Various nations, governments, organisations and individuals have committed to maintain peace and prosperity. The world has made progress in this mission over the decades, that’s for sure. However, many of problems and crisis we are facing today also seem to be endless and widespread – especially for those living in warzones, suffering from cruelty and poverty.
At Nong Chok district in the suburb of Bangkok, Thailand, different groups of youth from diverse backgrounds– students, social activists, psychologists – from conflict-hit places came together for a week-long conference-workshop on “Youth in Conflict Areas: Healing and Peace Building Through Social Engagement”.
group of youths (some are social movement activists and psychologists) from diversified countries- all beyond 20 years old- who are working with people who are vulnerable from war or conflicts and had been experienced themselves by numerous of conflicts gathered inside the cooling class of International Institute of Peace and Development Studies (IIPDS) under the workshop named, “Youth in Conflict Areas: Healing and Peace Building Through Social Engagement”.
Held from August 25 to 29 at the International Institute of Peace and Development Studies (IIPDS), all the participants were made to do lots of activities including sharing their personal experiences, learning and understanding from each place’s issues and finding theoretical approaches and bio-psychosocial model to be part of problem solvers for their respective communities. The workshop was made possible by the Asian Resource Foundation, IIPDS and Asian Muslim Action Network (AMAN).
Secretary-General of Asean Resource Foundation, Mr Abdus Sabur, said that the workshop is just among the five course offered by IIPDS that aim to enable young social workers and youth groups who are directly affected by conflicts and social inequalities to come together and learn about each other, create relevant and helpful activities, understand the root causes of conflicts and formulate significant solutions to the problems of their communities.
“Our purpose is to allow those youths to understand critically about the origin of the problems and their impacts to individuals and the general public, and learn to analyse them theoretically. We also have some lectures and activities to let them know how to analyse those conflicts well and put them together to share what should be done to transform those conflicts into peace-building solutions.
He added, “Aside from that, we also invited a professor who has experienced many years working as psychologist in conflict-hit areas from the Department of Psychology of Thammasat University to give lecture on bio-psychosocial model of trauma healing for participants on the second day of the conference. Not only that, we allowed them to have exposure visit in community and reflect what they can learn,”
Since most attendees come from organisations based in conflict-hit areas, Mr Sabur expressed great hope that they can take advantage of the course and lectures, and apply them accordingly to the situations they face in their areas.
Heng Samnang, a Cambodian participant whose works are centered in arts and culture, said that though her job is seemingly not related to the conference’s agenda, she has proven that arts is also a tool to heal trauma, not only psychological approach.
“I think the workshop enhanced my profession since it is centered on trauma healing process and techniques. I got to know youths in post conflict-hit areas who still deal with the issues. I have known how psychologists and social workers work to heal adults and children’s trauma and how the media, NGOs, civil societies, governments and other institutions can help to prevent more conflicts and social inequalities,” Ms Samnang said.
Ms Samnang added that the lectures and activities conducted during the week-long conference had been a great help for her to improve her workshop management on peace building, create new networks with people from other countries, and apply her learning to her own country.
Rehna Sultana, a social activist from Assan in northeast India, shared the same sentiment. Ms Renha said that she got interested in joining the conference because she personally come from an area where social conflicts have become a daily dilemma. She shared that the workshop enhanced her knowledge on the kinds of conflicts different places are going through and how she can help create a more peaceful world.
She added, “I learned from the workshop how to work in a group with confidence. I met many people from conflict-hit areas and learned about their stories. It seemed that we have common problems, common situations and our feelings are also same. So we should work together towards international peace building.”
Because of the open and friendly environment and the significant lectures and activities that went very smoothly, the “Youth in Conflict Areas: Healing and Peace Building Through Social Engagement” workshop became an avenue for youth to feel that they are all connected to each other and that they can build a better world if they all act together.