Peace-builders wanted

February 27, 2018


Contact: Kate Casa 802-258-3527

CONTACT summer program seeks to inspire a new generation of peacebuilders

Students posing for camera at Vermont campusCONTACT program two men and three women in classClassmates chatting with each other and laughing BRATTLEBORO, Vermont – One of SIT’s most impactful initiatives, the Conflict Transformation Across Cultures Peacebuilding program (CONTACT) will bring together peacebuilders from around the world June 4-22 in southern Vermont.

Every year, CONTACT draws a select group of up to 40 participants from conflict zones to interact with each other across identity, ideology and geography. Their work is particularly resonant as the world experiences a resurgence in what CONTACT Director Bruce W. Dayton calls “the old and perilous belief that coercion and the use of force is a reliable instrument for security, stability, and peace.”

A growing body of evidence shows that the peace-building concepts that form the basis of the CONTACT program -- principled negotiation, mediation, non-official diplomacy, intercultural exchange, intergroup dialogue, nonviolent actions, and soft power -- are more effective and durable ways to achieve change and security both at home and abroad, Dayton said. “My hope is that the CONTACT Summer Peacebuilding Program can help to inspire a new generation of peacebuilders from around the world to find their voice and reject the exclusionary and suspicious tendencies that seem to guide the policies of so many of our political leaders in this dangerous age.”

CONTACT draws senior, mid-level, and grassroots peacebuilders from fragile conflict and post-conflict zones as diverse as Afghanistan, Iraq, Liberia, Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Colombia, Bosnia, South Africa, Tibet, and Northern Ireland.

The program is also relevant to people who work in a U.S. context, such as police officers and youth program leaders. “CONTACT is all about breaking down the barriers between people and groups, exposing participants to ideas and cultures that they don’t understand and may even feel hostility toward,” Dayton noted.

Muhammed Hussain participated in the CONTACT program in 2016 and 2017. Today, he is based in New York, where he specializes in inter-religious dialogue with the Peace and Education Foundation of Islamabad. “The experience and exposure that CONTACT provides enhances efforts to build communities, transform conflicts, and stand together internationally for peace and justice," Hussain said.

Among the program’s more than 1,000 other alumni are Maliha Hassan, deputy attorney general of Afghanistan; Dishani Jayaweera, director of the Center for Peacebuilding and Reconciliation in Sri Lanka; Vahidin Omanovic, founder and director of the Center for Peacebuilding in Bosnia; and Joseph Sebarenzi, former Rwandan parliamentarian, U.S. Treasury official, and author of God Sleeps in Rwanda. Sebarenzi is also a lecturer for this year’s program.

CONTACT participants may choose a certificate track and/or apply the program toward graduate-level credits. Click here for more information about this year’s program and how to apply.