In June 2017, I took part in a peace-building and conflict transformation program called CONTACT, hosted by the School for International Training in Brattleboro, Vermont. It was the missing piece I needed to apply my anthropological training to issues that really matter.
Our class had 35 people from 14 different countries: Kenya, Uganda, Democratic Republic of Congo, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Armenia, Nigeria, Cameroon, USA, Canada, and more. The course, directed by Bruce Dayton, teamed up with Musicians without Borders, directed by Laura Hassler. While some of us practiced bringing people together around music, others trained in bringing people together around dialoguing, mediation and negotiation, yet we were all there for a common purpose: to build peace.
Aside from a full day of classes, we managed to make the time to learn from one another about what is happening right now in different parts of the world. I learned first-hand perspectives on political, economic, and social issues from my new friends and colleagues--all of whom are presently building peace among diverse communities of people in their respective countries that are currently at war. My experience was so eye-opening, inspiring, thrilling, and educational, that I have decided to start a blog dedicated to the subject.
For the past month since the end of the program, I have been collecting and transcribing stories from my friends. I could not wait to publish them formally, so I will start here and now. It is my hope that my colleagues from the CONTACT program and others worldwide will contribute to our collective education and understanding of worldly conflicts in a way that our media just does not portray.
The following are stories from people on the ground with no major agenda for political power. Humans necessarily have their own perspectives on any situation; these stories are not objective, but they are real, based on true events that happened in these writers' and story-tellers' lives, told from their perspectives, and always with the goal to establish peaceful communities that that respect diversity of lifestyles. From these stories around the world, I believe we can increase cross-cultural understanding, tolerance, and celebration for vastly different ways of life that share common human needs: Shelter, food, health, love, education, community, the arts, productivity, and prosperity.