Communication major reflects on her semester in Norway, engrossed in peace studies and global conflict resolution
Initially, I was apprehensive about the idea of spending a semester abroad. But I soon learned after arriving in Norway that I was more prepared than I’d imagined. Although I didn’t know Norwegian, and I had previously taken only one political science class, it was comforting to realize that PLU had provided me with a solid foundation: an open mind and a desire for peace.
PLU played an important role in the dialogue seminar even though the campus is thousands of miles away. PLU helped establish greater connections and understanding among representatives of long-warring factions from the Balkans. - JENN HENRICHSeN '07
Through my course work at PLU, I had developed an interest in dialogue as a means to resolving conflict. This interest led to my discovery of Steinar Bryn’s work at the Nansen Academy (Nansenskolen) in Lillehammer, Norway. Nansen is an organization that assists people worldwide living in war zones or conflict areas to work toward democracy, reconciliation and peace through the process of dialogue. After a flurry of e-mail exchanges in May 2005, I was rewarded with an enriching internship in Norway working with Steinar Bryn at Nansen.
In Fall 2005, I participated in a 10-day seminar that included six Albanians and six Serbians from Kosovo. At a minimum, I expected verbal sparring between the Albanians and Serbians. After all, the two ethnic groups have been in conflict for many years. Strict security checkpoints, segregated schools and different religions have only served to increase cultural separations.
At one point, the topic of media was introduced in the context of Kosovo’s future. Both groups suggested the formation of a media network that would disseminate accurate information about the conflict; information normally twisted by mainstream news media.
I suggested that group members might respond to inaccurate or biased coverage by writing letters to the editor or op-ed pieces to their local newspapers. My suggestion was based on the reasoning that even if such submissions weren’t published, the strong likelihood existed that these pieces would be read by someone, and could create space for change in readers’ minds. But after suggesting this, I realized the potential danger for anyone who took such a public stance against the conflict.
However, one Albanian participant immediately suggested that letters could be signed “from a multi-ethnic group.” Doing so might have even greater impact than letters from individuals.
PLU played an important role in the dialogue seminar even though the campus is thousands of miles away. Through its partnership with Hedmark University College, its close relationship to Steinar Bryn, and the creation of Cliff Rowe’s peace journalism course, PLU helped establish greater connections and understanding among representatives of long-warring factions from the Balkans.
These experiences at PLU and in Norway have underscored remarks made recently by 2005 Nobel Peace Prize winner Mohamed ElBaradei, director of the International Atomic Energy Agency.
“War delays solutions,” said ElBaradei, noting that dialogue and agreement are the answers. To work toward solutions that benefit all, “we need to put our differences aside.”
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