This summer, I spent a month in Caux, Switzerland, participating in the Caux Scholars program as part of my Social Science Scholars Project. This program brings together 20 scholars from all over the world to focus on applied studies in peacemaking, restorative and transitional justice, and methods of sustained dialogue and reconciliation. Members of the Caux Scholars Program also organize and facilitate the Towards Inclusive Peace conference which focuses on combating violent extremism and building sustainable peace.
During the program, myself and my fellow cohort members also made ‘Conflict Where I Come From” presentations. For my presentation, I focused on racial discrimination and hate groups in the United States of America. I think discussing conflict in the US as well as the conflicts unfolding in the home countries of my fellow scholars was the most valuable takeaway of this program. Through this program, I was able to listen to and engage with people from very broad and diverse backgrounds about their experiences living in conflict and the work they have done to promote peace. I was able to discuss the Israel Palestine conflict with someone still living in Gaza and discuss the Syrian Civil War with someone still living in Damascus.
Additionally, I really enjoyed the subject matter and discussion in our last week of the program which focused on sustained dialogue and reconciliation across divides. In this week, the group really delved into the preconceived notions we have about ourselves and other people, sometimes even unbeknownst to us, and how the could affect and even escalate conflict situations. We talked about the ways that we can shift these frames of reference to become more ethnorelative rather than being ethnocentric. We examined and reflected upon the narratives constructed within our societies, our identities and roles within those narratives, and how they lend themselves to bias, discrimination, and conflict.
My experience in the Caux Scholars programs truly enriched my educational experience as an undergrad and has given me a plethora of new perspectives and ideas to share with my classmates. I was privileged to have been in such a unique and encouraging environment in Switzerland which allowed me to attain new levels of personal growth. Through this program I developed life long friendships with people all over the world and professional connections with many individuals in the conflict resolution field. This was a truly valuable and life changing experience.
Hannah Cake is a senior double majoring in Political Science and International Affairs and minoring in French with aspirations of pursuing a career in diplomacy and conflict resolution after grad school.