Qatar Students Study Conflict Resolution in Rwanda
March 19, 2009 – During spring break, 12 Georgetown students from the School of Foreign Service-Qatar traveled to Rwanda to research conflict resolution through a new co-curricular program offered on the campus in Doha, Qatar.
In a country only 15 years removed from genocide, the students took part in the program called Zones of Conflict, Zones of Peace (ZCZP).
Organized by SFS-Q Deans Brendan Hill and John Crist, ZCZP provides students with the basic concepts of conflict resolution and teaches them the role that history and culture plays in igniting battles.
“(ZCZP) is meant to be a way for our students to apply theories of conflict management to specific examples of conflict at various stages of their development,” says Hill, SFS-Q associate dean of student affairs. “Students then apply these various ideas in specific case-studies.”
For seven days, the Georgetown students focused on the aftermath of the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, where the government has launched a comprehensive program of interethnic reconciliation, grassroots peacemaking and transitional justice as a response to the systematic human rights violations that once occurred. The trip also allowed students to explore complex themes related to memorialization, forgiveness and reconciliation in the wake of traumatic violence.
An extensive itinerary had the students participating in Umuganda, a national community service day; visiting several important genocide memorial sites; sitting down with high-profile administrators and independent researchers to discuss genocide courts, also known as gacaca, and the Unity and Reconciliation Commission; and meeting the victims and perpetrators of the genocide that occurred during the 1990s.
Ibrahim Al-Derbasti (SFS-Q’10) says the experience in Rwanda was overwhelming. “You can only learn so much from the readings,” Al-Derbasti says. “(We saw) images that will always stick in the back of our mind. “(What we saw), are no longer statistics.”
In addition to learning about Rwanda’s history and culture, students say the trip allowed them to bring what they learned back to campus.
“ZCZP showed us the root causes (of the conflict) through the eyes of … a myriad of actors and what role they played in the conflict,” says Margaret Mullins (SFS’10) referring to one of the sessions designed to further familiarize the students with the conflict.
Mullins, a Main Campus student who is studying in Qatar this semester, says Rwanda provided the group with a real-life case study and seemed to add responsibility on them to share the things they saw with others. “The class gave us deeper meaning and understanding (as we experienced) Rwanda,” she says.