Peacebuilding in Middle East – Developing a culture of dialogue
Steeped in culture and history, the birthplace of Judaism, Christianity and Islam and rich in oil reserves, the Middle East is as strategically important in world affairs now as it was 2000 years ago.
Caritas hopes that the seeds that it sows by training people in mediation, negotiation and openness to others will flourish and offer societies an alternative to war.
It is also, partially due to the above-mentioned reasons, home to unrest and conflicts which are deep-rooted and difficult to resolve.
Emil El Dik, a specialist in conflict resolution who works at the Jesuit Centre in Amman, Jordan, went to Lebanon last year to carry out training for Caritas peacebuilders from Iraq, Jerusalem and Jordan.
“People who are affected by conflict are captured by fear and doubt towards others,” says Mr El Dik. “As a result, they do not live a natural life and they do not see they have a future. This makes them sad and distressed.”
Mr El Dik says that when people internalise these feeling, is leads them to believe that the only way to solve conflict is through violence.
Mr El Dik says that the reality is very different in the three countries that participated in the workshop. He says the Palestinians have lived in a war context for 60 years or so, the Iraqis too have faced long-term conflict, whereas Jordan is relatively peaceful. However, what they need to learn is very similar from country to country.
“The main challenges for peacebuilders is creating trust among parties who are involved in conflicts,” says Mr El Dik. “Once this is done we have to educate people to solve problems through negotiation and discussions. We need to develop a culture of dialogue.”
The Lebanon peacebuilding training workshop used the Caritas Peacebuilding Manual – which has been translated into Arabic - as a basis for its work. The workshop focused on participants’ personal experiences in the Iraq and Palestinian conflicts to help them reflect on the social issues facing their societies.
“By analysing their patterns of thinking, values, attitudes and behaviour, the participants realised that communities have a choice of whether to act violently or peacefully. They also realised that they could make a change in the context where they live,” says Mr El Dik.
As in all its peacebuilding work, Caritas hopes that the seeds that it sows by training people in mediation, negotiation and openness to others will flourish and offer societies an alternative to war.
The recent Gaza conflict and the ongoing instability in Iraq show that dialogue and understanding are needed now more than ever in the region.
“People are getting tired of conflicts in the Middle East, they want to live in peace. This challenge is how to have a real peace process. We need to have a common understanding of the meaning of justice, peace, mercy and truth,” says Mr El Dik.
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