As Mosaic’s Dialogue Programming on China and Tibet comes to an end, Program Manager Tenzing Jigme shares his insights on understanding the ‘other’ and building trust

Mosaic’s project entitled “New Beginnings”: Young Canadians’ Dialogue on China and Tibet project ended on a successful note in the spring of 2014. Our work engaged 240 Canadians of Tibetan and Chinese descent through a mix of dialogue events, workshops, fundraisers and social events. Dialogue participants contributed their time and energy to discuss the complex nature of Tibet- China relations, and the ways in which they are personally affected by tensions in the region.  Participants went on to create CanEngage, a community service project that raised more than $10,000.00 to support the secondary school education of underprivileged teenagers living on the Tibetan plateau in Sichuan, China.  The project helped build a common understanding of the importance of maintaining openness and treating one another with mutual respect if the foundations of true peace are ever to be built.

Being part of a dialogue process is not easy. It requires a great willingness to open up to a strong current of emotions and feelings. These feelings might have to do with the impacts that conflict has had on our families and communities in Tibet and China, or even with our current situations as immigrants, refugees or new Canadians.  In this light, it was an absolute privilege to work alongside passionate members of the two communities in Toronto and Calgary, and to be able to witness the transformative power of constructive dialogue.

In my experience, wanting to understand the “other” is the first step towards a process of dialogue as a way to generate trust. While dialogue is a group activity, the willingness to engage begins at the individual level. In this sense, the approach taken by the Mosaic Institute through the “New Beginnings” project on China and Tibet provided an important opportunity for young Canadians of Chinese and Tibetan background with connections to all facets of their two communities’  conflict to explore its dynamics as a differentiated group of individuals driven by a common Canadian commitment to be part of the solution, rather than part of the problem.

Mosaic’s dialogue on China and Tibet also made me realize just how critical “grassroots” dialogue is in order for peace to be sustainable. It is not sufficient for peace to simply be negotiated by high-level politicians; it is only when all people from both sides of a conflict are willing to seek out the middle ground between them that genuine, lasting peace can be established.

It is only through our imagination, creativity, and action that we can create a better world.  I hope that our efforts at the Mosaic Institute will be an inspiration and an example of how people in Canada and abroad can work together to build societies based on trust, empathy and mutual understanding. I am optimistic that, in this case, “New Beginnings”  will live up to the promise of its name.