Mediators Beyond Borders’ 7th International Congress: Dangerous Dialogues and Courageous Conversations: Peacebuilding in the 21st Centur
Bucharest, Romania April 23-26, 2015 

 While we were not in Bucharest for very long, our time there was inspiring and fruitful. The Mediators Beyond Borders Congress brought together over 200 peace mediators from around the world, from mediators working with youth in public school in Los Angeles to those working to broker peace between the Philippine government and armed groups to those at the front lines of trying to quell sectarian violence in Kenya.  A theme that emerged throughout was that of the risks faced by mediators in these contexts, from threats of physical harm to vicarious psychosocial trauma, and the ways in which to grapple with them.  ATC’s 90-minute interactive workshop then on “Creative Approaches for Support: Arts-Based Dialogue for Building Professional Support Amongst Mediators” was not only timely, but well-placed for these proceedings.

We had 20 workshop participants who were either mediators themselves or had some connection to peacebuilding and worked in a wide range of contexts. As we moved from introductions to non-verbal representation to deeper listening and reflection exercises, it was clear even in the short amount of time we had that participants were building bonds and a sense of commraderie --  they shed tears, laughed, exchanged contacts, and generally felt safe with each other, even if for that short time.  

Some sample quotes from discussion that more concretely indicate the resonance of our work to peace mediation:
“It doesn’t take long to create a bond.  The potential to bond more and more people.”

“It was very interactive experience and nice to meet people and to see what I am good at and what I’m afraid of. And seeing that there are people like me.”

“I felt the space was safe and I’ve got lots of things to think about.”

“I find it inspiring. I work in a local setting and knowing that there are a lot of ways of speaking of conflict and want to learn more about the methods.  Wish more time to learn.”

“I would hope more people would dare to use body language and it is much older than verbal language and is much faster and deeper.  Getting this work to a larger stage.”

“It kind of connects to the slowing down. Giving people another language other than words, in conflict words get tired and can be trigger points.  It engages everything.  Not just a floating head.”

These reflections further drive home the point that programming geared toward ‘helping helpers’ to build support spaces should continue to be a critical component of our work and research.  It also opens an interesting arena for ‘training of trainers’ in terms of engaging more deeply with those in helping professions (peace mediators, educators, social workers, etc) to provide responsible training on utilizing applied theatre techniques in their own work.
 
Outcomes from this workshop and conference, which we are continuing to follow-up upon:
·         A number of requests for partnership and further trainings from mediators from Greece to Indonesia.

·         Request to write-up our workshop and thoughts on peace mediation and theatre for The Journal of Mediation & Applied Conflict Analysis