Young people attending a recent workshop in Manama put on by the Bahrain Foundation for Dialogue learned how to uphold and foster the values of tolerance and peaceful co-existence amid a time of regional conflict.
"Development of Peace and Compassion: The Tools for Conflict Transformation" was held as part of the foundation's Tolerance Week activities in observance of the International Day for Tolerance which falls on November 16th every year.
For any step to be taken towards peace and co-existence, there must be "courageous people" who are able to make peace and take the helm of change, armed with humility, wisdom and humanity, said workshop trainer and Chilean researcher Mary Ann Muller.
Addressing a group of Bahraini youth of both sexes at the November 13th to 15th workshop, Muller said the "development of peace and compassion is a painstaking process that requires a lot of patience and time to bear fruit".
It "relies on the peace makers’ motivation to bring about change and on their empathy towards all the parties to the conflict on a humanitarian basis, without regard to ethnic, religious or political affiliation", she added.
Workshop participant and University of Bahrain student Mohammed al-Imali, a member of the Youth Entrepreneurship Association, said his interest in the topic emanates from the narrow societal views on tolerance and acceptance of others.
"I am a young man living in a society that to some extent does not embrace the acceptance of others," he told Al-Mashareq. "We need to acquire some skills and bring together different opinions in order to find solutions to our social issues."
"There ought to be a different view of reform that is not one-sided," he said. "The road to peace should be paved collectively, and we ought to accept each other without rancour."
Change starts "within ourselves", al-Imali said, adding that people need to sit with each other and share their ideas and concerns in order to achieve reform and reach compromises that satisfy everyone.
Mainstreaming peaceful principles
The workshop comes as conflicts wreak havoc on the region, driven by political motives and sectarian strife, said workshop participant Saleh Mahdi, a youth care specialist at the Bahraini Ministry of Education.
It is important as it seeks to mainstream the principles of peace and reconciliation in order to foster inner peace and then externalise it and propagate it in order to effect social reform, he told Al-Mashareq.
"The art of resolving disagreements centres on the propagation of real peace among the youth, and getting rid of the false ego requires intensive exercise and contemplation of the nature of the ego in every person," Mahdi said.
"The geopolitical, geographical and sectarian disagreements are artificial and being fueled by those who have an interest in seeing our countries divided and feuding," he said. "A peaceful and conscientious person is not fooled by such illusory matters."
Harmony despite differences
Sajjad Hameed, an Indian residing in Bahrain, said he found the workshop inspiring and is keen to attend future workshops held by the foundation.
"I am interested in learning all that can be learned in a fast-changing world, particularly in regard to the methods of resolving and analysing conflicts, assessing their root causes, finding solutions to them and seeing things from a different perspective," he said.
Hameed said his home country is rife with disputes and conflicts, adding that "every crisis is bound to have a solution and a way out, wherein everyone can live in peace and harmony".
"The secret of the success of any reconciliation lies in how to get all involved seated at the same table to engage in dialogue and reach an understanding, and to seek common points of agreement versus points of disagreement," he said.
"We must learn how real peace achieves all humanitarian principles and propagates harmony and amity among all the various ethnic groups and sects," Hameed said, noting that this requires patience and perseverance by all parties.