UK resident Hassan Hassan giving leadership training in Mogadishu
Peter Riddell
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26 October, 2015

Refugees as Rebuilders

Peter RiddellAs Europeans oscillate between fear and compassion at the sight of the masses of refugees entering Europe, one thought which probably hasn’t occurred to many, is that among these people are potential rebuilders of their war-torn countries.

This is already happening in Somalia. After 20 years of statelessness and warlord control, large numbers of diaspora Somalis from around the world are returning to rebuild their country. This is despite the challenges of personal security, corruption paralyzing newly-formed institutions, and the determined bid of violent groups to destroy even as they rebuild.

Those who return are carrying with them countless lessons from their observation of their host societies, which consciously or unconsciously inform their approach. IofC, with its aim to ‘inspire, equip and connect people to address world needs, starting with themselves’ has made a small contribution to this process.

Over the last 10 years the weekly Agenda for Reconciliation (AfR) meetings at IofC’s London centre have provided a forum for refugees from Somalia and other Horn of Africa countries to meet on a platform of reconciliation. The simple formulation of IofC’s four moral standards and the search for divine guidance enables people of different faith traditions to build trust among each other and to work together on matters of common concern. Also fundamental is a willingness to acknowledge the harm that we have caused each other, as individuals and as nations, and to heal relationships by serving each other.

UK resident Hassan Hassan giving leadership training in MogadishuIofC’s insights into the moral and spiritual foundations of democracy, and skills of communication, leadership and conflict resolution, were initially developed in the task of rebuilding countries after the First and Second World Wars, and are now of vital use to others in a similar situations.

Training in Dialogue Facilitation is the foundation course, because refugee communities bring with them all the divisions that caused their countries to collapse. Lessons in active listening and non-violent communication are among the first steps to recovery. One Somali British, who recently attended an AfR meeting after some years’ absence, told us that ever since receiving training in Dialogue Facilitation in 2008, he has been enabling conflicting groups to meet each other in Somalia.

In the last 12 months, a group of Somalis have taken part in a Training of Trainers programme to deliver Dialogue Facilitation courses in Somalia. They are now seeking funding to enable them to make an exploratory mission to two regions of Somalia.

Eritrean colleagues, whose compatriots are also numerous among those seeking asylum, are also seeking similar support for their community as they wait for the time when it will be possible to return to their country.

This is a task to which anyone can find a way of contributing wherever they are. But it does start with welcoming refugees properly.

Photo on right: UK resident Hassan Hassan giving leadership training in Mogadishu

Peter Riddell is a National Coordinator and Convenor of Agenda for Reconciliation, IofC-UK.

NOTE: Individuals of many cultures, nationalities, religions, and beliefs are actively involved with Initiatives of Change. These commentaries represent the views of the writer and not necessarily those of Initiatives of Change as a whole.

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