Workshops on Power of Goodness and Creating Cultures of Peace are held regularly with students of the Chechen State University and the Chechen State Pedagogical University. These programs provide a great resource for teaching children, youth and adults to use non-violent methods of interacting with people and to respond appropriately to aggression from others based on the universal human values of goodness, respect, nonviolence and forgiveness.
These themes are of particular relevance to young people in Chechnya and the North Caucasus, who have experienced difficult life situations. Memories of tragic events over the last twenty years are fresh in the memory of people living there. In the collective consciousness, certain stereotypes and attitudes have developed regarding their tragic fate, connected to the negative attitude that others have demonstrated towards them as representatives of a particular ethnic group and religious identity.
The perception of oneself as a victim, experiencing aggression from the outside, influences young people’s mood, behaviour, and attitudes towards themselves and others. Fears, self-doubt, a negative attitude towards certain categories of people, aggressive behaviour, pessimism and negative projection about the future are associated in the minds of many young people with what has happened to their parents, their people and their small homeland. Unfortunately in the experience of the younger generation, there are very few examples that show alternatives to violence.
The knowledge and skills of non-violent conflict resolution and peacebuilding learned through the Creating Cultures of Peace and Power of Goodness programs help young people to build their lives on new foundations. They embrace the principles of tolerance and respect for human rights, mutual understanding, justice, friendship, caring for each other and for the Earth. They are excited about putting this into practice in their everyday life and supporting each other in doing so.
We use many stories from the Power of Goodness collection: “To Forgive is Divine”, “New Girl in School”, “Experiment in Fairness”, “Bocha”, “Silver Candlesticks”, “Planting Trees to Heal the Earth”, “Allah is Merciful, Perhaps Allah Needs Me”.
A complex theme of interpersonal conflict was explored through the story “Bocha,” in which Bocha seeks revenge on the person who killed his father and brothers, only to find the man’s son was the doctor who had saved Bocha’s life. Students had lively discussions around this story. Students with fixed positions at the beginning of the session (they thought in such situations heroes could not tolerate forgiveness, that they had to take revenge, etc.), by the end, they listened openly to the views of other students proposing a more understanding and humane approach and changed their minds. Below are some of the students’ reflections regarding the choice of the main character of the story, Bocha.