by Catrin Morris

Today was a refreshing change after almost three days of intense lectures. The trainers from Search for Common Ground effectively used the space of the whole lecture theatre and engaged IPSI students right from the start by asking them for their experiences of mediation and facilitation and to share their expectations for the session. The “tea party” identity icebreaker provoked many different emotions: for some pleasure; for others surprise and for a few even hurt. It highlighted the intrinsic need for self-knowledge if a facilitator is to connect to parties in a dialogue, but above all, the power of conversation – a theme recurrent throughout this week.

The first film, ‘The Imam and the Pastor’ was equally thought-provoking. I was particularly struck by the commonality of the experience of the two spiritual leaders and by the importance attached to symbols of reconciliation such as a public apology, a commemorative plaque and a town’s joyful celebration. The second film outlining a consensus-building process on US-Muslim engagement undertaken by Search for Common Ground, led us to consider the various stages of facilitated dialogue. Interestingly, every group identified many different stages, yet all of them recognized the need for promoting trust between the parties and creating a safe space for dialogue.

Finally, the three tools we experimented with drew our attention to the vital if challenging aspects of conflict analysis: identifying actors; causes and interests. I hope these will be further pursued in the rest of the sessions. Oh and we were asked to provide feedback on the session – hurrah!!!