Photo Credit: Peter Williams/WCC
[WCC] Students attending a three week course at the Bossey Ecumenical Institute near Geneva have learned about communication and peacebuilding, with the hope of serving as peacemakers in their own contexts. Young Jewish, Muslim and Christian students attended a workshop led by Marianne Ejdersten, director of Communication at the World Council of Churches (WCC). The students have earned a Certificate of Advanced Studies in Interreligious Studies, which is accredited by the University of Geneva.
Ms Ejdersten spoke about the pivotal role of communication in peacebuilding. “Communication for peace creates chances for people to consider and value nonviolent responses to potential and actual conflict. Communication for peace works because it reveals backgrounds and contexts, listens to all sides, exposes hidden agendas and highlights peace initiatives, regardless of religion, sex and gender,” she said.
With a fellowship of 348 member churches, communication for peace is crucial to the work of the WCC, she said. “We aim to be a catalyst for change – for a world with peace and justice at its heart. Through our platforms, we can make a difference to conflictual situations by telling positive stories that bring hope.”
During the workshop on communications, Ejdersten shared one of WCC’s most recent peace-building campaigns, Seek#JusticeandPeace in the Holy Land, that invites participants to meet 12 people with different backgrounds sharing their hopes for justice and peace in the Holy Land. “Resources are made available on our website to our members to use in their own contexts. The WCC has had a longstanding commitment for peace efforts and justice in the Holy Land since 1948, when the WCC formally founded.”
The students were keen to learn what makes a great peace communicator. “We are all peacemakers,” said Ejdersten. “Communication for peace is all about our attitude. The worst barriers to peace can be words and the way we tell our stories, in a way that we do not understand each other. To do communication for peace, you need to keep your eyes, ears and heart open, monitor what is happening, expect the unexpected, travel to unusual places and speak to those who are most affected by the situation,” she said.
Communication for peace calls for the involvement of all sides: a lesson reflected in a communiqué issued by the students on 13 July upon completion of their course. The communique reads, in part: “While recognising that dialogue requires much work and trust, we find the inclusion of each individual voice an invaluable part of the journey toward just peace.”