Syria Crisis: “Peace talks” begin at community level
As “Geneva 2”, a high-level peace conference for the conflict in Syria, begins today, Malteser International is promoting conflict transformation at the community level. A community center for Syrian refugees and the host population in Kilis, Turkey, run in cooperation with the Turkish NGO International Blue Crescent (IBC), has provided conflict transformation trainings for teachers, who then apply the concepts they’ve learned in schools – helping to break the conflict cycle for future generations.
The community center, opened last November, has already trained 50 teachers on topics such as conflict analysis, mediation and negotiation, and peace education in a humanitarian context. “The trainings have promoted a more open dialogue in the classrooms,” says Oliver Hochedez, Malteser International’s emergency relief coordinator. “The teachers are now better equipped to talk to their students about peace and conflict in Syria, and some of them have even started their own groups for peace-building and youth empowerment activities.”
The center also offers language classes in Turkish, English and Arabic as well as computer classes to both the Turkish and Syrian population. More than 500 have enrolled in the courses so far. “These classes will help improve communication between refugees and hosts, as well as give them useful skills to find a job,” Hochedez says.
Hundreds of refugees dealing with trauma as a result of the conflict have also sought the center for psychological and social support. “Both children and adults find a peaceful and joyful place at the community center, where we help them to replace their painful war memories by talking and playing with them, helping them feel safe, comfortable and optimistic about the future,” Hochedez added.
The community center is being run by IBC with technical support from Malteser International and funding from the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development. The goal of the project is to increase both the acceptance of Syrian refugees in the host communities as well as the resilience of Syrian civil society through capacity- and community-building.