Wednesday, June 22, 2011

A Medley of Musings

I have a few delicious links to share today:
Click here for the link to my photos from my first two weeks in Norway.
Click here for the link to the Peace Scholars page on the Nobel Peace Prize Forum website.
Click here for a recent Argus Leader article from Dr. Anna Madsen talking about Christian faith in a diverse world. I was reminded of this yesterday in our session on Religious Dialogue.
Click here for a ripe example of a lack of dialogue and re-writing the facts.

In the aftermath of The Great War, a very angry German soldier returned home feeling cheated by his country for losing war in which he and his colleagues had invested so much. Adolf Hitler went on to gain tremendous momentum over the next two decades all the while increasing his hatred and anger and talking much more than listening. Would Hitler have benefitted from dialogue with those who once looked across the trench at him? Would dialogue have helped veterans and families of the Great War move on and live with respect and understanding for The Other?

While the example is my own, this is the premise of the Nansen Dialogue Network. We spent all of Tuesday, our first full day, learning about dialogue and how it is a tool for movement and progress. I have heard many business people, professors, students, etc. mock the phrase "let's have a meeting..." or rather, let's have a meeting so that we might talk about and plan another meeting. Dialogue moves beyond worthless rambling, and helps others to understand. As our seminar leader Steiner Brynn (who was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize a few years ago) teaches, dialogue is not negotiation, debate, or discussion. Those, too, can be part of an exchange between two parties. But dialogue involving listening and asking questions is beneficial for all involved.

The nine Americans at the Nansen Academy this week are learning an incredible amount in a very neutral environment about the Kosovo war and the disputes which both preceded it and and those that continue to this day.

In the spring of 1999, just a few months before NATO bombings in Kosovo, Steiner Brynn conducted another one his highly effective dialogue seminars between Albanian and Serbian young adults. Emotions were in full force, tempers were hot, accusations ran rampant, and debate penetrated the dialogue scene many times. This was all filmed and combined with footage from a reuniting of the same participants in 2009 for another dialogue seminar conducted by Steiner. The result of the two filmed seminars is a real, well-balanced, emotional film entitled "Reunion." The film was released last week and received with high praise and much media attention following the premiere in Oslo. It is being shown in theaters around Norway right now and we were privileged to watch in in the local theater last night along side our peers who live in some of the very places the actor/participants live. I think we were all in a bit of shock as the credits were rolling. Witnessing the dialogue helped clarify so many of the positions and the clear lack of communication between the two sides. It was also entertaining to watch the outsiders sitting in the audience jump when they recognized Steiner on the screen as the same man sitting just a few rows behind them. In the 10 minute debriefing Steiner conducted in the theatre following the film, Nansen students and outsiders alike all shared two common thoughts: the balanced way the conflict was presented and the strong impression it made on each of us.

As we continue our discussion today, tomorrow, and Friday, several questions are at work in my mind. If you have thoughts on the following, please share.
Does respecting, or at least recognizing, the position of our enemies put our own principles in jeopardy? How would our friends in the same "camp" react if our principles or reaction were changed as a result of dialogue?
Many people say war is inevitable. Others say it is not inevitable. Assuming that war is not inevitable, surely conflicts, even the slightest of which, are inevitable. How can we work to ensure there is always dialogue between friends and enemies even if it means changes will come or differences will not be settled? Maybe this is better described as peaceful change or peaceful disagreement

On a lighter note, we are all having a great time with the other Nansen students who will also travel to Oslo with us on Friday for the University of Oslo International Summer School. I am currently enjoying our afternoon break and working on my tan outside a cafe at a park in downtown Lillehammer.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Oh Thad! I love reading your blog! The pictures of your visit thus far are beautiful. I definitely sense a "Titze Christmas Card Photo" coming from this trip -- I'd pick the one labeled "hiking" in your album. What a lovely picture of the four of you! Keep up the good work! I'm so proud of my little Thadley in this big adventure and the work you're doing!

  3. To weigh in with my opinions on the questions you ask...I don't feel that understanding the opposition's position puts our principles in jeopardy. On the contrary, I would say that understanding our enemies' point of view is critical. By understanding their point of view, we can better judge their goals. By understanding what it is they are striving for, we are that much closer to compromise. If anyone in "our camp" is bothered by the fact that our opinions might change by understanding the opposition, I would have to assume that they are incredibly vain to think that they are always right. Only through gaining knowledge can we hope to be on the right side of any issue. For I would argue that "my side and their side" are far less important than the "right side and wrong side". I always want to align myself on the right side, and if that means I need to change my stance, so be it.

  4. Thanks for your feedback! Teresa - I agree, although "right" and "wrong" is obviously a sticky distinction to make sometimes...especially as our judgements and actions affect others, and not just our personal philosophy or opinion.