Penang girl stands tall at world peace summit

Jing Wen (in red tie) with several participants who spoke at the 4th Children’s World Peace Summit in Tokyo, Japan, and event delegates. — Photo courtesy of BRIGITTE ROZARIO

INSTILLING good core values in the young and giving them opportunities to learn about each other can lead to a more peaceful world.

That was the view of Penangite Thoon Jing Wen who gave an impassioned speech on the need for mutual understanding, at the 4th Children’s World Peace Summit in Tokyo, Japan.

The 10-year-old pupil of SJK (C) Perempuan Cina was Malaysia’s sole representative and used the platform to paint a picture of the kind of world she would like to live in.

“Peaceful coexistence comes when we understand each other and practise the right values. This should be instilled from a young age.

“Think of how we made friends as kids. We don’t judge based on backgrounds or beliefs. If countries and their leaders did the same, we would have less conflict.

“As I mentioned in my speech – more friends and more smiles lead to peace,” Jing Wen said in her three-minute address.

She edged out over 200 other hopefuls from Malaysia to earn her spot and was the youngest among 12 participants aged 10 to 19 invited to speak at the event, which was held at the House of Representatives Building in Tokyo.

Applications came from some 20 countries.

Demonstrating maturity beyond her years, Jing Wen said arguments, fights and wars benefitted no one. In the case of the latter, it also has grave implications for innocent civilians.

“War deprives people of the most basic things like having safe refuge, eating proper meals or even going to school and meeting friends.

“It’s bad enough for those who lose their lives. But what about surviving family members? Even when the dust settles, they will continue to grieve for loved ones lost,” she said.

Participants were also asked for suggestions to improve world peace.

Jing Wen envisaged an app called PeaceBeyond that would not only connect users across the world, but also instil good values and initiate healthy discussions between children and their parents and teachers.

“It would have mini games that test how you would react to simulated scenarios and real-life issues, or mini challenges that require one to do several good deeds per week.

“You could also share how your daily lives are in different countries, and connect through common interests.

“Not everyone has the time or finances to travel and meet others in different places, so technology can bridge the distance,” she said.

Her mother Lee Jia Shien, 39, is proud of Jing Wen’s accomplishment and sees the trip as a valuable experience because the young girl gets to meet society leaders and make new friends.

Jing Wen has always been outgoing and loves to explore different things. Besides reading, writing, art and music, she also has a keen interest in technology and current affairs.

“We all know world peace is essential. But ironically, it’s a topic we seldom ponder upon or talk about.

“How many parents would actually bring it up with their children?

“Even if we do, it’s probably about peace in the household rather than world peace.

“When Jing Wen sees or reads the news, she often asks why things happen and how it is being dealt with.

“She likes to give her own input and will sometimes do her own research online to better understand an issue,” said Lee, a pharmacist.

Brigitte Rozario, a freelance trainer who teaches Jing Wen writing over Zoom, described her as a bright girl who is genuinely interested in the world around her.

“When you speak to her, you might easily forget she’s only 10. She comes across as an adult and shows empathy and understanding beyond her years.

“It’s an amazing achievement for her to be selected because the summit was open to youths aged up to 19 and this means she probably did better than some who are older,” Rozario said.

During the trip, Jing Wen was also able to take in the sights and was struck by the cleanliness and efficiency of Japan’s public transportation, richness of culture and taste of food.

“We were able to visit different districts and I had fun exploring many shops, which seemed to have endless displays of Maneki-neko (beckoning cats) figurines and Kokeshi dolls,” said Jing Wen.

“I also had the honour of speaking to the summit’s founder Taeko Tada.

“She created a manga (The Hiroshima Miracle) based on the true story of a mother and great-grandmother who were just 1.5km from the hypocentre of the atomic bomb but survived and experienced the reconstruction.

“Unfortunately her grandmother was killed.

“But I was inspired by how she didn’t let her family’s tragic past affect her and, instead, used it to raise awareness on the dangers of conflict and why peace is so important for humanity,” Jing Wen said.

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