Saturday, March 19, 2011

Nansen Dialog: A Model to Bring Healing

Dr. Steinar Bryn is a Norwegian peace studies specialist who serves as Project Director for the Nansen Dialog Network which was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize along with Dr. Bryn.  His presentation at the Nobel Forum included plenty of nuggets that I am eager to implement as we seek ways to bring healing 150 years after the US-Dakota Indian War of 1862.   His wit and wisdom drew me to attend two of his lectures during the Forum weekend.  And the Nansen's birth as a result of the Winter Olympics in Lillehammer parallels my journey to peacemaking after attending a Winter Olympics, so I felt an automatic connection.

I really enjoyed the opportunity to chat with Dr. Bryn, his lovely wife and with Orlyn Kringstad of the Oslo Center-US, dreaming of how to use this model in the next two years in Minnesota.  (Bryn received his PhD in American Studies from the University of Minnesota and Kringstad lives just a few minutes from my home in Bloomington...what are the chances of all of our lives intersecting here in the Land of 10,000 Lakes?)

The Nansen Network’s mission is to contribute to reconciliation and peacebuilding through inter-ethnic dialogue between strategic individuals and groups that have strong influence or decision-making power in deeply divided communities.  Since 1999, Dr. Bryn has conducted many dialogue seminars, mainly between Serbs and Albanians from Mitrovica, between Macedonians and Albanians from Macedonia, and between Croats and Muslims from Mostar.  He has also facilitiated joint sessions with larger groups, including seminars in Bethlehem and Jerusalem with Israelis, Arabs, and Palestinians. The Nansen Center 1) uses dialogue as the idea and method to assist people who live in deeply divided communities in finding conflict resolution through negotiations 2) establishes a neutral space where people who live in a conflict situation can meet face to face and have dialogue, to listen to each other, and to try to understand the opinions of each other, thereby breaking down negative enemy images and rebuilding relationship.  The project seeks to build the respect for democratic principles, human rights, and peaceful conflict resolution.  These principles provide an alternative to unbending nationalism and ethnocentrism. I'm eager to start implementing some of these ideas...

“No realist politics in a civilized society is imaginable unless it is based on love of one's neighbor, mutuality, helpfulness and trust. This is the rock upon which all human cooperation must be built.”
                                         -- Fridtjof Nansen, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate (1922)