Now that the Israeli government and the Palestinians have reached a deal to cease hostility, I thought it would be timely to share this op ed from the NY Times on “Peace Through Friendship,” http://www.nytimes.com/2014/08/24/opinion/sunday/peace-through-friendship.html?_r=0.
A simple title, a very complex political conflict. And yet, the research reported (by two profs at the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business) affirms what we would want and hope to believe –that “forming a relationship with even just one person from the other side of a conflict” creates a new frame of mind and positive attitudes which are sustainable.This research was conducted with participants in the longstanding program of Seeds of Peace (a 3-week summer camp bringing together hundreds of youths from diverse conflict areas).
All of us who call ourselves international educators care deeply about the formation of positive bonds of friendship which can occur through experiences of living & learning in other cultures. So this ray of sunshine from examining the outcomes of a “soft” process of intimate interpersonal relationship-building deserves our attention. The research disabuses those who view such programs as naive or sentimental and without lasting outcomes.
So for those on campus (anywhere on the planet) who work every day with international students, perhaps this research also affirms efforts to increase and strengthen programs of intercultural interaction between host country and international students. One student at a time — “better to light one candle than curse the darkness.” Is there any alternative?
We need to light one candle and keep it burning. International students need nurturing to ensure that their needs are being met as obstacles appear on a daily basis. That nurturing can come from their host families, but it needs to come from all aspects of their environment, especially the educational arenas. Light the candles, but make sure they never extinguish. That light is invaluable!