Bridging cultures to defeat conflict

This morning I had great conversation with Liana Paris, a young woman who is making her life an example for everyone out there. My Rotary club is sponsoring her to be an ambassador in the Arab country of Jordan. I admire Liana for her determination and clear vision for her future. Liana is building her career in global awareness and international conflict resolution.

There is a principle valid across the board: communication helps reduce and prevent conflict. This principle is simple and effective in the smallest form of community, such as a friendship or a romantic relationship. We have all been in a conflict with someone who did not understand our point of view, our intimate beliefs — or vice versa, we did not understand the other person’s perspective. Most of the times we get upset not because we disagree on a given issue, rather because we feel like the other person does not respect our convictions. Conflicts can be resolved or avoided if the quality of communication between the two parties increases. That is, if both parties make it a point to listen to the other and learn the other person’s culture.

The same principle works in larger communities as well, such as a church context, an organization, or among neighbors. I have had many chances to experience how true that is in my own congregation. To give you an example, different generations have different ways of expressing the same faith. Two groups will be in a generational conflict, until some people from both generations start having a dialog about the nature of their beliefs and the roots of their traditions. When we make an effort to understand the other, we activate the most effective form of preventive conflict resolution.

My friend Liana is applying that principle on an even larger scale. She is committed to immerse herself in a culture that, in many ways, is opposite to her own with the purpose of bridging her culture and the one she is exploring. Liana takes to her Arab friends a picture of America that they do not get from traditional media broadcasts, she shows them the face of millions of Americans that do not necessarily agree to our current foreign policy. She also keeps a blog which allows us, on this side of the globe, to understand what it’s like to be immersed in that culture. She brings a picture of the Arab/Muslim society that we do not get from the mainstream media. Liana is bridging two cultures.

Hopefully, the people she comes in contact with, from both sides of the spectrum, will be more aware of a culture that is so different than their own. Hopefully, a better knowledge of “the other” will bring less demonizing and more understanding. Hopefully, coexistence will take the place of intolerance, and peace the place of conflict.

Liana’s life journey inspires me. I believe, the kind of bridging work she is involved with is what our world needs for a better tomorrow.

Wherever we are, we can be bridging agents. Starting within the intimacy of our household, to our neighborhood, to our friendships, to our world. We can make a difference just by making an effort to understand one another.

Find Liana’s blog in my links (From Paris to Amman).


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