As part of ‘Mediation through Monasteries in Kosovo‘, TransConflict is pleased to present a short film, entitled ‘Shoes, walls, land and tables’, which documents the visit by Reverend Donald Reeves to the Monasteries of Peć and Dečani in Kosovo.
By Reverend Donald Reeves MBE
TransConflict has been working closely with a UK-based NGO, the Soul of Europe (who have been working in the Balkans for over a decade on mediation and reconciliation) to develop a peace-building process between the ‘working’ Monasteries at Peć and Dečani, and the local municipalities. This very local project has significant national and international resonance; particularly as the Monasteries, which are currently guarded by NATO, will be a key item of discussion in talks between Belgrade and Pristina. Serbia will never consider relinquishing Kosovo unless the status and security of these monasteries can be guaranteed. Whatever may be decided at the top-level between Serbia and Kosovo, however, will be worthless unless it is agreed locally. Once resources are in-place, the Soul of Europe is ready to act as ‘bridge builders’ and help ensure healthy community relations come into being.
This film explores four key ingredients of ‘peace building’ :
- Shoes – for any disagreement to be solved, a step has to be taken away from the adversarial approach of ‘Them’ versus ‘Us’. Very often people play the Victim – look how much we suffer – which often fails to take anything forward. At some point in negotiations, the parties concerned not only consider their position but recognise the need to understand the views of others. That is what is meant by standing in the Shoes of the other parties. The closer the parties are to an integrated approach, the better the prognosis. It is not as clear cut as that, however. Very often people take one step forward, and then two steps back. Peace-building is a Process. Dialogue often needs an outside facilitator to get the process going – that is what the Soul of Europe is offering.
- Walls – healthy community relations cannot be created if there are walls to keep people out, and walls to protect. Walls show that other methods of engagement have failed. Walls create resentment. This is true of the ‘walls’ at Peć and Dečani Monasteries, for example. There are also walls of another sort. Where there has been trauma caused by violent conflict, the parties involved often demonise each other – as murderers, terrorists etc. There is no meeting, so the walls of prejudice are very thick. Peace-building helps to dismantle these walls.
- Land – many conflicts have disputes about land at the centre. This is true of the difficulties between the municipality of Dečani and the Monastery, for example. The solution is to approach this issue from a different angle: how can the land benefit both the Monastery and the local community?
- Tables – when peace-building works, even momentarily, then the parties gather round the table – a formal or informal celebration. And strange as it may seem such, celebrations are reminders that ‘it was really always like this but we had forgotten’.
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Reverend Donald Reeves MBE is the founder of the Soul of Europe. The Soul of Europe works as catalysts and mediators to ensure a peaceful resolution to conflicts, particularly in the Balkans.
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