This past August I was privileged to have the opportunity to attend the Institute for Peace and Dialogue’s Summer Academy on Peacebuilding and Intercultural Dialogue hosted in Baar, Switzerland. IPD is an organization dedicated to conflict resolution, peacebuilding, and intercultural dialogue, and host conferences and trainings for those interested in peacebuilding and cross-cultural communication. I was there for ten days from August 17th through 27th and was partially funded through a microgrant from ABC, awarded through CID.
To say the least, it was a truly inspiring experience that I will cherish for the rest of my life. The experts invited were all very knowledgeable about their speaking topics, ranging from the Middle East conflict, non-violent communication and civil disobedience, to learning how to influence and persuade others, especially in dealing with conflict. Experts included a former French diplomat, the founder of the Pancevo peace movement in Serbia who was also directly involved in the Otpor movement that brought down Milosevic, as well as a former British colonel who worked on the Transnistrian conflict. There were also several experts in communication topics, ranging from cross-cultural communication, persuasive communication for successful negotiation, and non-violent communication. Every day had enthralling lectures, with great exercises and activities to really involve the participants.
Perhaps what really made the conference as special as it was were the other attendees. There were about thirty other participants, attending from all over the world. Everyone’s unique cultural background and experiences lent to amazing discussion and insight. One gentleman hailed from the Democratic Republic of Congo and was able to share his experiences in such a high-conflict country. Another came from Iraq and was able to eloquently explain the issues of ISIS and how his country is faring in the post-Iraq war years. Other participants were active peace practitioners, working for the United Nations, the Carter Center, and Peace Brigades International. At the end of the conference, we all agreed that one of the most rewarding aspects was that we were all blessed to have met and gotten to know each other during the time there, and to have forged such great connections with people from unlikely places.
I feel so fortunate that I was able to participate in such an event. As a graduate student and military spouse, it would have been very difficult to afford to attend the conference without funding from CID. I was also lucky that my university program was also able assist with a supplementary travel grant. While I did have to cover about half of the cost by myself, the microgrant from CID made it possible to attend, and as I said before, this will be an experience that I carry with me for the rest of my life.