Many of us have heard rhetoric about divided communities and rising tensions in the North West of England in response to change. That change may be as a result of loss of local industry or significant jobs cuts or it may be in response to newcomers into a community who may come from different cultural backgrounds which can seem like a threat to those who, over generations, have felt that the area belongs to them. These changes can make living together as a strong community a challenge.
The Tim Parry Johnathan Ball Peace Foundation has a lottery funded programme called Communities for Peace which seeks to help communities to come together and gain a greater understanding of one another to make their area a better place to live for all.
For this programme of work the Peace Foundation has three focus points in the face of potential and actual community conflict. They are:
Firstly, to prevent conflict occurring through education in schools, communities and community organisations. The Foundation delivers a raft of accredited Conflict Transformation and Connections courses for young people (14 to 18 years), for adult residents (both “native” and new arrivals) and CPD accredited courses for those who lead in the targeted communities either through key services or within third sector community organisations.
Secondly, to resolve conflict as it occurs by working in communities to help residents understand what lies behind the conflict (for all parties concerned) and gain a better understanding of one another. The ultimate aim, through open and honest dialogue, is to discover a more effective method of living peaceably together.
Thirdly, to respond to conflict that has already occurred. For example some of our community participants have come from countries that have experienced significant conflict or war (e.g. Iraq, Iran, Syria, Gaza, Afghanistan, Rwanda, Ivory Coast). Some participants have sought asylum within the UK for themselves and their children and are now living in a new country and new community having endured significant trauma.
One of our programmes allows us to bring eight families together over a residential course called Sharing New Experiences which does just that. It gives families time to reflect on where they have come from and to consider how they might be able to use what they have experienced positively to become active members of their new communities helping to bring about positive social change.
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