Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Thomas Hill teaches AUIS students Peace Building skills

By Salman Ahmed Rasul

                                                      Photo by Noor Aljanabi- AUI-S Voice 
        From left to right: Fahmi Qasem Saied, Sheikh Fuad, Othman Agha Zangana, and Hill discuss the Kirkuk issue.

The Center for Peace and Security Studies sponsored several different events during the last two weeks for Professor of New York University, Thomas Hill: two workshops about peace-building on Jan. 4 and Jan. 11, showing Pray the Devil Back to Hell movie on Jan. 9 and inviting a team of Kirkuk Council of Notables to address and discuss Kirkuk’s issue peacefully on Jan 10.

Hill is a Clinical Assistant Professor at New York University’s Center for Global Affairs, where he teaches peace-building. Hill invited officially by AUIS to be a part of these events.

“I came to AUIS officially for the first time in March 2010 and conducted a workshop that I believe was four days long,” he said.

“It really helped to introduce this idea of peace-building to students here at the university. I do not think it was an idea that most students had known about before. So, that was the primary value of it. I think it was a chance to open their minds to a new subject.”

To keep the idea of peace-building alive in students’ minds Hill decided to have a second workshop and to go deeper. According to what Hill said the workshops gave the a students chance to work more intensively on how the concepts of peace-building can be applied both in their own lives and all the way up to the international level.

“We spent time working on specific skills in peace-building, things like perspective taking, communication and conflict analysis, and really trying to understand them better,” Hill said. “Now, these skills can be put to work in pursuit of peace-building. So, the purpose was to give students the chance to work and think more deeply about the subject. And I was very happy because students came into the university during days that were holidays to do this work with me, and the number of students was not big.

But I felt the students who were there were very energetic and interested in the subject. And actually, by the end of workshop we were taking very much about working to go further to do more.”

About the main purposes of the workshops, Nathaniel L. Rosenblatt, assistant of the research centers said, “The purpose of the events is to expose students to different ideas, theories, and practices in resolving conflicts.” Rosenblatt said the Center for Peace and Security Studies has three main components: national reconciliation, post-conflict reconstruction and the national strategic initiative.

“The reason why we brought Mr. Thomas Hill from the New York University Center for Global Affairs is to be a part of that process,” Rosenblatt added. “His workshops, his panel discussion and the film were all about how you get people who dislike each other very much to start talking to each other, to start working together, to build economic freedom, social freedom, political freedom, and that is what has to happen in this country to normalize.

And how do you get to a point where you are an open and tolerant liberal democracy in a country that has been a dictatorship for thirty years.”

Another part of Hill’s journey at AUIS was addressing the Kirkuk issue by organizing a panel discussion about this matter.

“The panel discussion was intended to give students and others at the university some new knowledge about efforts that are taking place to make peace in Kirkuk,” Hill added.

“Very often people here, even though Kirkuk is not very far away from Sulaimani, people hear only about the violence that happens there.

And so this was really an effort to help students see that actually there are many people in Kirkuk who are working diligently to build peace, and in particular, the Council of Notables which consists of both tribal leaders and other prominent leaders in Kirkuk society from all of the different ethnic groups.

It is trying very hard to intervene and situations where bloodshed might occur, or prevent greater bloodshed than already has occurred. The idea really was to open people’s minds a bit to thinking about the role that community leaders and tribal leaders can play win building peace in Kirkuk and other places.”

“That was my second time taking part in peace building workshops,” Pola Kamal, 23, an academic student, from Kifri. “The more I participate, the more I become committed to

build peace. I participated in the panel discussion. It was an excited event and informed his about the members’ two-edged role in a democratic country.”

“The workshop was a golden opportunity for me, because I learn a great deal about peace building and conflict resolution which is extremely essential for us as Iraqis people, and in a broader sense to the Middle East,” said Shwan Sharey, 23, a junior international studies student, from Sulaimani.

“I hope AUIS will open a field of peace building and conflict resolution studies because according to a Global Peace Index by the Institute of Economics and Peace in 2010, Iraq is the last country which ranks 149, so, AUIS will involve making a better place for all of us. Hill said that it was the second time at AUIS to show a film about peacemaking.

The last movie he showed was about peace building process between Palestine and Israel called Encounter Point. This time the movie was about women peacemakers in Liberia, their efforts to make changes in Liberian government, ending civil war and inter-religious peacemaking because the one of the two women is Muslim and the other one is Christian.

This article first appeared on 

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