Introduction to the Dialogue for Peace Programme

The need for building bridges

The world in which we live is very diverse. In fact, diversity is everywhere: in nature, in animal life and in humanity. When we look at humanity as a whole, we notice how much diversity there is: cultures, languages, ethnicities, religions, etc. Often, these differences are understood and valued as a richness. The diversity of foods and cuisines worldwide is a good example. But too often, some differences are perceived as so problematic that many people fight over them. Today, around the world, we nd many different kinds of violence linked to social con icts. In many cases, people justify violence by citing irreconcilable cultural, religious or ethnical differences, among others. Causes of con ict can be clustered in either competition over resources, differences in perceptions or misperceptions. One can argue that we value resources in different ways and therefore, we perceive resources differently. Whatever the cause of the conflict, a good part of the problem comes from misperceptions and negative feelings of one group about another. Such misperceptions can easily turn into stereotypes following which they can justify discrimination against one or more persons. Discrimination immediately creates tensions because it is based on unfair behaviour of one person or group against another. If a fair solution is not found quickly, these tensions rise and eventually erupt into violent social conflicts. There are many people who are part of communities that are subjected to discrimination based on intercultural and interreligious misunderstandings and misperceptions. When social conflicts emerge, sometimes millions of people are affected. Many may start to hate each other to a point where they no longer want to live together. Divisions grow and make communication more and more difficult. So how can we overcome such communication problems? How can we participate in overcoming these tensions and conflicts? How can we transform conflicts into opportunities for new collaborations? Through dialogue, we can learn to find similarities unnoticed before, and even come to respect and sometimes appreciate differences. Through dialogue, we come together as human beings first to find inclusive solutions to the challenges we face today. We aim to empower young people with the skills and competencies that enable them to actively participate in the decision making and resolution of community issues for a sustainable development.

Dialogue in Scouting

As Scouts, we also share a common identity that transcends national boundaries and other differences. For more than a century, our Movement has become a living proof that we can live together harmoniously by balancing both our similarities and differences. We are even learning to value the complementarity of some of our differences, making us stronger and better at finding inclusive solutions to a variety of problems, tensions and conflicts at local and global levels. How are we achieving this? Since the very beginning of our Movement, the Scout values that were developed by Lord Baden-Powell have been centred on the Scout Promise and Law. Every single member in our Movement has promised to help others in all circumstances, regardless of nationality, faith, religion, ethnicity, language, gender, age, ability, race, etc. Scouts obey the law that requires them to be helpful and friendly, as well as to smile and be trustworthy at all times. How can this be implemented in today’s world if there is no openness towards others? In Scouting, openness to all is essential in the practice of dialogue. Lord Baden-Powell once said that ‘a Scout is a friend to all and a brother to every other Scout’. This is not just a saying, it is a way of life. Being a friend to all and a brother or sister to every Scout has a universal quality that emphasises this common Scout identity and avoids highlighting differences. This is directly mentioned in the constitutional definition of the Scout Movement. This openness makes the practice of dialogue a daily reality in Scouting. For example, WOSM is one of the few international movements that has gathered members of all religions since its early days. Since its inception, it has held true to Lord Baden-Powell’s words by neither discriminating against nor highlighting faith and belief as a distinguishing characteristic. In 1996, at the 34th World Scout Conference in Oslo, the delegates recommended to the World Scout Committee and to the religious families existing within the Scout Movement to convene religious representatives through the organisation of forums under Resolution 1996-10 Inter-Religious Dialogue. The Resolution called for ‘interreligious dialogue’ within Scouting as a whole. For more than 20 years now, there have been regular gatherings of all religious organisations recognised in WOSM, under a structure knowns as the Interreligious Forum of World Scouting. Through this forum more recently, all its religious organisations have been promoting Scouting’s values and its many programmes, especially those on spiritual development. They have also been active in running Faith and Belief Zones at many World Scouting events. They show how dialogue is helping to concretise what Lord Baden-Powell once said ‘In the Scouts, each form of religion is respected, and its active practice encouraged and through the spread of our brotherhood in all countries, we have the opportunity in developing the spirit of mutual good will and understanding.’ In 2013, WOSM and KAICIID signed a memorandum of understanding to work together in this field of dialogue. Since then, KAICIID has become one of WOSM’s key partners, developing many joint activities at many events within and outside of Scouting. This started with the provision of an insightful and effective training for the Interreligious Forum of World Scouting on how organisations and individuals from different backgrounds, beliefs, cultures, ethnicities and nationalities can better communicate and work together. The programme is about how to instil dialogue in our hearts and minds as a value, rather than just a skill. It builds a foundation for dialogue in our Movement and strengthens the Scouting value system. It aims to offer a clear path to any young person wanting to become what we call, a dialogical Scout. This is one of the ways to create a better world, and to achieve global peace. The Dialogue for Peace Programme is part of the Better World Framework and the Scouts Global Network, working in close collaboration with the Scout World Programmes, Regional and national level initiatives.

What is dialogue?

What dialogue is

Dialogue is a secure means of communication between individuals or groups aimed at the exchange of views, knowledge, understandings, impressions and perceptions to reach a common understanding of the subject matter at the heart of a given dialogue. The aim of dialogue is to overcome misunderstandings and dispel stereotypes so as to increase mutual understanding. The practice of dialogue requires one to develop better listening skills to understand another person’s point of view correctly. This better understanding, however, never means that one must necessarily agree with that point of view. In the same way that we want to be understood correctly, we must strive to understand others correctly. Once this level of better mutual understanding is reached, it then becomes possible to clarify how much we agree on and how far we disagree, mutually recognising and respecting both. So, dialogue is not necessarily about finding common agreement; it is about developing mutual respect so as to build sustainable relationships. In this dialogical process, it becomes possible to nd where the common grounds are and where the differences lie. By focusing on clarifying both the similarities and the differences on any topic between two persons or groups of people, dialogue builds bridges of communication among those who are more or less different. It transforms human relations from a state of ignorance or intolerance to a state of deeper understanding and respect for what is shared and what is not. The dialogue process is greatly helped when there is a dialogue facilitator who helps to foster a safe environment between the two or more persons gathered in one dialogical space. The facilitator supports equal and fair participation among all participants in order to increase mutual understanding about similarities and differences. Dialogue creates a safe space or ‘container’ for people to surface their assumptions and to question their previous perceptions and judgments. It emphasises questioning, listening and co-creating for mutual understanding. To make the space safe, the facilitator ensures that all participants do their best to suspend their judgments and take the risk of sharing their feelings and perceptions as well as surface their deeper questions, without losing sight of the aim of dialogue: to collectively reach mutual understanding on one or more issues, possibly even finding some common grounds. By emphasizing mutual understanding, dialogue fosters an attitude of openness and of wanting to learn more about others as well as about oneself. In the process, dialogue raises better awareness, which reduces fears; it helps build and strengthen relationships. They are essential to create and sustain collaborations. These elements of dialogue contribute to the decreasing of misunderstandings and the dispelling of stereotypes. By doing so, dialogue helps to prevent, reduce and possibly even transform tensions and conflicts. Dialogue is a transformative peacebuilding method. It is transformative because it changes the individual perception of the other and therefore, of the conflict. When these changes are mutual, the dialogue transforms the relations between the parties from adversarial to respectful, opening the way to create new relationships. Dialogue helps the participant to separate the person from the problem; it also helps to see the person as an individual within a larger group that is perceived initially as adversary

What dialogue is not

Recently, dialogue has been increasingly mentioned as a non-violent method that people can utilise in resolving conflicts and in building peace. However, the term is often overused or misused to describe any efforts toward solving disagreements non-violently. Therefore, while it is important to de ne what dialogue is, it is equally important to understand what dialogue is not:

  • Dialogue is not a ‘conversation’: in a conversation, the persons engaged are simply talking with each other in a longer exchange of words, often focused on a particular topic, but open to change. There is no objective of any kind.
  • Dialogue is not a ‘discussion’ nor a ‘salon’: in a discussion or a salon, participants explore a topic with the intention to learn more about the topic, with less emphasis on the participants. In dialogue, the participants and their relationships are in the centre of the process.
  • Dialogue is not a ‘conference’: in a conference, people come to share their theories and statements in a formal setting. Dialogue is less formal and definitely not a forum for sharing theories and make general statements. In dialogue, participants are encouraged to share the personal understandings and questions about each other. At the same time, a conference may include elements of dialogue and nowadays, many conferences bene t from using dialogue methodology in some, if not all, sessions.
  • Dialogue is not ‘advocacy’: in advocacy, the objective is to rally support for your idea or a certain idea or action in general. Therefore, the intention is to convince others that your own idea and perception is the best. In dialogue, there is no intention or pressure to convince anyone about anything, in any direction. It is all about increased mutual understanding for better learning about each other firstly, and possibly about a given topic secondarily, if the dialogue includes a specific one.
  • Dialogue is not a ‘consultation’: in a consultation, the organisers get the participants to share their feedback or opinions on certain topics, sometimes to identify their needs or to come up with solutions. Dialogue is not a relationship between a beneficiary and a service provider where feedback is needed in one direction only.
  • Dialogue is not a ‘negotiation’: in a negotiation, the parties come with the aim (and pressure) of reaching an agreement. In dialogue, the intention is to learn about another person or party’s perceptions and understandings of a topic without the pressure of reaching a solution.
  • Dialogue is not a ‘debate’: in a debate, each party comes to prove that their ideas are the right ones and disqualify the other party’s ideas. In dialogue, participants come to learn about each other, rather than teaching each other or prove each other wrong.
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