December 8, 2022 – Earlier this year, WPDI’s team in Chiapas, Mexico, oversaw a training program for 43 teachers in San Cristóbal de las Casas and 105 students from the Colegio de Bachilleres COBACH 67 in the municipality of Petlalcingo. This program was developed in answer to the recent increase in violence and conflict in the area. Each program lasted 3 months, with 33 hours of courses for participants. A wide range of topics were covered, including the purpose of conflict resolution, violence and peace, the escalation of conflict, the roles of emotions – an important role in conflict, positive conflict and negative conflict, and the importance of forgiveness and empathy for achieving genuine, heartfelt peace. The courses also covered technical concepts, such as the triangle of violence (understanding violence as being either direct, structural or cultural), and tools for conflict resolution such as active listening as assertive communication.

WPDI’s role was deemed to be very important by the local teachers. To note, it is them who came to us asking for assistance in the face of the growing number of conflicts among students in their schools. WPDI-trained Youth Peacemakers are activists who often grow up in violence-ridden neighborhoods and have experience dealing with such situations. Theirs is indeed a precious expertise to help communities improve their capacity for cohesion and resilience.. The workshops they ran focused on the notion of meaningful learning, working within the different groups to achieve a sense of community. Practical activities calling for changes of roles and demonstrations of empathy were at the core of the teaching.

Focusing on the transformation of everyday attitudes and behaviors, WPDI’s Conflict Resolution Education program is designed to help individuals acquire and disseminate a culture of peace and cooperation in communities that have sometimes suffered for years if not decades from violence and instability. To uproot the deeper drivers of conflict, the work of our peacemakers is first to help members of such communities find inner peace, so that they are able to see conflicts in a different light, and react to them in a positive, rational way.

Mariana, one of the teachers who participated in the course underlined how the WPDI workshop provided her with a different perspective to conflict resolution: “Through the Conflict Resolution workshops, I have thought about all the things I have done wrong.I have listened to myself, looking for the reasons for my actions and understanding that many times they caused pain or sadness to others. I learned about the path I must travel to be at peace, it is not easy, but it is a gift for me and my environment to know that it is not necessary to reach violence to show strength, to recognize my mistakes and know the places that are not healthy for me. I recognize what is violence, what is conflict and what is peace, it has given me hope and a challenge of change for me, a positive change that I will be grateful for all my life, because first I must forgive myself, forgive others and ask for forgiveness when I have hurt someone without realizing it. I am willing to be more observant, to listen actively and speak positively, with empathy. Thank you very much WPDI for giving me the opportunity to know Peace!”

WPDI takes pride in the ability of its Youth Peacemakers to teach such difficult yet vital subjects in an innovative and dynamic way. Teaching these topics in an engaging manner is indispensable indeed if these fundamental lessons are to become ingrained into participants so that their subsequent reactions, behaviors and approaches are transformed in a positive way. Norma, another participant, felt that the course succeeded in reaching her and her fellow students: “I thought that the workshops were very good, because they were dynamic and learning in that way is a good thing, many times I confused violence with conflict and I thought that it was something that nothing could be done, that I could not change. But now it serves me, because I know that if I have a conflict with my friend, my teacher or with my sisters, I can talk and that the other person is also right, I do not always have to win, the other person must have their share of gain. I liked it very much and I hope they continue teaching us these topics, because it feels good to solve conflicts.”

The ultimate goal of such programs is to strengthen the power and knowledge of young people in peace so that they can not only enact peace and reconciliation around them but also transmit those skills to others, encouraging a cascading and multiplier effect, which is fundamental to WPDI’s vision for peace.

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