Friday, July 11, 2014

It is often challenging to deal with a conflict!

It is often challenging to deal with a conflict, and even harder to have more than one to deal with. As I grew up in Aleppo, Syria, I was always reminded that I am home away from home, a home that is called Armenia. Armenia was a dream for me for more than 20 years, and that virtual picture became real when I first volunteered in Yerevan, Armenia for two months and lived there afterwards for two years. And yet, when I was in Yerevan, I was reminded once again that home for me is not a tangible place but rather a place where I have my heart, because in fact, my grandparents did not come from the Armenia of today, but from Palu, a small village in western Turkey. As a young educated girl, who has spent different stages of her life in different countries, I still long to be home. And now home for me is Aleppo in Syria, the shattered city of struggle and survival. How much more complicated can it get for someone to call somewhere home, where is your home? For me, home is where my heart is.

My name is Elina Sarkisian, an Armenian descendent born in Syria and currently living in Toronto, Canada. I earned a B.A. double majoring in Child Studies and Human Relations from Concordia University in Montreal, Canada. Currently, I work as a kindergarten teacher at the Toronto District School Board, in Toronto, Canada. I was a Caux Scholar in 2013. I went to Caux with many thoughts and expectations in my heart and mind, I went to learn, to find answers to questions like the one above, to reflect and equip myself with tools I was sure I would need in solving my conflicts. My motivation to participate in the Caux Scholars Program (CSP) was derived from my sincere devotion to protect children's rights during conflicts and its aftermath. Therefore, I found it extremely important to learn about peace and conflict resolution. I plan to obtain a master's degree in Children's Rights and Participation to be fully immersed in the work of peace building and conflict resolution in shattered communities, like the one we have now in Syria.

I believe that in war those who pay the highest price are often children and women. Everyday, while trying to live a normal life here in Canada, I receive news from my family and friends in Syria of incidences where a child has been kidnapped, a woman has been raped, a school bus has been bombed and the list goes on. However, that's the moment when I ponder, and I know those innocent lives are paying a high price for a war they did not initiate, yet what makes me hopeful is that at Caux I met many intelligent and passionate people who are working hard to initiate peace, to sew harmony between communities, nations and countries.

My experience at CSP was a fundamental experience that made me realize that there are no easy solutions to conflicts. And that conflicts feed on time. The more time we give to a conflict, the more complicated and rooted it can get. In such instances time does play the two edged sword, one that can heal and one that can make hatred rooted even deeper. In my case, CSP helped me to move on and look at conflict as an essential element for growth and understanding. One of the topics that captured my curiosity during my stay at Mountain House, was The Necessity of Reconciliation, which was perfectly linked to the Healing History Conference in which, as a Caux Scholar, I participated. The workshops, discussions and the exchanges between scholars and conference participants made me think about the reconciliation that has to take place in Syria while the war is going on and afterwards and how I can be of use in this process.

Currently, I am working on gaining more experience in my field as a teacher, yet I am openly seeking to do internships and volunteer in human rights organizations. This summer I will be in Beirut, Lebanon and I would like to meet and volunteer with the team of Initiatives of Change Lebanon with their projects for Syrian refugees. And later on I will be in Yerevan for about two months and will volunteer with various local organizations who are providing physiological, educational and employment services for thousands of relocated Syrian-Armenian refugees.

Eline Sarkisian

NOTE: Individuals of many cultures, nationalities, religions, and beliefs are actively involved with Initiatives of Change. These commentaries represent the views of the writer and not necessarily those of Initiatives of Change as a whole.

Elina Sarkisian
Elina Sarkisian