By Felipe Bueno
The Center for Peace and Conflict Studies at Seton Hall University held a two-day conference on April 4-5 called “All Conflict is Local: Personal Experience, Reflection, and Conflict Resolution.” This conference was a unique opportunity for students from zones of conflicts studying conflict and reconstruction to present their research to the School of Diplomacy faculty.
The conference was organized by Dr. Zheng Wang, director of the Center for Peace and Conflict Studies, a specialist in global negotiation and conflict management, and an expert on the Asia-Pacific region.
Dr. Wang was inspired by the Global Conflict Resolution and Peacebuilding course he is teaching this semester, and stressed to the students, “This is your conference.” He emphasized that it should be unique to them and not simply something that could be found on Wikipedia.
The first day of presentations began with opening remarks by Dean Andrea Bartoli, who praised Dr. Wang for the creativity of the conference.
“Conversation is dangerous,” stated Dean Bartoli, “but injustices must be discussed for the sake of the victims to conflict, and for the betterment of society.”
Four panelists presented their work on the localized conflicts occurring in all parts of Africa.
Dosso Kassimou, a Seton Hall alumnus, spoke on the ethnic and social tensions between groups in Newark and the importance of culture and historical sensitivity. As a community organizer in Newark, he shared his personal experiences of working with the ethnic groups in the city. On the motivation for any peace process Kassimou said, “Everyone wants to have a good life and sense of belonging, and it is this common want that will bring people together.”
Graduate student Phumla Ngqawa-Adesanya presented on embracing diversity for African integration, and on South Africa’s conflict with the continent of Africa. Sizakele Mdluli spoke on the domestic effects of the 2015 xenophobia attacks in Durban, South Africa.
Aboubacar Diaby, a crowd favorite for his vivid and energetic delivery, spoke on the ethnic and religious conflict in the Central African Republic, saying, “Conflict is part of the human being, but to move forward one must understand the causes of a conflict, and if we don’t fix those fundamental issues, the problem will simply resurface.”
Following the presentations, various professors gave their feedback, including Professors Assefaw Bariagaber, an expert on conflict in Africa and a founding faculty member of the School of Diplomacy, Andrea Bartoli, and Philipp Fluri, this semester’s Sergio Vieira de Mello Visiting Chair.
The second day was much less regionalized, with five groups presenting on conflicts from all over the world. Tabish Forugh, a Fulbright scholar, spoke on Afghanistan, from where he hails. Sister Bosco Ebere Amakwe discussed the religious crisis in Nigeria. Nadjedah Jean Simon spoke about her personal experiences with the conflict in Haiti. Professors Borislava Manojlovic and Sara Moller were invited on stage afterwards to comment on the presentations.
The last two presentations were group panels on Cyprus and the Basque peace process. The Cyprus group included students who participated in the study abroad trip during spring break, and they discussed missing persons and abandoned areas. The members of the Basque Research Team discussed the localized effects of the conflict, a comparative analysis with the Colombian terrorist group FARC, and how the Basque region will deal with the Syrian refugee crisis.
Following the presentations, closing words were delivered by Senior Associate Dean Courtney Smith and Dr. Wang, both of whom expressed interest to make the conference an annual event for the benefit of the students.
The conference was relocated from its original location to the Chancellor’s Suite in the University Center due to increased demand