know a few basics, so that’s one thing—but I like to innovate, invent: “What can I do; how can I take a dish and [Wendy: Make it your own.] make it my own?” So, I’ll tell you a little story—this is a cute little story.
There’s a person in South Africa, a very dear friend of mine. And so she comes to me one day and she goes, “Prem, you’ve got to help me.” And I said, “What?” She says, “I’ve joined this club,” (it’s a cooking club), “and I don’t know anything about cooking. And I have got to submit a dish….”
So I realized what was going to happen here—that she was asking me to cook something. [Wendy: Yeah.] So I said, “Okay, I’ll make you a dish.”
So, of course, I made her the dish, and sent it to her and—she entered it with her name. [Wendy: And she won!] She won the first prize. People were eating it, [Wendy: Oh.] going, “Oh my God, you know, how, [Wendy: Wow.] and what is the recipe behind this?” And of course, she didn’t know. [Wendy: Oh, oops. Umm, funny….]
So, I—and she told me that and I said, “Well, now you have to learn how to cook yourself.”
Yeah, yeah, umm.
I think that cooking is very nice, because I think everybody should be aware of what they’re putting in their mouth. [Wendy: Yeah.] You know, and since God has given the ability to taste, “Let’s put something together that’s truly unique, that’s you—your signature, that you can do.”