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Religion Diplomacy CSS Blog

Mediation Perspectives: Using Religious Resources to Teach Negotiation and Mediation Skills (Part 2): Christianity

Courtesy of jan.tito/Flickr. (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Mediation Perspectives is a periodic blog entry that’s provided by the CSS’ Mediation Support Team and occasional guest authors. Each entry is designed to highlight the utility of mediation approaches in dealing with violent political conflicts. To keep up to date with the Mediation Support Team, you can sign up to their newsletter here.

The purpose of today’s blog, which is the second of a multi-part series, is to illustrate how Christian religious resources can be used to teach negotiation and mediation skills. (To learn about the broader criteria of applying these resources, see my previous blog here.) Specifically and provisionally, what I would like to focus on here is what the Bible says about the ‘when’ and ‘how’ to negotiate and mediate. The ideas that follow were inspired and tested in a workshop in 2016 organized by the Zimbabwe Peace and Security Program with the Heads of Christian Denominations (HOCD) representing the main Catholic, Anglican, Evangelical and Apostolic Christian church formations within the country.

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Development Conflict Diplomacy CSS Blog

Mediation Perspectives: Professionalizing Mediation through Negotiation Simulations

Illustration by Howard John Arey

Emotions are high and words are flying fast, when suddenly the head of the negotiation delegation gets up and leaves the room. There have been numerous tactical walk-outs during the past 24 hours of marathon negotiations to reach a peace agreement, but this time things are different. Just when the parties are close to signing, one of the delegations is told by their government to insist on an additional clause in the final document. The other party refuses to accept the change. The minutes tick by with frantic efforts by the mediator to find a last minute solution acceptable to all. However, all is in vain. The head of delegation feels it would be a bad deal for her constituency and she still distrusts the other side – so she walks out for good. Both parties blame the other side for the subsequent escalation of violence.

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Audio/Video Culture

Johnny Mad Dog: A Film on Child Soldiers, Played by Former Child Soldiers

Former child soldiers / Screenshot: Johnny Mad Dog Foundation
Former child soldiers / Screenshot: Johnny Mad Dog Foundation

A small group of Center for Security Studies staff watched the film “Johnny Mad Dog” today. It’s a war film played by former child soldiers of Liberia, filmed in Liberia about one and a half years after the actual war (1998-2003).

The Johnny Mad Dog Foundation was created with the aim of bringing a framework and support to the actors in the movie, most of whom fought with Charles Taylor or the Lurd Forces.

The film is highly graphic, difficult to watch and absorb at times, as it shows very realistically the utter mess of urban warfare in contemporary Africa. The crazy way the kids dress seems total fiction, until one sees the photos of the actual child soldiers during the Liberian war.

In the making of the film, former child soldiers were interviewed, and they were very clear that they wanted to tell their own story, give a voice to the unspeakable experiences they had been involved in, how they were manipulated, so that in their turn they start manipulating and violating others.

Academics and even staff of ‘conflict resolution’ NGOs often work with texts, juggling concepts, theories and methodologies. In contrast, this kind of film puts a human face on to violence. It reminds one of the brutality that comes with conflict and the emotions that are conjured.

Once the war ends, the suffering continues, and it is extremely difficult for former child soldiers to find a place in society. However, it is not as though they have become war machines, the film shows how aspects of humanity remain, how they can switch their emotions off, but at times also on again. Video extracts from the film can be seen at TFM Distribution.

According to the Child Soldiers Global Report 2008, there are many tens of thousands of child soldiers in armed forces and groups, in about 19 different countries.

You can find more about the issue of child soldiers on the ISN website.