Conflict Resolution: a Vital Skill for All Bridge-Builders29 Jan 2021
There is little about the long-running Israeli-Palestinian conflict today that would suggest it could be solved by a bunch of young people in London who had all met for the first time. However, that is exactly what a group of young people from across the UK attempted in the summer of 2015. I took part in the Student Leadership Programme (“SLP”), which is run by Solutions Not Sides (“SNS”), in September 2015.
For an entire week, we discussed the conflict and broader conflict resolution. We had talks from think tanks and international charities on different approaches to conflict resolution. Portland Trust discussed a potential economic solution to the conflict, which I had not considered previously. We were able to debate in the House of Lords with different Lords and Ladies on potential solutions to the Middle Eastern conflict and discuss the pitfalls of each with leading minds on conflict resolution within our country.
SLP is a wonderful programme. It helped me meet a whole host of people from different walks of life that I might not have had the opportunity of interacting with before. In that sense, it was a beneficial learning curve before going off to University.
The week culminated in a day-long Model United Nations conference. This is where people are assigned a country to represent, e.g. Palestine, Israel, Jordan, and the United States, amongst others. They then attend an actual day of debating, negotiating, and finding compromises to approve a two-state solution. This taught me how to work together as a team as we quickly realised that different people had different strengths, and it was our job as a team to put them to the best possible use. It taught us that when trying to find a practical solution negotiation and compromise are vital skills that should be nurtured.
The lessons I learnt on this programme go beyond the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which the new SLP programme running this year seeks to demonstrate with its broader focus on problems in society and conflict resolution. As a litigation lawyer, I have found that this course helped me understand the concept of mediation and trying to find a solution that keeps everyone as happy as possible. Conflict resolution is a vital skill for people to develop even if they are not directly involved in such an industry. It may be as simple as making a hectic family gathering that much calmer.
The lessons learnt on SLP even go beyond conflict resolution itself. I have learnt to explain your viewpoint rationally to someone who strongly disagrees with you without becoming obstinate or upset. Too often in today’s polarised society, we do not see enough respect being given when an exchange of differing ideas occurs.
I have learnt that such an experience is an opportunity to both teach and be taught and that if you only have your mind on one and not the other, you will never be able to have a fully structured and engaging debate of views. It has taught me patience when explaining simple things about my religion. It has made me realise that it is an opportunity to educate and that people are eager to enrich their understanding more often than not. I have made wonderful friends from all walks of life who broaden my viewpoint and help me question myself and my pre-conceptions daily. Taken to its logical end the programme instils a duty as a bridge-builder.
This may be within a community teaching more conservatives members new liberal ideas or younger community members the importance of continuing tradition. It may be between communities such as the inter-faith projects that go on throughout London and the UK.
What this programme seeks to do and in the view of this writer does well in achieving, is provide young people with the tools to go out and start to make the world a better place in whatever way they desire.
*Student Leadership Programme “Bridge Builders” is an online student leadership programme for 16-19 year olds, it will take participants through a journey of finding our common ground, learning to disagree better respectfully and working towards our common good. There will be workshops on leadership, interfaith, islamophobia, antisemitism, peacebuilding, global conflict, Northern Ireland, the Balkan, Israel-Palestine, conflict resolution, non-violent communication and student activism.
The deadline for applications is 31st January
Solutions Not Sides is an organisation which focuses on creating humanising encounters and safe spaces to talk about the Israeli – Palestinian conflicts, without feeding Islamophobia and anti-Semitism, as they are both forms of hate speech and discrimination. The organisation does so by bringing Palestinian and Israeli voices into the same room to discuss the conflict, the realities of violence, the power dynamics, personal experiences, and use these discussions to see how peace can be reached.
** Disclaimer: The views, information, or opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the individuals and organisations involved and do not necessarily represent those of Urban Muslimz and its employees.