Ameerah is volunteering with The Linking Network and shares her thoughts on TLN events.
Bradford Council and The Linking Network hosted an event for Council Employees and others to see the work Solutions Not Sides are doing in schools around Bradford. Sharon, the director of Solutions Not Sides introduced the event with an overview of the work they do in bringing forward the voices of progressive young people working in peace organisations across the region of Palestine and Israel.
Speakers on the current tour, Ibrahim from Palestine and Yair from Israel, have themselves been involved with such organisations. Before the tour, Ibrahim worked with Seeds of Peace, a regional charity linked with Solutions Not Sides. Yair has worked with the Encompass Trust, a British organisation aimed at promoting dialogue and engagement between groups in conflict.
At the event, Sharon explained that the aim of Solutions Not Sides is to promote a non-partisan attitude towards the conflict that recognises the human rights of all individuals. This open-minded attitude the programme promotes enables students to learn the complexities of the conflict whilst exploring the many view-points involved.
The message emphasised by Solutions Not Sides is not to put forward one ultimate truth, but to help students find diverse perspectives to addressing the conflict and possible solutions. The speakers delivered really well received, thought provoking sessions in secondary schools across Bradford through the week.
The Solutions Not Sides team then gave a brief overview of how school sessions are taught, with the speakers sharing their personal stories with the council members. Both Ibrahim and Yair spoke about how they themselves have chosen to deal with the situation and offered the group an insight into life on the ground, and a prism through which to see that. It was apparent that the point of the exercise Solutions Not Sides facilitates is not to solve the conflict, but to stimulate thinking in a different way. The goal of Solutions Not Sides is to challenge preconceptions of the conflict and spread an acknowledgement of individual rights that should be respected in any framework and supported by an international community.
Later in the session council members and other attendees fed back to the Solutions Not Sides team, speaking about how valuable it is that the programme emphasises the human element to the conflict and how powerful it was to hear the speakers working together and sharing their human story.
Sharon ended the session by mentioning the follow up opportunities Solutions Not Sides provides for young people. Once a month, a google hangouts meeting with an Israeli and Palestinian is facilitated to discuss current issues relating to the conflict. The programme also hosts a student leadership residential, which provides an opportunity for young people aged 18 and over to spend a week in London, joined by speakers from the region, to further their knowledge of the situation. At the end of this week, the students then participate in a model peace initiative where they take the role of the different countries involved in the conflict with the aim of drafting a plausible solution both sides can agree on. As well as this, Solutions Not Sides compile weekly news updates taken from Arabic, Hebrew, US and UK news sources summarising the important issues of the week regarding the region.
Most importantly, Solutions Not Sides intends for students to take away the simple message of the desirability of peace over conflict. Interestingly, in school sessions students have often related this critical thinking of conflict resolution to their own lives and experiences, and even to UK politics. In aiming for this, Solutions Not Sides promotes the breaking down of barriers in recognition that we may not all have to agree, but we can talk and ultimately respect one other.