Alliance Youth Affairs Spokesperson, Michael Long, has just returned from Norway after addressing workshops on religion and children at the International Student Festival in Trondheim (ISFiT ’99). The festival is held every two years, and is one of the most prestigious international student gatherings. The opening ceremony was addressed by Norway’s Minister for Human Rights and letters from Tony Blair and other world leaders were read to the delegates.
The conference, which took the theme ‘Solving Conflicts’, attracted over 600 student delegates from 101 countries. Most of the world’s main trouble spots were represented, including Sudan, former Yugoslavia, the Middle East and East Timor.
Speaking on his return, Mr Long said:
“I really enjoyed the opportunity to discuss conflict resolution with people from such a diverse range of backgrounds and I learnt a lot from how they have attempted to resolve political difficulties in their own countries. I particularly admired the satellite address of the former Israeli Prime Minister, Shimon Peres who called on delegates to ‘change the future, not repeat it’. In Alliance, we are committed to this principle, through the building of an integrated society free from the sectarian problems of our past.”
“I was invited to address group workshops on the role of education in conflict resolution. I am convinced that the promotion of integrated education, one of Alliance’s key policies, will eventually build the trust and mutual respect needed in our community to permanently solve many of our problems. Many delegates were amazed at the segregation of our school children and agreed that integration at school level would be a major step in ending our conflict. Others, such as the Kosovo Albanians and Serbs have seen first hand the divisive nature of segregated schooling and were extremely interested in the model for integration which we are using here.”
Mr Long concluded:
“I found the whole experience very rewarding and hopefully the lessons learnt by the leaders of tomorrow will mean that there will be fewer conflicts in the future.”