Creating Welcoming Communities: Immigration in America

Communities throughout the United States are struggling today with conflicts around growing immigrant populations. This is especially true in areas that are straining to recover from major economic shifts. These communities often experience heightened anxiety that can lead to mistrust, hate crimes, and reluctance of new arrivals to interact with long-time residents.

Shifting the Inter-Religious Dialogue in Nigeria

The recent abduction of 300 girls by Boko Haram has spotlighted ongoing tensions in Nigeria. In a country where more than 20,000 lives have been lost over the past decade to outbreaks of religiously-connected violence, Public Conversations partners with the Interfaith Mediation Centre (IMC) to help build trust between Muslim and Christian communities. Together, we have created a dialogue model to serve as the basis for IMC’s work with religious and civic leaders, women, youth, and people with disabilities.

Craving Conversation in School

After Horacio Moreno observed a dialogue I facilitated with his students at a public high school in Buenos Aires, he helped me place what had just happened in a context I hadn’t fully realized was there.

“I’m going to use some of the tools you used in the dialogue,” Horacio said. “They may seem very common to you, but they’re unusual here. And you can see that they take the students by surprise. The way you say, when we go around in a circle, you can talk if you want to and pass if you don’t want to—they’re not used to that.”

Why Dialogue?

In short: Pelé. Nicaragua. Studs Terkel. Bus rides. Democracy.

Hello world. As a way of both introducing myself and sparking reflection on the challenge of bringing people together to dialogue on important public issues, I’d like to explore what brings me to dialogue. Why dialogue? What was the hook—from the beginning? What about now?

Resisting the urge to seek guidance in academic articles or books, blogs or news media, manuals or guidebooks, what follows is my attempt to answer these questions, with my voice, based on my experiences.

Contested Memory and Conversation in Argentina

Argentines are careful with the word disappeared. It is rarely used for car keys or scraps of paper, the ordinary objects that get lost and found each day. Here, memories of people taken from subway stops, apartment buildings, cafes, buses, office buildings, sidewalks, and schools echo in the word. Los desaparecidos, the disappeared, refers to 30,000 Argentines who were tortured and killed by a military dictatorship that ruled the country from 1976-1983. Their bodies were never found. Disappearance was both public and private, hidden and impossible to miss.

Q+A: Belle Abaya

Earlier this year, Philippines-based conflict resolution organization, The Conflict Resolution Group Foundation (CoRe) started a campaign entitled Transformative Cells (T-Cells), aimed at building face-to-face communication skills among young people. This spring, T-Cells trained 135 guidance counselors from colleges and universities in Metro Manila. The guidance counselors then trained 50 student facilitators in each of their 135 schools.

With God on Our Side: Hallowed Narratives as Swiss Cheese

I was recently invited to serve on a panel at Harvard Divinity School after the screening of a new film, With God on Our Side. The film follows a young man who was brought up in a Christian Zionist home, Christopher Harrell, as he travels around Israel and the Palestinian territories. Christopher sees much of what he envisioned as a child about the proverbial land of milk and honey. He sees the respectful preservation of Christian holy places by the Israelis.

Personal Practice

Nigeria is not neutral terrain. The Nigeria I know is the people I care about, over a dozen of whom recently gazed back at me from their seats in a hotel conference room. Muslims and Christians, women and men, participants converged from across the country, looking interested, curious, nervous. This was the final phase of a professional exchange program I'd originally helped coordinate during grad school. Public Conversation Project's own Dave Joseph invited me to co-lead a final workshop for the group here in Abuja. Topic: designing and facilitating interfaith dialogue.

"Please Tell Your Friends..."

In summer 2008, eighteen Nigerian conflict resolution professionals, representing diverse ethnic and religious communities in their home country, came to Boston to participate in an intensive training program in conflict prevention, management, and resolution.  The Public Conversations Project was invited to provide a training on dialogue for the program, which was hosted by the Graduate Program in Dispute Resolution at UMass Boston.

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