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Young Nigerians Illustrate Life Beyond War

13 June 2012 No Comment

Libby and Len Traubman

Libby and Len Traubman
United States/Nigeria

“Person-by-person, nothing replaces face-to-face relationships — neither armies nor treaties, not intellectual analyses, diagnoses, theories, or peace education.”

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First Relationships 

“How can we have peace if we don’t build relationships?”  The plea and key to life beyond war emanates from African Ikenna Ezeibe in the new 2012 film DIALOGUE IN NIGERIA: Muslims & Christians Creating Their Future.  Ezeibe was among the 200 adversaries – courageous young women and men who united successfully in Jos, central Nigeria, the center of recent brutal violence that echoed worldwide.

Refusing to be enemies, they were together during days and evenings of the 2010 International Conference on Youth and Interfaith Communication.  Crossing lines of religion, economics, tribe, and gender, they transcended the status quo and discovered empathy for each other.  Listening-to-learn, they dignified themselves and the “other,” realizing that “an enemy is one whose story we have not heard.”  Face to face in small circles, they began with ice-breakers and continued in depth, discovering one another’s equal humanity – fear, grief, needs, hopes, and concrete plans for a shared future.

Phoebe Kaburuk, Nigerian Television Authority anchorwoman and journalist, captured it all for American Marigold Fine to edit the award-winning documentary.

Time-Tested Tools

The cinematic success was no accident, emerging from hard-won best practices from half a world away.  Nigerian planners implored us to facilitate amidst regional brutality, based on shepherding the 19-year-old Jewish-Palestinian Living Room Dialogue in California whose hundreds of inspiring outreach endeavors resulted in films like:

  • DIALOGUE AT WASHINGTON HIGH
  • CROSSING LINES IN FRESNO
  • PEACEMAKERS: Palestinians & Jews Together at Camp

“This is what we need in Nigeria,” thought the Jos educator and convenor Emmanuel Ande Ivorgba, living in the midst of seemingly intractable controversy and unspeakable brutality.  The African innovator shepherds the Jos-based host New Era Educational and Charitable Support Foundation.

Peace is “Peace X Peace”

Person-by-person, nothing replaces face-to-face relationships – neither armies nor treaties, not intellectual analyses, diagnoses, theories, or peace education.  Authentic change begins at the heart, without which fear disables creativity and limits the brain to rationalizing old thinking and mean acts in the illusion that there is somehow individual survival.  Eye-to-eye engagement transcends our human default setting of “taking sides.”  Understanding expels ignorance.  Intimacy replaces disengagement, transforming fear to trust and releasing unprecedented creativity for the good of all.  The means are the ends in the making.

This imperative “public peace process” was defined in the 1990s by Dr. Harold Saunders, former U.S. Assistant Secretary of State.  Saunders defined this epoch of the 2000s – The Citizens’ Century:  “There are some things only governments can do, such as negotiating binding agreements. But there are some things that only citizens outside government can do, such as changing human relationships.”  This life is about “people work, not paper work,” we learned from Ms. Dishani Jayaweera from Sri Lanka.

We Need Stories to Re-direct History

“People become the stories they hear and the stories they tell,” says educator Elie Wiesel.  So change requires (1) doing it and (2) telling the story of our human successes.  This is the full meaning of the spectacular 2010 Nigerian engagement of Muslim and Christian women and men.

It is the principle behind the hard-won creation of the 2012 documentary Dialogue in Nigeria, and why it is not sold but gifted and mailed from its website cost-free to any bridge-builder on Earth who will use it. Surprise and concrete hope appeared when DVDs were requested in the first three months from 46 nations, including many military bases.

At the conference

Animating Global Community

The Nigeria-U.S.A. conference-facilitation-film project is what cooperative, direct peace can be.

Principles of engagement proved to be universal – exportable between continents, nations, cultures, religions, schools, and families.  Nigerian-U.S. co-facilitation avoided imposing, but simply made activities easy – facile – for all.  Creating the film required Nigerian videographers and transcribers, teamed with American editors.  Today, the story lives for all humankind on both Nigerian and U.S. social media and on DVD to instruct others to replicate fruitful contact on the road to creating our better global  community – one, neighbors forever.

Dependable Faith

We two grassroots volunteer facilitators – a practical couple, wife and husband for 45 years, garden-variety Americans – traveled from California to Nigeria unknown to them, fully understanding that “faith is not sitting down on a chair that isn’t there.”  Behind us was 30 years as average citizens simply willing to help bring together “enemies,” including Soviets and Americans, Armenians and Azerbaijanis, and for two decades Palestinians and Israelis – Muslims, Christians, and Jews.

2010 in Nigeria affirmed our experience-based faith that “the soul’s oldest memory is of union, and the soul’s deepest longing is for reunion.”  This is the closing message of the 2012 film and should jumpstart the reader to promptly invite people into small circles – the beginning of the end of war.  Larger circles, then governments will follow.

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Libby Traubman, a retired clinical social worker, helped organize the 1991 Beyond War conference for Israeli and Palestinian citizen-leaders resulting in a historic signed document, Framework For A Public Peace Process. She co-produced three films modeling a new quality of listening and communication – PEACEMAKERS: Palestinians & Jews Together at Camp, DIALOGUE AT WASHINGTON HIGH, and CROSSING LINES IN FRESNO. For her community service and global influence, Libby was inducted into the San Mateo County Women’s Hall of Fame.

LenTraubman co-founded with Libby the 19-year-old Jewish-Palestinian Living Room Dialogue of San Mateo, now preparing for its 242nd meeting. For 30 years he has helped bring “enemies” together and has published on successful public peace processes from personal experience with Soviets and Americans, Armenians and Azerbaijanis, Jews and Palestinians, and Muslim and Christian Nigerians. He co-produced the new 2012 documentary DIALOGUE IN NIGERIA: Muslims & Christians Creating Their Future.  A retired pediatric dentist,  Len was the 1998 Distinguished Alumnus of the University of California School of Dentistry.

Libby and Len, married for 45 years, live in San Mateo, California, USA.  They are parents to a daughter and son and grandparents to two boys and a girl.

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The views and opinions expressed by the author do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Peace X Peace.

 

 

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