After 7 years of Creators of Peace (CoP) sessions in Damascus and a Peace Circle last year in Lebanon, Syrian women from different backgrounds are working together to rebuild themselves and support other women in their community. Iman Al Ghafari reports.
Some women who attended Peace Circles and programmes in leadership and conflict resolution skills in Damascus received the opportunity to be trained as facilitators. Another group of Syrians and Lebanese women who shared a Peace Circle in Lebanon joined the same training led by Kate Monkhouse, with Marie Chaftari and Iman Al Ghafari, both of whom are now recognized as Creators of Peace’s first Arabic-speaking trainers. The training was organized by Fighters for Peace and funded by the Canadian Embassy.
All showed their readiness to learn how to run Creators of Peace Circles and agreed about the necessity of bridging trust across divides. However, in reality, we think that we are open-minded, that our hearts can accept all people and that we are ready to commit. Then perhaps a shock touches our ego to show us that we need to re-think - do our minds and thoughts reflect honesty, purity, unselfishness and love? Like a stone thrown into a quiet river, this stone hits the bottom and brings out all the hidden rubbish that has been accumulating there. During the training, such a shock took the shape of a challenging situation when a misunderstanding occurred. It was a test at the right time.
Our group consisted of younger and older women from multiple faith backgrounds, different political opinions and lifestyles. They were full of excitement, but when this conflict occurred because of a cultural misunderstanding, many hidden stereotypes were triggered. All of us got to live personally a situation where building trust was required. A volcano of emotions had to erupt when one participant expressed her anger about a comment and then another question led to a huge tension. The group cried and felt hopeless and helpless. Is building peace and trust realistic?
History is filled with conflicts. Our lives have all had sadness and misery. Pain that has accumulated appears through accusations, such as “your people are behind my pain”. We so easily forget that we can see the past through people around us in our present time.
Creators of Peace aims to be a safe zone for everyone. It is also a place to invite everyone to reflect on her fears, needs and expectations. This invitation is part of the ‘circles of concerns’ we always talk about and encourage participants to share.
The facilitator training enabled participants to dialogue with one another about the challenges they face, to learn the skills need to host Creators of Peace conversations back home and to begin new relationships of understanding. All left ready to take up the task at hand to bring other women together.
These were some wonder-filled days when women taking part showed courage and willingness to overcome misunderstandings and differences. They want to rebuild for their country as they look to the future. Even though these dialogues can be so hard, as one woman said: “the positive dialogue starts here”.
Creators of Peace women will continue to make their contribution in their beloved country of Syria. Within just a month of the end of this training, the group, made up of women from different backgrounds, hosted together a celebration for International Women’s Day. They wanted to encourage others, new women, also from different communities, to also see the possibilities for peace. One of whom said: “we needed this, we need to come out of our shell”.
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