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Can Peace and Conflict Resolution Be Taught?

University Takes Up Challenge Posed by Greeley Scholars

Provost Ahmed Abdelal, Greeley Scholar Gavriel Salomon, Director Paula Rayman of the Mideast Center and Israeli Consul General Nadav Tamir

By Sandra Seitz

South Africa. Northern Ireland. Israel. Sudan. Liberia. Sometimes the list of nations in civil conflict seems endless.

And yet, the bitterest, most intractable animosities can also yield positive change. In a small way, UMass Lowell hopes to contribute to the opportunities for peace with an expansion of scholarly research, partnership initiatives and academic programs that focus on peace and conflict resolution.

Two renowned peace scholars met in friendly debate recently to explore the powers of intervention and compare the peace process in Northern Ireland and Israel.

Padraig O’Malley and Gavriel Salomon, UMass Lowell’s 2009 and 2010 Greeley Scholars for Peace Studies, respectively, drew on their own deep experiences as actively engaged scholars.

Salomon, honored by Israel in 2001 for his peace education work, is the founder and director of the Center for Research on Peace Education at the University of Haifa. As the 2010 Greeley Peace Scholar, he consulted extensively with the faculty on the planned bachelor’s / master’s degree program in peace studies at UMass Lowell.

O’Malley is the John Joseph Moakley Distinguished Professor for Peace and Reconciliation at the McCormack Graduate School of Public Policy at UMass Boston. He has received numerous awards for his work as a writer, organizer, motivator and peace worker.

The invitational event was hosted by Nadav Tamir, the consul general of Israel to New England, and co-sponsored by UMass Lowell’s Middle East Center for Peace, Development and Culture and the Peace and Conflict Studies Institute.

O’Malley described his work to organize a first conference for the most radical elements of the Northern Ireland conflict during the 1970s. Closeted and driven by a demanding schedule, the sides began to face the reality that military victory would never occur.

“Leaders who would not sit in the same room and would not even sit side by side to sign the Good Friday Peace accords are now co-prime ministers,” said O’Malley.

Salomon spoke of intransigence and growing resentment within Israel, as the sides have found no common ground, no sense of a common good, and mistrust exists at the highest levels.

Asked whether both sides want peace, Salomon said, “Both must acknowledge the collective narrative of the other side the aspirations and the traumas that shape their thinking.”

During his Greeley Scholar tenure, Salomon also gave public forum presentations about his research on bi-national or bi-ethnic sports teams as an instrument for the lessening of antagonism. “Playing for Peace: How Sports Can Get Us to Our Goal” described his empirical studies of the national soccer team composed of Israeli Arabs and Israeli Jews.

The results indicated that the long-term exposure of playing on a team, augmented by the natural interactions of teammates’ family members, improved attitudes and this change persisted over time.

The Greeley Scholar program is funded by the Dana McLean Greeley Endowment for Peace Studies, which was established in 2007 through a major gift from the former Greeley Foundation for Peace and Justice of Concord. Peace activist Linda Biehl of California and South Africa was the first Scholar.

Each year, a committee selects a distinguished advocate for peace, noted humanitarian, or faith leader to visit the campus to teach and engage in public discussions that advance the cause of peace and justice.

Former Greeley Scholar Padraig O'Malley