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PESC-2: Education towards violence free communication and conflict solution 
Dr Mohamed Mosaad: URI Europe and Middle East Conference in Berlin

 
Middle East participants from Egypt, Jordan and Israel, representing the three Abrahamic traditions reached Berlin to attend a conference co-organised by the Interfaith Encounter Association, which is a MCC (Multiple Co-operation Circle) of the United Religions Initiative (URI) (6 - 10 April 2002). The crisis in Israel/Palestine prevented the Palestinian delegation from joining them up. The same crisis had naturally shadowed the Middle East participation. Had it been an exclusively Middle Eastern conference many of Arab participants would have not come. All participants from all sides, however, came to Berlin not only to speak up their hearts, but to listen to, and understand the Other as well. For some Arab participants it was the first time in their life to see a Jew, leave alone an Israeli.
 
Conducting different sessions and activities of URI Conference, the ME participants found no problem to make new friendships with each other dissolving all the barriers, whither mental or psychological. ME participants, who rejected an idea of separate ME sessions posed by their organisers, soon changed their mind. We are Middle Eastern after all, the participants emphasised. The European help, thus, was offered in two different ways, providing the good environment and facilitation for meeting, and then shaping out, by contrast, a solid ME identity!
 
In their first separate session the participants decided to face their fears directly and courageously. The roots of hatred are fears, they said. What is the point of meeting up without speaking up our hearts and challenging our fears? They asked. Soon there were two subgroups, one for Arabs and one for Jews, writing down all their takes on the other side. When the two long lists were finished up each group chose its spokesman from the other side. In other words, an Arab participant had to spoke for the Jews, while a Jewish participant had to argue for Arabs. By doing this, the painful subject was put into a humorous, yet challenging, framework. Before starting this debate the two representatives exchanged their hats, a movement that made everyone to laugh and relax. At the end of this heated session each group enthusiastically cheered its representative and emphasized its satisfaction of his performance. Naturally, the debate did not end by the winning or losing of someone. Nor did any group abandon completely its narrative. Nevertheless, everyone knew that there is another narrative that does exist and which s/he must know.
 
The participants decided to have another session to plan together for their future cooperation. Shortly before this session the sad news of Jenin refugees' camp was spreading. Participants, nonetheless, decided to go ahead in their way. One Arab participant said it does not mean our work is meaningless. On the contrary, it says we have to do more. All participants agreed that being working for the sake of God, despair and disappointment should not stop them.
 
In their planning meeting the participants emphasised the importance of being in touch. Accordingly they decided to launch out a web-community, an e-mail list and a monthly newsletter. They also decided to network their activities with other relevant regional and international, governmental and non-governmental organisations. They stressed the importance of furthering the work of URI local CCs and the need to found a MMCC. Besides, they decided to plan for future meetings and conferences. They agreed to hold a conference in the Middle East in next October. Some participants promised to write articles reflecting the group's vision to be published in local, regional and international publications.
 
The participants spent all the last night together in a friendly environment, taking photos, talking and wandering around the hotel. In their way back to the hotel it looked as if Berlin was witnessing the removal of another wall!
 
Back to Report 2001/2002 "A Soul  for Education"