Refugees: the human face of conflict teaches us about peace

“You cannot spend a single day on earth without having an impact in the world. What you do makes a difference and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make.”  With the words of J. Goodall, as our backdrop, we began our journey of this semester at EDIW Madrid. 

A group of young people from the Poveda Student Residence (Colegio Pedro Poveda) met at the end of the summer to project their dreams, and explain to a group of students at the Complutense University the refugee program; what it means to create small groups of leaders capable of transforming others and transform reality; people who reflect together, who inspire others, who generate ideas, share knowledge, experiences and effort; realistic and committed,  coordinated and organized with a common thrust.  Even today no one knows exactly where the thrust comes from or what feeds it, but it is capable of awakening and attracting the attention and intention of the most distracted heart. 

Suddenly EDIW was growing and in addition to the existing group and the residents of the Colegio Padre Poveda, more participants joined from other universities who had heard of a project linked to a group of refugees from Syria, Palestine, Venezuela and Sahara. Some of them brought friends from other places: Morocco and Mexico. Without realizing it, we had all the necessary diversity to develop our intercultural competence, and the challenge began. 

The first question was provoked by the situation of refugees and asylum seekers: “ How can we help them?”  During the first sessions we welcomed the refugees and listened to them. They told us their life stories, the lives behind all human conflict. Fascinated, some participants watched, listened, and put names and faces to the different conflicts of those countries of which they had heard. Their gestures and words were recorded in the memory of the heart… and the desire to help arose. Something  of an injustice was awakened inside us when comparing our lives with theirs and  the comfort of our quiet days became uncomfortable:  ‘We want to help ! “  

We came to know their problems, their situations of vulnerability and perhaps the saddest of all: their loneliness in the midst of indifference of a world in motion seemingly unable to stop not even to look at them

We tried to know the electoral programs of the political parties and our  efforts were channeled towards migration policies. We wanted to know what migrants needed in order to organise a session with the representatives of the different political parties to ask them face to face what they know about migrants´ situations and what they  could do to improve the former’s  lives. We prepared a list of questions thoroughly, and the day came when both the future voters and refugees met in the hall of the Colegio Mayor. We all wanted to hear the responses of the representatives of the political parties, but they presented themselves with their well-known repeated responses. We learned from that bittersweet session, that reality is difficult to change, that there are many factors that influence it, and that not all of them are easy to  address.

We did not hit rock bottom in disappointment because the next day they told us that the representative of one of the parties had come, as a result of the session, to distribute blankets to the asylum seekers who lined up  to ask help to get proper documentation. We held on to hope, seeing that even if it was only a grain of sand, something tiny, but very good, had been born out of our effort and desire.

After the meetings with the representatives of the political parties, we took stock of what we had experienced and what had just been born. EDIW group was growing. People joined, attracted by the desire to do good. They felt at home. EDIW group was home to dreams, proposals and initiatives. How should we explain EDIW to the new ones?  Soon they realized EDIW is what they do,  who they are   discovering something that  is deep, touching and real in this reality. 

The genuine essence of EDIW is being built every day. That is why, full of enthusiasm and optimism, moved by an unknown impulse that anyone can detect, we planned the sessions of the second semester founded on personal experience with a solid intellectual background: we would study conflicts with rigor and enrich them with the experiences of each one of the refugees. Thus their pain, their struggle to escape from their countries towards a better future, would become the seed of a new reality. Their pedagogy based on experience  would give a tone of humanity to maps, dates, figures, acronyms and names that would help us to understand in depth the true dimension that lies behind a conflict of a global nature. All their suffering would be transformed into  knowledge worth listening to. . Living, fighting and surviving made them heroes, admirable representatives of a culture and, full of dignity, they fed our desire to learn more.  The platform we offered and our love, were  all we could give to them. 

Time passed, and we began to know more about them as persons. .  EDIW sessions were filled with anecdotes. One of the refugees was making hats in his spare time, while struggling not to despair. Some initiatives quickly emerged, such as selling his hats to help him; others  searched  for jobs at their universities, and even introduced them  to radio program, where they could talk about what the indifference of the world seemed to silence. They themselves made the posters of the call for the world to see them with much love, sharing with all of us their best  creatibve. efforts. It was wonderful to “do” things  together  with EDIW. 

EDIW was changing little by little the reality  Maybe  it is only a seed …  but  what EDIW wants to do is to sow. 

We also dedicated several sessions to study the figure of the Nobel Peace Prize. The study to prepare the sessions was rigorous :  “ What are the characteristics of a leader capable of guiding people towards peace? What does the community recognize in such a person? “

We open our minds and were moved  by listening to lectures together with real stories of personal achievements and social leadership of women from DR Congo and Western Sahar. The analysis of the Peace process in Colombia gave us many ideas. They told us how they took this process to the University and involved the young people.  As a result, the desire to make EDIW known in other colleges, universities, schools … our colleagues, friends …  to anyone who wanted to contribute to the cause.

There is a lot to do, many people to involve, always aiming for what is good, drinking from  the inspiration of that  call to transform, little by little, our reality.   

We want to continue building together, we have only just begun. We have discovered what difference we want to make and  with that invincible impulse from within: love. Again and again this phrase is repeated in the sessions: Only the one who builds with love, builds peace.  This is how we  in EDIW want to be.

EDIW Group Madrid