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 Students Participate in a Mosaic Dialogue Session on the Middle East at York University, 2012

By Caroline Mok  

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This fall, through several hours of service work and my own independent research, I have to come to know more about the Mosaic Institute – a small but mighty peace organization based in Toronto. My involvement with the Mosaic Institute has been a part of the Community Research Partnerships in Ethics (CRPE) course, offered through the Ethics, Society & Law program at the University of Toronto. This year-long research-focused course allows fourth year students to work independently alongside either government or non-government organizations in order to produce a research paper that explores an ethics-based topic of our choice.

I chose the Mosaic Institute because there was something particularly resonant about its guiding values and model of peace-building. Having learned in class about the theoretical importance of participating in dialogue in post-conflict periods, and having worked with refugee and asylum seeker populations displaced by life-threatening regional conflicts, the Mosaic Institute has served as a Canadian example of how peace-building initiatives are feasible, particularly when they take place on a small-scale by engaging individual diaspora communities.

My time at the Mosaic Institute provided insight into the degree to which conflict can have an impact on the communities involved, even after they have been removed from the region in which conflict is occurring. I also became more aware of how the distance from the conflict can impart a new perspective in the minds of those involved. This has prompted me to explore broader and more numerous avenues of inquiry in recent weeks.

So far, through a preliminary review of the literature on multiculturalism and peacebuilding, my research has provided theoretical substance to the idea that there significant value in using peace and conflict organizations to promote peace both at home and abroad, particularly when those organizations rely heavily on dialogue processes between conflicting parties. At the same time, potential arguments could be made against these person-to-person methods for the impact they may have on the individuals involved. For example, trauma is often a challenge that faces victims of conflict. With such considerations in mind, I hope to address the following question:

“To what extent do members of diaspora communities in Canada have a responsibility to participate in initiatives that promote peace and conflict resolution?”

My research aims to contribute to the field of multiculturalism and peacebuilding discourse by focussing specifically on diaspora groups displaced by regional conflict. Future research may work to narrow the focus even more by attempting to identify one diaspora community to study. In so doing, I hope to consider ways in which members of diaspora communities in Canada could conceivably have (or not have) an ethical obligation to participate in peace-building initiatives that facilitate peace either here in Canada or in their country of heritage.

Upon completing my research in April 2015, I hope to produce a substantial and valuable research project report that sheds light on the nuances of the sort of community peace-building that defines the Mosaic Institute’s work. My final thesis has yet to be determined but ultimately, I hope to at least articulate some ethical and theoretical justification for peace-building that involve diaspora communities and identify practical steps that can be taken to enhance inter-community peace building through dialogue. Part 2 of this blog entry will contain some of key takeaways from my research.

Young Peace Perspectives is a platform to present the experiences of young people in Canada working for peace, both in their communities and abroad. Young Peace Perspectives is produced by the Mosaic Institute.

Edited by Lorenzo Vargas (@LorenzoVargasM)