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Doumia-Sakinah, The Pluralistic Spiritual Centre expands its boundaries

Monday 23 March 2009

The Spiritual Center is helping to connect children and adults from all over the world, as well as from different parts of Israel/Palestine. These young people and adults share their stories and experiences, and plan how to use multi-faith, multi-cultural cooperation to make a better world.

Massa-Massar graduates go to Geneva

Massa-Massar ("Journey") is one of these initiatives, bringing together Jewish, Muslim and Christian young adults who travel to one another’s sacred spaces and share one another’s perspectives.

Recently, three young women graduates of Massa-Massar were privileged to attend a Global Network of Religions for Children program in Geneva, where they networked and learned with their counterparts from all over the world.

The 3 youth participants (l-r) Bisan Salman, Gal Berkowitz, Manar Abu-Riash

All the participants in the Geneva conference in January 2009 were young people participating in encounter programs involving joint inter-faith activities. In Tanzania, for example, two joint projects are taking place: a peace radio station run by the young people from different ethnic groups, and volunteer interventions to provide programming for street kids and other disadvantaged children. At the conference a Youth for Peace Workshop allowed these young kids not only to learn new peacemaking methods, but also to connect with other youngsters who confront similar challenges and are determined to make a difference.

The group at the Youth for Peace Workshop

"Massa-Massar: A Journey of Discovery" participants have continued to meet periodically since their summer 2008 session, with the support and partnership of Open House Ramle and the Global Network of Religions for Children (GNRC), funded by the Arigatou Foundation. The Youth for Peace Workshop in Geneva ran from January 27 to 30 and was hosted by Arigatou International, founded in 2003. The Arigatou Foundation established by Myochikai in 1990 is an international faith-based NGO headquartered in Tokyo. Its people dedicate time and resources to defending the rights of children and facilitating their sound physical, cognitive, psychosocial and spiritual development.

Dorit Shippin, Director of the Spiritual Centre and coordinator for GNRC activities in Israel, was very pleased that three M/M graduates – a Muslim, a Jew and a Christian - were invited to Geneva. The Youth for Peace segment had 24 participants and 11 youth leaders coming from 12 different countries: Azerbaijan, Belgium, Colombia, El Salvador, India, Israel, Jordan, Kenya, Spain, Sri Lanka, Tanzania and the United States. Six faiths were represented: Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism and the Bahai faith.

Throughout the conference, the youngsters worked on improving their communication, listening and reflecting skills. They were introduced to different mediation techniques for resolving conflicts in peaceful ways and generating non-violent alternatives. To practice these newly learned techniques they prepared small role-plays in groups and discussed how to use mediation and negotiation, create win-win situations and devise creative solutions to conflicts.

The GNRC and Arigatou International expect the young people to put their new learning into practice, by initiating youth projects back home. The three participants from the Massa-Massar program found the workshop very helpful.

Mediation: Developing a partnership

Led by Abdessalam Najjar, the Mediation Program at the Spiritual Centre has begun working with a group called Mediators Beyond Borders (MBB) – a non-profit organization dedicated to preventing, resolving and healing regions of conflict by using mediation processes. MBB establishes a partnership with communities worldwide to help design and implement sustainable peace initiatives. On an invited visit to the village in early February 2009, the mediators met with Spiritual center staff and W’iam staff who are running the mediation program together and also with staff of the School for Peace over three days. They shared knowledge about the reality between Jews and Palestinians and tried to understand the dynamics and complexity of the conflict here. They shared with us their own rich experience in various mediation practices in the US.

On February 4, the guests participated in a gathering of participants from Abdessalam Najjar’s Mediation in a Multicultural Context program. The topic was "Mediation in Wartime." We hope this visit will launch a lasting partnership.

Both WAS-NS mediation training and MBB are oriented toward the use of multicultural approaches and tools to cast light on the way conflicts evolve and unfold, and to examine culturally sensitive tools and processes that can help resolve conflicts between parties from different cultures.

Mediators Beyond Borders (modelled originally on the organization Medecins sans
) is a relatively young organization. The visitors were passionately enthusiastic about their work and the potential for future cooperation with our ’Mediation in a multicultural context’ project. Here is a brief profile of the three:

Rachel Wohl is a mediator, facilitator and attorney who has worked with the Maryland (MD) Program for Mediator Excellence, now a state-wide program for MD mediators to improve their mediation process. She is also the founding Executive Director of the Maryland Judiciary’s Mediation and Conflict Resolution Office.

Thomas Valenti, a Chicago litigator who has represented plaintiffs in cases involving personal injury and tort claims, disputes and insurance coverage issues, now focuses on Alternative Dispute Resolution and has his own practice in conflict resolution, mediation and arbitration.

Martha Harty is the Program Director for Conflict Resolution, Mediation and Training Services of the Center for Victims of Violence and Crime (CVVC) in Pittsburg. Pennsylvania. She focuses on victim-offender mediation, transformative mediation, family mediation, non-violent mediation and other relatively new areas of ADR.

The team came to learn more about the Middle East conflict and examine how their experience in community based mediation processes might be helpful here. At the same time, a face-to-face visit enabled the Spiritual Centre staff and mediation course graduates to talk about MBB and explore its relevance for their work. The common objective is to work toward refining a mediation model that could be useful in a multicultural and conflicted society such as Israel/Palestine.

The Spiritual Centre’s involvement in such international programs featuring peaceful conciliation of conflicts and multicultural approaches to cooperation is congruent with the core educational vision of the Village and its institutions. These programs, as they develop, will offer many new opportunities for WAS/NS to make a meaningful contribution toward a more just and equitable world, at home and abroad.

"Mediation in Wartime" activity:

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