U.S. Embassy offers Peacebuilding Training for Women Religious

The Embassy of the United States of America to the Holy See organized and sponsored a conflict prevention training at the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas (Angelicum). The participants, women religious working in areas affected by conflict, focused on strategic planning, conflict analysis frameworks and problem solving in the search for peaceful resolutions to conflict. The highly interactive training on peacebuilding, run by three trainers from the U.S. Institute of Peace, also focused on active listening and communication skills, as well as an overview of who are stakeholders and participants in environments affected by conflict.

Ambassador Kenneth Hackett attended the conference and gave remarks.

Good morning.  It is my pleasure to be with you today for this important discussion.  I would like to thank the Angelicum and Vice Rector Fr. Michael Carragher for hosting us here.  My thanks also go to the Russell Berrie Foundation, our co-sponsors, and Rabbi Jack Bemporad and the John Paul II Center for Interreligious Dialogue here at the Angelicum.  We are also happy to have a contribution from Dr. Maryann Cusimano Love of the Catholic University of America.  She unfortunately broke her foot recently and was unable to travel to Rome, but she has videotaped her presentation on strategic planning so we will still have the opportunity to hear from her virtually.

Last but certainly not least, I thank our three trainers from the U.S. Institute of Peace for being with us and offering this workshop on conflict analysis and dialogue skills building.  Dr. Illana Lancaster, Palwasha Kakar, and Ariana Barth, thank you for working with us to craft what we believe will be a very useful workshop today.  Our embassy first conceptualized this event last year and the U.S. Institute of Peace has been a great partner in working with us to bring the idea to fruition.

We live in a world where talk often overshadows action.  This is not the case with the men and women religious here in this room.  You live in a world of action, and through your efforts come meaningful results for your communities.  I have been consistently impressed and inspired over the course of my career by the work of men and women religious all over the world in providing assistance and advocacy to those in need.  You are on the ground, in the mess of things, in the middle of crises and natural disasters and conflicts – and the work you do directly impacts the lives of so many.

Your work puts you face to face with some of the most difficult challenges of our time:  the scourge of human trafficking, the current refugee crisis, the ecological impact of climate change, and extreme poverty and hunger.  On a daily basis the suffering caused by these tragic events is dulled significantly by your tireless actions.  It is work that often goes unnoticed by those outside of your immediate communities.  But the selflessness of your calling saves lives, and I thank you for your hard work, dedication, and commitment.  It is not an exaggeration to say that quite simply you make the world a better place, one act of kindness at a time.

Our Embassy is a proud sponsor of the workshop we offer you today on conflict analysis and dialogue.  The ability to stop a conflict before it starts, and certainly before it becomes violent, is an essential skill.  It is a skill which requires situational awareness, cultural understanding, and strong community relations.  We hope the discussions you have and skills you learn today will assist you in the work you are doing in your communities.

The need for conflict prevention has perhaps never been more vital than it is today.  As you know, the seeds of conflict often grow fastest in lands where suffering has been allowed to flourish.  The very challenges you see on every day – hunger, poverty, forced migration, human trafficking – create situations which can easily escalate into violence and struggles for power.  We need more dialogue, more resolution, more effective conflict prevention.

Today will be about sharing your experiences, learning how to identify conflict, and learning how to use dialogue to reduce tensions.  We hope you find these sessions useful and take what you’ve learned back to your communities to share these skills with your colleagues.

Thank you again for everything you do, and thank you for joining us here today.