Najeeba Syeed-Miller, director of the Center for Global Peacebuilding at Claremont Lincoln University, spoke with students and faculty Thursday at the University Club about peacebuilding.
Her visit to ASU is a part of the Hardt-Nickachos Lectures in Peace Studies organized by ASU’s Center for the Study of Religion and Conflict.
“Conflict resolution is actually a professional opportunity to do mediation of business disputes,” she said. “There are now classes in this field at law school and at the graduate level. The actual practice of conflict resolution is a mature alternative to the use of adversarial systems of justice.”
Syeed-Miller teaches conflict resolution techniques to communities across the world. Her knowledge has been sought out by trainers who resolve disputes in India, Latin America, Guam, Afghanistan, Israel and Palestine.
In addition, she has worked in the U.S. conducting gang interventions and teaching diversity training to universities and public agencies. She said that conflict resolution has now become a professional practice.
There is still a great deal to learn about how religion manifests itself in conflict situations, Syeed-Miller said. She also discussed what the cost of peace may be to different communities.
“When we engage in peace education, that particular word may not have the same resonance for everyone at the table,” she said. “When I’m engaging in inquiry, I have to understand what the contextual, historical (and) linguistic articulations of peace are within that community.”
History professor Yasmin Saikia, the Hardt-Nickachos Chair in Peace, said the choice for Syeed-Miller as a guest lecturer was a natural one.
“She does peacemaking, conflict resolution, and since we are trying to develop this more and more at ASU and not just read about it, we sought her out,” she said.
Saikia said what resonated with her most about the lecture was the focus on putting into practice the peacebuilding teachings of religions, rather than strictly adhering to textual evidence.
“I thought it was interesting that she said, in regards to religion, not to look at text but to take away some of the practices such as, what did Jesus do to make peaceful communities,” Saikia said. “How can we emulate those practices in interpersonal relationships?”
Biological sciences sophomore Diala Manfoukh said the lecture offered insight into how peace may be implemented and why its differing definition among communities can often create problems.
“There was more than one definition of peace,” she said. “Peace came with different perspectives and different people. What I think is most important is first finding peace within our own country and then going outwards and helping others.”
Syeed-Miller said in her closing remarks that dialogue is of the utmost importance, especially when the identities of people involved are oppositional to one another.
“In most conflict situations we are engaging perhaps less than one percent of the population in actual interpersonal contact,” she said. “Human contact is the key to moving relationships and transforming them.”
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