What we mean when we say “Dialogue”

When people hear the word “dialogue,” often the first thing that come to mind is a group of old religious leaders having a polite conversation and making an official statement about the things on which they agree. But even though high-level dialogue between religious leaders is important, people are right to point out the limited impact such “dialogue” can have on the lives of ordinary people.

When we say “dialogue,” we mean so much more.

We believe there are at least four different types of dialogue that brings groups of different religions together: dialogue of the hands, head, stomach, and heart.***

Dialogue of the hands – Serving together for the common good of our local communities. By picking up trash together in a public park, sharing meals together with impoverished families, or helping elderly families with home repairs, we change our interfaith relationships from a competition of ideas to an opportunity for collaboration. Dialogue of the hands allows us to stand shoulder-to-shoulder to work together, recognize common goals, and build friendships as we collaborate for the common good.

Dialogue of the stomach – Sharing good food together. Showing hospitality, enjoying conversations over meals, and simply having a good time is another way to build rapport and friendship. As we welcome one another into each other’s homes and places of worship to eat together, people from other faith backgrounds are no longer “them” but become part of “us.”

Dialogue of the head – Learning together about our similarities as well as understanding our irreconcilable differences. When we start with or only engage in theological or theoretical conversations, we can easily build walls rather than bridges because of important theological differences. However, when we work to build friendships in other ways such as collaborating on projects and sharing meals together, then it is helpful to also reduce misunderstandings and learn about our differences by engaging in conversation about what we believe in. We believe that even our theological and ideological differences can be celebrated, not because we will agree with one another, but because listening to different understandings of God and truth will force us to empathize and grow in character to love our neighbor.

Dialogue of the heart – Loving one another and being transformed by relationships with one another. The goal of dialogue isn’t that we only learn things intellectually about one another or that we simply do service projects together. The goal is that we might know, learn from, and ultimately love one another. As we engage in this heart-to-heart dialogue, appreciating and learning from one another’s uniqueness, we believe that people in each religious community will become agents of transformation in their own congregations and the wider community as a whole.

 

*** Josh Daneshforooz frames dialogue in these four ways in his book, Loving Our Religious Neighbor: Fruit of the Spirit in a Multi-Religious Culture. We’d highly recommend reading it for yourself!

Skills to Deal with Conflict

In Mali Koraci’s training for children about how to deal with interpersonal conflict, “Encouraging Children to Accept Differences,” we share several simple skills that help all of us learn to deal with conflict in healthier ways. Skills in nonviolent communication and behavior help us relate in healthier ways to family members, friends, classmates, and colleagues. These skills also provide an effective way for us to deal with larger conflicts between groups.

1) Look into the eyes of the person with whom you are in conflict.

The first step is to make eye contact. When we are in conflict with one another, we often avoid eye contact. When we manage to look at one another, we see emotions, pain, and anger, and as a result, we humanize the person across from us. We see that he or she is also just a human being who requires care.

2) Say the name of the person with whom you are in conflict.

The second step is closely related to the first. In conflict, we often say, “She’s like this!” or “He’s like that!” When we look into another’s eyes and say his or her name, we begin to draw closer together, and our reasons to stay in conflict grow smaller.

3) Indicate / clarify what is bothering you.

Sharing what is upsetting each of us in a conflict is essential so that each party can know why the conflict is happening and how we can move towards transformation. It is important to use speech without diagnosing, labeling, or judging. It is best to speak descriptively, holding to the facts.

4) Say how you would hope to resolve the conflict (what are your needs).

Without focusing too long on the past, it’s important to find a way forward together. By asking for what we need, we can help one another be more sensitive to each other’s needs in the future. Often steps #3 and #4 look quite simple: “You did that before, but in the future, can you please do this instead? Such and such a behavior would help me.” When we ask one another for concrete changes in behavior so that all of our needs are met, it becomes possible to live with less tension, frustration and conflict.

These four steps aren’t always easy, especially when we have been trained to either avoid conflict altogether or just give the “right answers” rather than share the truth of our experience about how we are bothered or hurt by something someone has said or done. However, we believe that as we learn to practice these four simple steps in our everyday relationships, interpersonal conflict and even large conflicts between groups can be significantly reduced.

Encouraging Children to Accept Differences

From April 2016 to March 2019 and in partnership with the Mennonite Central Committee, Mali Koraci will be implementing the project “Encouraging Children to Accept Differences.” Using peace-building methods to decrease divisions between children from different ethnic groups, Mali Koraci trainers will teach tools for dialogue and mutual understanding, referencing faith as a motivation and a source of energy. Then, the children will experience direct contact with those of different ethnic groups, “the Other,” by building friendships, practicing the skills they’ve learned and celebrating their accomplishments together.

The Little School of Interfaith Bridge Building

In twelve different cities with significant interethnic animosity around BiH, religious teachers who have previously participated in Mali Koraci training programs will invite a total of 120 children to participate in a one-day session called “The Little School of Interfaith Bridge Building.” In these sessions, twelve groups of participants, each with ten children from the same ethno-religious group, will learn about the basics of non-violent communication. They will learn about steps they can take when they are in conflict with anyone, from a family member to friend or class mate.

Practical Interfaith Bridge Building

After the “Little Schools of Interfaith Bridge Building,” each group of ten children will be paired with another group of children from a different ethnic community to continue their training in six “Practical Interfaith Bridge Building” sessions. These one-day workshops will provide opportunities for these children to practice what they’ve learned by role-playing in an imaginary conflict, laughing together and building friendships with people from different communities, and discussing nationalistic messages and reasons for war and peace.

Children’s Peace Festival

In December 2018, all 120 children participants will meet together in Sarajevo to do art workshops and celebrate with plenty of music and dancing.

After three years of building friendships across ethnic and religious barriers, these religious teachers and children will be empowered to return to their schools and cities around BiH as ambassadors of change. We as Mali Koraci staff look forward to planning future joint activities together in which we cooperate with a growing movement of religious teachers and students throughout Bosnia and Herzegovina who are working to heal our society.

BE ACTIVE AND ACT!

BE ACTIVE AND ACT!

Budi aktivna i djelujBelievers for Peace, a group of Catholics, Muslims, Orthodox, and Protestants from Southeast Europe which promotes peacebuilding and a culture of nonviolence based on their faith, issues a call for action as we enter 2015.

Over the last year we have observed with concern the rising number of examples of intolerance towards followers of Islam which is presented as resistance to terrorism most clearly expressed through the spread of the so-called Islamic State.  Continue reading BE ACTIVE AND ACT!

4th International Peace Week in Sanski Most

Mrs. Amra Pandžo, director of the Association “Small Steps”, will be attending as a lecturer on the 4th International Peace Week in Sanski Most. The whole program is consisted of many skills and workshops related about peacebuilding. All participants will have chance to improve their knowledge on field of peacebuilding. In the following tekst you can read the whole program of activites: Continue reading 4th International Peace Week in Sanski Most

Member of the Small Steps on the Radio station Vogošća

At the 7th of December the members of the Small Steps, Muamera Sulejmanović and Dženan Karač, have been attending and talking on the radio station Vogošća, about Human Rights. The program has been realized by the women’s educational center Kevser, and the main topic was International Human Rights Day on 10th of December. The activists were talking about implementation and respecting of the Human Rights in Bosnian society, their activities in Small Steps, and the future plans of the organization. Continue reading Member of the Small Steps on the Radio station Vogošća

List of donors 2012

Dear partner, we announce new Directory of donors, which donate grants for projects in Bosnia and Herzegovina. We found a huge number of them, which are unknown in our country, although most have particular field for supporting. We hope that you will find some of them from the list below, which is able to support your projects. Small Steps wish you successful realize of your project.

Mreza za izgradnju mira, Direktorij donatora, januar 2012