Insight on Conflict [IoC] is a unique resource for everyone interested in the activities of grassroots peacebuilders. It provides access to the inspiring and valuable lessons of those living in conflict areas and working for peace. IoC provides comprehensive overviews of selected conflict areas and detailed information about organisations and initiatives working for peace in those areas.
I’ve been engaged off and on as a conflict resolution expert on the Insight on Conflict initiative by PeaceDirect for a little over a year now. Their beta website is online now, which is where I found an interesting initiative titled Peace Connectivity Programme for Religious Clergy.
A programme to introduce the Buddhist religous clergy to non-violent conflict transformation processes through providing training in English language, ICT and peace building skills.
Conducted by the Centre for Peace Building and Reconciliation it’s a fascinating initiative that when you first read it, sounds an oxymoron – teaching non-violent conflict transformation to Buddhist clergy brings to mind the old adage on carrying coals to Newcastle.
However, as the description of the initiative mentions:
The current voice of the Buddhist clergy is not favourable towards a non-violent solution to the ethnic conflict. The majority perceive the establishment of a dominant Sinhala-Buddhist ideology in the country as being crucial to safeguard the nation. The non-violent conflict transformation process so far in the country is seen as giving away the power and authority the Sinhala Buddhists have in the country. Since they are an influential group in the decision making process of the country in relation to the conflict, their voice for peace can make a difference in the pending war situation in the country. It is important for the Buddhist clergy to have exposure to non-violent conflict transformation strategies to be able to trust in such a process in Sri Lanka.
Therefore the project aims to provide the Buddhist clergy with awareness of new trends and mechanisms of conflict transformation. Teaching English, computer skills and peace building aim for this. Thorough this they would be able to have a wider exposure to the conflict transformation processes throughout the world and how non-violent conflict transformation strategies that are in alignment with Buddhism have been employed successfully in different contexts, as the movement of engaged Buddhism that was practiced in Vietnam and truth and reconciliation commission in South Africa.
Further the initiative expects to improve the Buddhist clergy’s familiarity with the Tamil culture and language through the Tamil language lessons.
This expects to mobilise the voice of Buddhist clergy for peace and through them, influence both the community and the policy making level.
The challenges facing anyone who tries to reach out to the Sangha in Sri Lanka to bring them more fully into the peace process as constructive social change agents are not insignificant, as this paper highlights.
To use ICT to facilitate this process is a novel idea and one that I will definitely keep my eye on.