The Musicians without Borders training is part of the CONTACT (Conflict Transformation Across Cultures) Course. This year 19 countries are represented, and 13 of the 40 participants are musicians. It did not take long for me to see why this course is considered one of the best of its kind. It brings together lawyers, peace activists, teachers, refugees and survivors of direct protracted conflict. I have the rare opportunity of hearing from survivors of the Rwandan and Bosnian Genocides, a Tibetan refugee and a lawyer advocating for peace in South Sudan. These are just a few examples; each participant has some or other interesting story and insight into peace and reconciliation. To be able to live and eat with this inspiring group of people is a remarkable experience.
I am finding it very difficult to summarise the first week’s training into a few paragraphs. The experiential nature of the course has forced all of us to engage with our deepest thoughts and beliefs not only about tolerance towards “the other” but our unique role in the cycle of reconciliation and peacebuilding within our home communities. I find myself feeling excited by the peacebuilding theories I am encountering, and even more so by the thought of how these methods could assist in the transformation of conflict in South Africa. The training very seldom involves a sit-down lecture. instead we are being forced to confront our own intolerances towards one another, through group exercises. The effect of this has been a growing empathy toward one another in the CONTACT group. An integral part of our peacebuilding training has been the way in which we, of 19 different cultures, relate to one another and resolve conflicts that arise as a result of cross-cultural misunderstandings.
As I am finding it difficult to assimilate everything I have learnt thus far, I thought it best to mention a few highlights of the training thus far:
- Tatsushi Arai from George Mason University School of Conflict Analysis: Methods of conflict analysis and peacebuilding practise
- The role of identity in Conflict: Hearing from those experiencing the expulsion or denial of an aspect/s of their identity as a result of political or social conflict in their home country. The importance of identity reformation in peacebuilding and reformation
- Learning with, and from, Laura Hassler the director of Musicians without Broders and her team. Learning about Hassle’s theory of conflict transformation
- Non-violent social action workshop with playwright and activist Court Dorsey
- Reconciliation and Justice: Hon. Patricia Whalen, former Judge for War Crimes Chamber of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
- Hearing the story of Vahidin Omanovic, survivor of the Srebrenica massacre in Bosnia. At age 15, Vahidin fled his home town to Slovenia, where he was to become a refugee for 4 years, 4 months and 4 days. He returned to his hometown, and later founded the first Centre for Peacebuilding in BiH. He is the winner of three international peacebuidling awards.
- Drum circle led by Musicians without Borders staff
- Morning Peace rituals: Members form a particular country present a traditional peace song and prayer
- Music-making with my global family
It will take quite some time for me to process everything I have heard, seen and experienced. It has left me with many questions:
- How tolerant am I?
- What is my personal role in reconciliation and peacebuidling? Justice/Truth/Mercy/Peace?
- Where does South Africa currently stand in the cycle of reconciliation?
- What are the causes of direct, structural and cultural violence in South Africa?
- How do I, as one person, positively contribute to addressing issues of cultural violence within my own community?
- How can I be a bridge between the advantaged/disadvantaged. black/white, abled/disabled?
Next week I will be working solely with the Musicians without Borders team, exploring how music can act as a bridge, and assist forgiveness and empathy between people in conflict.
I look forward to sharing my thoughts on the second week of training with you. Here are a few photos from various cellphones!