In Wellington, Barack Obama’s sister discusses the importance of peace builders

Barack Obama's sister is in Wellington, talking peace and the place young people - especially rangatahi - have in moving towards that.

Maya Soetoro-Ng works at a University of Hawaii peace institute, heads her own non-profit in the same field and works for the Obama Foundation.

She's being hosted by Creative New Zealand for the finals on Sunday of Te Matatini ki te Ao, the national kapa haka championships.

But she's also visited Te Papa and last night spoke on a youth panel about the importance of raising a generation of peace builders.

"All of this work is about harnessing the ingenuity and the energy of young people, and they get it right, by and large," she said. 

"They are inclusive, they are innovative, they're really willing to lean into their discomfort, they are courageous and I find myself buoyed and uplifted by their example."

She said peace was much more action-orientated and less passive than people supposed.

"Peace really is about the presence of infrastructure, of social justice of human rights, of restorative practices and communities," she told the crowd. "It's about non-violent communication and it's about prison reform and it's about environmental justice, and so the great thing is that everyone has a pathway, therefore, to participation - all of you have a pathway."

The comment received a round of snapped fingers, a sign of appreciation introduced by another panelist - 17-year-old Tuimaleali'ifano Fiso, an advocate for young people dealing with suicide.

Although the ex-president's name was never mentioned on the panel, Tuimaleali'ifano knew exactly who she was, and for her it was an opportunity to spread her message of hope wider.

"It was also a bit scary," she joked.

"Oh, hella intimadating - real, real intimidating. Like, I don't know, she's just like a lot of experience and a lot of kaha [strength] in a small package," she said. 

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    Maya Soetoro-Ng says building peace is important for communities and comes from knowing our stories. Source: 1 NEWS