Social Peace and Reconciliation in the Middle East

YaLa Academy Peace Institute in Honor of Nelson Mandela final project: Imagine what the MENA region would look like in 10 years, if peace was established today? How did it happen? What practices and institutions were put into place in order to establish this peace? Remember to draw on the skills we’ve learned from our lecturers throughout the semester. You can write a blog, make a video, write a song, create an infographic… Feel free to get creative!

By Andrew Pico, United States

After a long, arduous era of horror, the MENA region has finally established peace! It was amazing to see such a transformation after such a long time filled with hate and violence. I will try to sum up the way I think peace was achieved.

Populations between the warring nations began to collaborate with each other instead of avoiding each other. Young professionals joined together to work on mutually beneficial projects and ideas were shared to create mutual benefit. The citizens were encouraged to increase communication and collaboration with the enemy.  The people began to see the other side as more human and more relatable.

This helped create more possibilities for social interaction. Governments paralleled this by developing programs that put their citizens together in the same space to talk about important grievances and feelings in a safe, nonjudgmental environment. This helped to humanize the “other” and soothe hatred. Focusing on the narrative and history of the other side was paramount. There was mutual condemnation of violence, discrimination, intolerance and human rights abuses. There was an understanding among the citizenry that peace was the most important thing and a personal, emotional search for “justice” was thrown out in an effort to forgive and move forward. The effect of these programs was invaluable. The citizens accepted differing narratives and forms of identity (important in the Israel-Palestine conflict), they recognized the pain and suffering of their peers and they acknowledged wrongdoings. Pride and honor was subdued, and the humility to forgive and move forward was encouraged.

The governments of the warring nations created specific goals for negotiation and a vision for the future of their nations. Compromise was an important and central tenant of their goals, and the vision for the future included cooperation and mutually beneficial economic interaction with their former enemies. They had a commitment to put the past behind them and had an honest desire to move forward for the betterment of their people and the region. Past injustices have no place at the negotiating table, and it is only a hindrance to creating a lasting, future justice. The results were direct peace talks and negotiations that, at its core, were filled with the spirit of compromise and understanding. The people did not see compromise as a weakness, but as a strength, attesting to it the fact that compromise requires much more deliberation, effort, thought and confidence. After all, it is much easier to fight it out with brute force, than it is to come to a mutually beneficial agreement.

The citizens elected leaders who looked out for their wellbeing and were not corrupt in their dealings. Leaders were held accountable for reprehensible actions that were not in the best interests of their nations. They held the safety, dignity and rights of their citizenry in the highest regard, and tried their absolute best to maximize them. Free press and freedom of thought was established and political dissent was encouraged.

Peace was not easy to achieve, but based on my observations and study, these were the most important elements in the road to peace in the region.

To learn more about the YaLa Peace Institute in Honor of Nelson Mandela, click here.

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