Life is the flow and the moment between symmetry and asymmetry.

Although it is manifested and experienced in many fields, in real life, symmetry is imperfect. In a way that’s how Kai’s speech is. A bit asymmetrical, a bit disjointed, utterly compelling, and beautiful. He jumps from Islamic art to fractals; from pottery to religious symbols; from Einstein’s spacetime continuum to Emmy Noether’s first theorem; from the science behind why the honeycomb is the most efficient structure found in nature, to the adorable “Would you bee my Valentine” card his son Aron made for him only yesterday. “And, look here”, he proudly points towards the two blue hearts cut out of paper and pasted slightly askew, that make the wings of the bee-shaped card, “they are almost perfectly symmetrical!” Kai Frithjof Brand-Jacobsen has lived, worked, and traveled in 119 countries. He had been shot, had a gun pointed at his head and lost 20 of his close friends to murder in one year. In the two decades of working as a peacebuilder in some of the most challenging war zones and crisis situations he has seen how out of symmetry our world really is. He might have asked us in the beginning to recall a special moment in (hopefully) all our lives, when we have fallen in love, be it with a significant other or, maybe, a newborn. He might have started the slide show with the serene picture of a beach “because who doesn’t like those?”. He might have shared in an endearingly geekish and humorous manner his passion for science and, especially for physics. He only cleverly prepared the gut punch, images that need no graph, no algebraical formula, no written explanation. Images that depict desperate refugees with fearful eyes; people struggling to leave conflict zones; faces of poverty and marginalization from our own community; desensitized child soldiers and dehumanized peacekeepers. The slides speak out loud about our inability to solve our problems as a race. But Kai speaks even louder about what we can do to improve the inner and outer symmetry. Don’t stick with the toxic, find out what works. Ask yourself not what life you want to live but in what type of community you want to live. Everything you do, every decision you take, affects others, matters, counts. Although our lives are overwhelming by themselves, everybody can care, if we reach them the right way. It happens that for Kai Brand-Jacobsen, the right way is through peacebuilding and peace education. Tap into a source where you are truly passionate about something, be it parenting, climate change, ballet, mathematics, or design. Find out what your passion is. Discover. Understand. Learn. Experience the flow, the timelessness and tranquility that come with it. Afterall, life is the flow and the moment between symmetry and asymmetry. Written by Maria Revnic

About the speaker

Kai Frithjof Brand-Jacobsen is regarded as one of the leading pioneers, innovators and practitioners in the field of peacebuilding, conflict transformation and addressing challenging and complex conflicts and crisis in the world today. For more than 20 years he has worked across all continents and many of the most challenging war zones and crisis situations – from Iraq to Afghanistan, Sudan, Israel-Palestine, Cyprus, Northern Ireland, Sri Lanka, Nigeria and elsewhere – at the invitation of the United Nations, governments, international agencies and organizations, and local communities affected by conflict and war. He is a senior trainer for the International Peace and Development Training Centre (IPDTC) and has provided more than 400 training programmes for governments, UN missions and agencies, and organizations in the field.

From 2015 – 2017 he headed PATRIR’s support for sub-national mediation and peace processes in Libya. In 2016 he headed the UN-supported Nineveh Paths to Social Cohesion, Coexistence and Peace project in Nineveh, Iraq-KRG, one of the areas worst affected by the ongoing war with ISIS.

From 2016 – 2018 he was a Senior Researcher for the EU consortium project “PeaceTraining.EU”. This included the review of training curricula, approaches and methods for peacebuilding and prevention training across the EU and internationally; review of training standards and qualifications for training centers and trainers; exploration of the frontier use of information and communication technologies in training; and authoring the “Peace Training Handbook”. He is currently also editing a special edition of the Journal of Peacebuilding and Development on Training and Capacity Building for Peacebuilding, Crisis Management and Prevention.

He is a practitioner with extensive experience in mediation and facilitation of peace processes and working on the ground to prevent violent conflicts, end wars, and support reconciliation and healing after violence. His work is one of the subjects of the recent documentary movie In Pursuit of Peace (

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