Conflict resolution

4th February 2000 at 00:00
NORTHERN IRELAND: Roots of Conflict, Routes to Peace. Northern Ireland Working Group of the National Peace Council. National Peace Council. pound;9.99, special price pound;7.99. DEALING WITH CONFLICT: from Confrontation to Co-operation. Edited by Dorothy Darkeand Barbara Rustin. Sessions of York. pound;15.75 + pound;3.65 pamp;p.

In the world of virtual conflict the citizens of Ug put their hair up and think it odd and dirty to have hair around their face and shoulders. In the land of Uggo people let their hair down and find it odd and stuck up to tie it back. In the real world, Kate from West Belfast has a criminal record at 19 and her mum overdoses when the IRA orders her daughter to leave the country.

On another continent, Elias sees a religious Jew with a gun in his belt walk past a security guard in a shopping mall. Elias, a Palestinian, is the one who is searched.

These citizenship packs deal with the bloody conflicts between strangers who share land. Both give accounts of the roots of the conflicts with accessible and necessary chronicles of events which are impressively up-to-date: one includes the Good Friday Agreement, the other covers Ehud Barak's election.

The approach in both packs is at all times balanced and factual and reflects the credentials of the originators - the National Peace Council and the remarkable village of Neve ShalomWahat al-Salam (the Oasis of Peace) whose Jewish and Arab residents have chosen to live together. The latter pack uses 20 statements reported by the Jerusalem Post newspaper to help students identify bias, as well as statements which simply reflect a particular and often distorted view of the world. The Northern Ireland pack uses profiles of an IRA recruit, an innocent victim and a member of the RUC to show how personal perspectives and prejudices affect not only judgements but actions.

At the heart of both pack is a set of activities exploring the processes of conflict and conflict resolution. Both require students to understand the historical context.

The profile of Colin Parry is the starting point to suggest activities for children at the new Peace Centre in Warrington. In Dealing with Conflict, students map the Arab-Israeli conflict from different points of view and use chronology to develop empathy with both sides. The strength of both is that they put the students, whatever their background and allegiance, into an actual theatre of conflict and challenge them to analyse it from religious, historical, geographical and politicial perspectives. If used in a sensitive way, these packs should make major contributions to the develop-ment of emotional literacy.

The inclusion of conflict resolution exercises should encourage students to reflect on differences that exist within all groups and how agreement can be achieved. It is, of course, difficult for these to be entirely situation-neutral. In the Northern Ireland pack, the exercise "The majority shall prevail" highlights the unfairness that can result from majority decision-making.

What both conflicts show us is that progress can be made by individuals who are prepared to listen, share and trust. The packs will not create a just and peaceful society by themselves, but they should make a major contribution to the development of citizenship skills and to tackling immediate school problems such as bullying and inter-racial incidents.

Mark Williamson is general adviser for humanities and religious education in the London borough of Hounslow. Dealing with Conflict is available from Sessions of York, Ebor Press Division, Huntingdon Road, York Y031 9HS. Tel: 01904 659224. Northern Ireland is available from the National Peace Council, 88 Islington High Street, London N1 8EG.Tel: 020 7609 9666

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