Against Great Odds: Syrians Find Ways to Build Peace

Screen Shot 2015-03-04 at 4.14.17 PMThe capacity building and facilitation skills of the ASC were used to support the courageous and dedicated efforts of the civil society group DARB who work with peacebuilders and conflict transformation practitioners from across Syria and within the Syrian diaspora in Turkey.

A 5-day learning workshop focused on peace and conflict proved to be an inspiring and deeply moving encounter. Working with over 30 peacebuilders ranging in age from 19 to 60, ASC facilitators Richard and Fatima sought to provide a deeper understanding of a conflict transformation approach to peacebuilding and to enable a sharing of ideas and perspectives on how a group of committed practitioners could make a real difference in the violent and repressive context of a country at war.

The workshop took place near Gaziantep, on the Turkish border with Syria, in the midst of a snowstorm that assisted in keeping temperatures down when the discussion became understandably heated. Every Syrian has been deeply affected by the horrific violence that has been unleashed from all sides over the past 4 years and emotions are part and parcel of every discussion about the past, the present and the future.

Screen Shot 2015-03-04 at 4.14.27 PMMost of the participants are directly threatened by the recent upsurge in violence connected to the rise of the Islamic State of Iraq and al Sham and the response from international actors seeking to influence the peace process and the control for territories and resources. In a context as dynamic as Syria the role of those who are trying to find opportunities to contribute positively is taxing and complicated.

Nevertheless the workshop ended well with a number of practical initiatives identified that will be taken forward over the coming months. These include:

  • Working with traditional authorities and tribal leaders to evoke customary approaches to local dispute resolution
  • A strong focus on the media, and how to counter the polarizing sensationalist reporting that tends to fuel violence using social media as a tool
  • Creative forms of awareness raising linked to collective responses to the material needs of violence and poverty affected communities
  • Local efforts to initiate and nurture inclusive forms of organising that address some of the underlying identity rooted drivers of conflict.

By working with more people, and key leadership at different levels, DARB hopes to keep the flame of hope alive in the midst of a complex and potentially overwhelming context.

A strong call was made at the end of the workshop for ACTION members to build a solidarity platform in support of the efforts of Syrian peacebuilders. The ASC will continue to stay engaged with DARB and its supporters and will follow their lead on appropriate and effective steps that can be taken in a people-to-people solidarity support of the efforts of these courageous peacebuilders.