WISCOMP organized a Conflict Transformation Workshop for university students from Pakistan and India, from June 4th to 12th, 2001, in New Delhi. Titled Rehumanizing The Other, the interaction facilitated the process of building bridges of trust, understanding and friendship between the next generation of citizens and potential leaders of the two countries. It was organized in the belief that the transformation of the dominating conflict in South Asia lies, to a great extent, in the hands of third generation Indians and Pakistanis, and that people-to-people contacts must also include a dimension of substantive intellectual engagement with issues of peace and conflict. The group comprised 40 university students in the age group of 20 to 27 years. The students from Pakistan represented institutions like the Indus Valley School of Art and Architecture (Karachi), Lahore University of Management Sciences (Lahore), Kinnaird College (Lahore) and the University of Peshawar (Peshawar). Participants from India were enrolled at the University of Delhi, Jamia Milia Islamia and Jawaharlal Nehru University. The sessions were conducted by conflict resolution trainers and facilitators from different regions including the United States, United Kingdom, Pakistan and India.
Looking back at those eight days in June, one would have to begin by highlighting the relationships that the participants from Pakistan and India built – relationships that we at WISCOMP believe will be long lasting. We say this because the students grounded these relationships on a recognition that they were different and yet were willing to search for common ground.
An important benchmark that we set for ourselves before the interaction was the extent to which stereotypes and prejudices would be addressed and transformed. Towards the end of workshop, changes in mindsets and stereotypical attitudes about the other were noticeable. In fact, several participants were, in a sense, able to shed a lot of the baggage they had carried with themselves about the other.
The third important achievement lay in an emotion that many participants articulated on the last day of their face-to-face interaction: “It will be difficult for us to demonize the other because he/she now has a face”. The realization that the other was willing to listen and understand a different perspective was an important learning.