Monday, June 12, 2017

Peace Lab 2017

By Anne de Graaf

Tomorrow we leave for Kosovo. Erik and Chiara (a former student who will be returning for the third time) and I will take 20 AUC students back to the heart of Europe. Every year is different. This year, as was this time last year, we share Ramadan with our Kosovar-Albanian friends. But a big difference is that this year, there was an election held yesterday! And today, the results are still coming in and the ramifications for Kosovo could be huge--huge, in terms of accountability among the soon-to-be Kosovo Prime Minister who is wanted for war crimes by Serbia, and huge in terms of future prospects, as the political party that gained the most seats may take the country in a very non-EU direction. Because there are so many parties, this will clearly be a coalition government, but which coalition?

The AUC students this year come from a wide variety of backgrounds: Czech Republic, Poland, France, Norway, Netherlands, Peru, Germany, Finland, Pakistan, Italy, UK, and Canada. We've had the talk about perspectives and understanding. And we've been studying Balkan history this week--so complex and rich.

I never cease to be amazed at the power of this experiential learning. The students will be adopted by their Kosovar-Albanian host families, and we will spend two days in the Serb enclave of Mitrovice, hearing different stories and understanding various perspectives, where the UN will lend us their bus and their people and we will pick their brains about the practical aspects of peace.

In my lecture at the beginning of the week, introducing the course, I spoke about how we piece peace together, locally, nationally, and internationally. And we defined peace as something we may know within ourselves, between people we have relationships with, and among the nations. For a long time now I've been thinking that the leaves of the Tree of Life at the end of the Bible, where it says the "leaves are for the healing of the nations" really refer to our stories. Each of these students brings their own story to this trip, and they will gather others' stories and we will listen and hear and try to understand. In the increasingly deeply divided society that is The Netherlands, Western Europe, the EU, the World...I believe that everyday peacebuilding involves the simple act of listening to one another.

As these students listen in Kosovo, they will be studying peacebuilding, peacekeeping, and peacemaking. Their projects will vary from interviews to films to the role of food in peacebuilding...and everything in between. Please read this blog regularly (sign up to subscribe in the upper right-hand corner by typing in your email address!) so you can follow all our adventures! And may we all hope to find the courage to engage in the stories and viewpoints of those different than us.

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