NEWS RELEASE – The International Center for Peace and Human Rights attended the following Geneva Peace Week event in the United Nations on the 7th November 2017: “Beyond Prevention: 5 alternative ways to Peace” organized by the Initiatives of Change. This event was organized as a human library with people from multicultural backgrounds sharing stories about their work throughout the world promoting peace by alternative means (such as communication and interfaith dialogues). This news release will summarize the stories told and will develop the different ways to peace offered and explained by these humanitarian workers.
Story telling exists everywhere and is available nationally and internationally but also individually. Stories that are told constantly give us an identity and purpose that creates a connection between the human being and the environment as well as a strong impact on us. They become more and more important and essential in the process of building trust between individuals that are in conflict as a first step towards peace. They are part of a reality and fundamental to everyone. When we hear stories and commonly share beliefs, especially those where a drastic positive change result, it can be a great factor for motivation and inspiration. Unpacking the construction of our being is an important peace building process. The Initiatives of Change uses stories as a fundamental part of all their activities. They believe that stories trigger reflection and share wisdom that allow for honest conversations resulting in a change.
In this event, people that have been working on the field in peace making settlements share their experiences about the positive out comings they have witnessed about the importance of communication and inter-faith dialogue towards building peace.
Speakers sharing their stories
One of the speakers was Shontaye Abegaz, the coordinator of Just Governance for Human Security. She has been invested in the humanitarian and volunteering field since she was a teenager. The most important way to peace she discovered throughout her humanitarian experience is that the creation of a safe space between people coming from different backgrounds and in conflict can initiate a constructive and peaceful dialogue. For her, the key is being able to connect people in a different and more peaceful environment than they are used to in order for them to feel safe enough to liberally share their views on how to find a solution to develop peace. She makes these dialogues happen with the hope and persuasion that they really can result in the end of a conflict.
She believes in the safe space created in the United Nations in order for any state representative to efficiently discuss the general humanitarian situation in any country as well as the means necessary to establish peace in conflicted areas. The institutional environment that the UN offers is surely deeply necessary. However, she also insists on the fact that sometimes, different environments that are not institutional may be more productive in constructive and inter-faith dialogues. For example, some people would be more conformable to have a conversation in a more cozy space. For her, the atmosphere is one of the most important things. She then makes sure to provide safe spaces adapted to the will of everyone in order to make people feel at home for them to be more open to conversation leading to the promotion of peace. She also noticed that when the speakers involved see these discussions as successful, they then try to duplicate them by creating adapted safe spaces to all members of any conversation. Furthermore, when the participants see each other again after a positive conversation, they feel like they know each other and are more conformable and inclined of pursuing their constructive conversation. She concludes by saying that safe spaces to find solutions for peace can only lead in positives changes.
Another speaker, Hassan Mohamud from Initiatives of Change Sweden is a Somali man that has invested most of his life in peace building operations, mostly with education and law enforcement. He believes that these two last factors combined with reconciliation and healing are the most important to the establishment of peace. He also started believing in the promotion of peace through interactive conversations when he became close friends with a member of an opposite clan in Somalia. He explains that when you put people that are supposed to hate each other together in a peaceful environment, many great and constructive conversations can result. His friendship with this man has led him to engage in many activities permitting the creation of other peaceful relationships between members of clans in conflict, which has helped Somalia to find a path towards peace. He explains that the main issues are the lack of trust between opposite people, intergenerational communication (between younger and older generations) and interethnic problems. One of the most effective solutions to address these problems is to change the perspective of different individuals. If each individual changes, the society changes automatically towards peace. He concludes by saying that through education and fair law enforcement, people can only change positively.
By Taline Bodart