The Clarkston Peacebuilding ProjectJoin us for our inaugural peacebuilding event in Clarkston:
Until the recent political and media outcry prompted by the Syrian refugee crisis, refugee resettlement sites in Western countries were often overlooked as hotspots of conflict and crisis because of the unstated assumption that resettlement and escape from militarized conflict automatically meant peace. However, refugees are resettled in local communities into which old conflicts are imported, and where new ones emerge as refugees and locals need to find ways of coexisting despite cultural differences.
Clarkston, Georgia, is a major refugee resettlement hub and one of the most diverse towns in the American Southeast. Its residents come from over 50 different countries, 43% of the population is foreign-born, and the income of 35.6% of the people is below the poverty level. Clarkston community leaders and residents alike have identified a need for facilitated conflict engagement because many intergroup conflicts have been lingering covertly for years without open discussion or resolution.
Building on Birthe’s Photovoice project (www.PhotovoiceClarkston.com), which identified several communal dynamics that unite and divide the community, the next step in her new role as Director of Community Peacebuilding at TRENDS is to collaborate with local partners to establish a Center for Peacebuilding that offers services to address some of the identified concerns and foster peaceful and collaborative coexistence among the diverse populace. The Center will offer culturally sensitive, low-cost mediation services to the community, which will include, among others, landlord-tenant, neighbor, family, and intercultural mediation. It will also serve as a forum for community exchange and capacity-building, offering affordable conflict resolution workshops to members of the community, creating opportunities for dialogues that promote intercultural understanding, and training local area students in peer mediation. Additional services will include the facilitation of Photovoice projects with diverse groups in the community.