Room for Peace opens its doors as a living room for peace

A place where people come together in peace: that is what the new Room for Peace on campus is intended for. The room was officially opened yesterday in MetaForum. Just a small group of people showed up, but that only increased the sense of intimacy, which allowed those present to talk openly to each other.

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photo Leoni Andriessen

Students are talking loudly to each other in front of the Energyforum on the first floor of MetaForum, but there is a serene calm just next door. The open space has been magically turned into something resembling a living room, furnished with comfortable chairs, carpets and plants. The flickering light of electric candles can be seen on the tables. Diversity officer Lara Hofstra, FISO secretary Tiara Avé and TINT life coach and Student Chaplain of Maastricht University Rachelle van Andel are preparing themselves for the opening ceremony of the Room for Peace. They created it to offer students and staff members support and guidance in all matters related to the war in Ukraine.

“This room is for everyone who is affected the war,” Van Andel says. A direct link to Ukraine isn’t required. “People meet each other here as people, that transcends nationality,” the life coach says. The principle of an open living room needs to make every student and staff member feel welcome to step inside. "We also want to invite people to develop initiatives to promote peace within the TU/e and beyond." 

Hearts

Six people manage to find their way to the room this afternoon. It’s a small group, but a discussion soon unfolds with Hofstra, who also arranges for someone to be present in the room from 12.30 to 1.30 pm every day to offer a sympathetic ear. She would prefer that the room be used as a living room in the future. “In that case, I’ll be here every day so that people will have a clearly recognizable place to go to. That also allows me to see more people. It would be a kind of wellbeing living room.”

However, for the moment, the room is devoted specifically to the war in Ukraine. Those present at the opening ceremony care deeply about what is taking place. When Van Adel asks them to write down their feelings on small, heart-shaped pieces of paper, they take their time. The large window overlooking the market hall is becoming more and more covered with blue and yellow hearts with messages of fear and hope written on them.

Modest kickoff

It’s good to focus on negative feelings too, Van Andel says. “You shouldn’t ignore feelings of sadness and powerlessness. We always want to do something, but it’s also good to take a step back now and then and consider certain things. Such as what it means to be impacted by war, and what it means to live in freedom.”

At the end of the meeting, those present pass on a flame from candle to candle and say a few words. Some express their gratitude for the support, someone else apologizes for his country’s actions. People are visibly moved. It’s a modest kickoff, but as the candles are being extinguished, everyone lingers for a while to talk to each other.

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