We were very happy to contribute to a 5 day programme looking at the Empathy Dynamics in Conflict Transformation. The project was the inspiration of Dr Lynne Cameron who is a Professor in Linguistics and analysed the metaphor in our language back in 2002. She started a project ‘Living with Uncertainty- Metaphor and the Dynamics of Empathy in Discourse’ in 2006 and now partners with Birmingham-based NGO Responding to Conflict.
The workshop was part of a ongoing project to create a manual of tools for empathy and incorporates ideas about empathy and dyspathy into the processes used in conflict transformation. We were there to talk about our experiences in coming to understand each other’s stories, and for the participants to engage in dialogue with us about the process, and for us all to examine how our processes relate to the maps and models they are developing in the project.
Present were two practitioners from Child Workers in Nepal Concerned Centre (CWIN) is a pioneer organisation in Nepal for the rights of the child and against child labour exploitation. Also there were three peacebuilders from North Kenya who have been working with huge success with tribes who were killing each their with their guns in order to steal cattle and land.
We shared our challenges and successes with empathy and then reflected where our experience fitted into their maps and models they had been formulating. We had a fascinating discussion and found great resonance and similarity.
I was inspired by the many ways the Kenyan group had to help those in conflict see the other as a human being. They range from using a shock element to playing games with the kids and they were very creative and resourceful in their approach.
One thing which came our from everyone’s experience was how hard this work can be. I was particularly touched by the emotional challenge for the Nepalese working every day with children who had suffered. We talked about needing empathic allies – those crucial people who understand what we are about, our values, our intentions, and who stand by us, and pick us up when needed.
A wonderful rich inspiring day and I look forward to answering the invitations to see and contribute to the work in Nepal and Kenya.