The Power of Bridge Building: My Story26 Jan 2021
My name is Rhiannon I am 19 years old University of Oxford student. I have been involved with Solutions not sides (SNS) since 2019 and attended SNS’s Student Leadership Programme in 2019. I have also volunteered on tours with SNS to Leicester and Gloucester.
The personal impact of the SLP on my peacebuilding journey:
Attending the Student leadership programme was a significant life-changing experience. Firstly, the SLP enabled me to learn more about different cultures, traditions and religions. Meeting people from other parts of the UK from various backgrounds enabled me to have cultural encounters, unlike anything I had ever experienced before. Having grown up in a majority white part of South Wales, I did not have the same opportunity to meet people from different races or who practised other religions. By attending the SLP programme, I also learned new skills, such as the art of non-violent communication and speech giving. This provided me with the confidence to involve myself in debates focusing on controversial topics. The confidence and tools that the SLP provided inspired my activism journey and made me want to pursue a career in promoting and protecting human rights.
Why do we need bridge builders in society?
There is a growing need for bridge builders, particularly in the 21st century due to increased tension and division within society. Bridge builders are vital as they enable the formation of communication channels between different aspects of the British diaspora. Tension is often formed through either the lack of knowledge of another group or the impartial ideas and knowledge of a group. Therefore, bridge builders are essential in removing tension and enabling communication. Bridge builders can reach many different groups and represent all aspects of society, which power groups, e.g., politicians and business elites, often do not. This enables Bridge builders to become community leaders who seek to represent everybody and promote peace and equality within the local area. Empowering the local community with bridge builders’ work affects current and future generations, promoting an equal and well-represented diaspora enhancing social cohesion.
What motivates me to build bridges and foster good relations?
This question is incredibly important, as I always ask it to myself. The main reason why I do this is to enable the creation of an inclusive society which represents everyone and to end the discrimination of multiple communities, e.g., disabled people and ethnic minority groups. As a disabled person, I see this as a key goal as it enables greater integration and acceptance of difference in society. Bridge-building allows me to empower people to make their own decisions, which means they have the right tools not to be influenced by those who benefit from dividing society. Hopefully, this will inspire a future generation of bridge builders to continue to fight for equality within our population.
How can we overcome division in Britain today?
Divisions in Britain can be overcome in a variety of different ways. Activism by bridge builders can be a crucial part of resolving division actions such as signing petitions, organising community events, and attending debates to bring together the community and confront issues head-on. This can enable future generations to grow up in a society which is more accepting of all different cultures and religions. Campaigning for a more diverse educational curriculum will allow young people to better understand different histories and cultures, which otherwise would not be touched upon. It also allows young people to become more aware of the world around them at a younger age, limiting the lack of understanding and division. Confronting Britain’s colonial past and taking on the changes brought about by this confrontation will allow for less tension between communities and the establishment, developing a new acceptance and bridge-building era.
*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.