SMU Dispute Resolution students and guests share insights from Rwanda experience

SMU Dispute Resolution faculty, students and guests, in collaboration with ALARM (African Leadership and Reconciliation Ministries), recently traveled to Rwanda to deliver peacebuilding and peer mediation training. After returning to Texas, the group shares their individual experiences with the Rwandan people and insights on what we could all learn about peace.

SMU Group, in collaboration with ALARM, (Left to Right): Elizabeth Blake, Ben Voth, Chris Snyder, Betty Gilmore, Husain Abdullah, Sarah Davenport, Samreen Hooda, Ashley Aguilar, Lori Anne Shaw

Dr. Betty Gilmore, SMU Dispute Resolution Program Director
“I believe that we learned more from the Rwandan people than they learned from us. Despite unthinkable adversity, there are many areas in which the country is thriving. The entire nation has committed to sustainable peace.

What touched me most was the resilience of the human spirit and the ability of people who have caused such harm to each other to come together to rebuild a nation. I hope that we can all learn from the gift they have given us with their example. If a country learning to forgive under such extreme conditions can heal, why can’t we? We must put aside our differences, look for the things that unite us, and realize that we are better together.”

To read more about Dr. Gilmore’s experience, visit: 

Ashley Aguilar, MA Dispute Resolution, Class of 2017
“I have never witnessed selflessness like I did in Rwanda. This quality was exhibited by everyone I encountered. Every person was more concerned about the well being of those surrounding them, than that of themselves. I’ve seen people with this quality before, but never have a seen this in everyone surrounding me on such a large scale. The Rwandan people have shown me what it truly means to live selflessly. We could use selflessness to build peace here. If we could teach more people the benefits of perspective taking and vulnerability and shift the paradigm, then I think selfless acts and decisions could follow. Imagine living each day for something more than just yourself. I felt blessed to be a part of it.”

Elizabeth Blake, MA Dispute Resolution, Class of 2017
“The Forgiveness Villages in Rwanda in which victims and perpetrators of the 1994 genocide live and work together were by far the most bold and courageous systems of peace and reconciliation implemented in country. Our group was able to visit one of the Forgiveness Villages in Nyamata, Rwanda to hear testimony from victims and perpetrators. They use civil discourse processes as a means speak their truth, share their personal narratives, hear testimony of victims AND perpetrators, and work toward peaceful resolution, and ultimately forgiveness and repentance.

Americans generally do not participate in civil discourse as a means to understand other perspectives, and American media tends to promote political and social polarization. Hatred and division have become the norm in American culture. Civil discourse involves great courage, compassion, and desire to understand the other person. Rwandans have mandated conflict resolution curriculum in schools as a means to teach children from a young age how to listen for understanding, show compassion for the other, and resolve conflict in their families and communities. Imagine the compassion, tolerance, and cohesion the next generation of Americans would have if we started teaching them conflict resolution when they first start school. Imagine the possibilities!” Continue reading “SMU Dispute Resolution students and guests share insights from Rwanda experience”

Now Accepting Deposits for Summer Study Abroad 2017 in Athens, Greece

The SMU Center for Dispute Resolution and Conflict Management is pleased to announce the study abroad course option for Summer Term 2017 will be located in Athens, Greece. The new course, led by Dr. Betty Gilmore, will focus on the use of dialogue as a tool for peacebuilding in divided communities.

The course, Building Peace Through Understanding: Using Dialogue to Bridge Cultural Divides, will run from June 17 until June 24. Students participating in the course will have the incredible opportunity to work with an NGO conducting dialogue processes with local community groups on polarizing issues. In addition, student participating in this course will have the option to use the course to fulfill the internship or independent study requirement.

Scholarships available for current Dispute Resolution master’s and certificate students. Cost and additional information can be found on the Dispute Resolution Study Abroad webpage.

Globally, we are faced with difficult public issues stemming from intolerance, shifting political climates, inequity of resources, and civil unrest and immigration. This, among many other complex issues has created intense conflict and polarization in communities, threatening to tear the fabric of society apart and often resulting in violence. This course will explore a valuable and effective tool for promoting equilibrium; it is through the use of dialogue processes. This is a powerful form of peacebuilding that brings divided communities together and often results in appreciation of differences and lasting peace. Greece has been in the throes of the crisis for some time, and they have reached out to various non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to assist in dealing with the critical problems dividing their communities. Students in this class will examine methods for building peace through understanding and communication as well as participate in an incredible opportunity to work with an NGO conducting dialogue processes with local community groups on polarizing issues. Since Greece is not the only nation facing conflict, the skills learned from this course will be transferable to all community conflict.