Healing Conversations panel with President Tuminez?

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The Center for the Study of Ethics at Utah Valley University and the J. Bonner Ritchie Peace Conference series partnered to hold a conference on Healing Conversations. The conference featured international peace and mediation leaders, “to address one of the most pressing questions of our time,” according to the program’s website. “How do we heal the significant and threatening divisions within the United States through dialogue and compassionate conversation?” 

The conference featured 11 speakers and panelists, one being President Astrid Tuminez, who discussed healing conversations in the context of her experience in the southern Philippines in a panel on facilitation methods for conflict transformation. 

To kick off the panel discussion, Ben Cook, director at the Center for Peace & Conflict Resolution at Brigham Young University, presented what he believes are three important steps we can take on a micro-level to help bring people together, and avoid creating divides. Cook mentioned humility, curiosity, and compassion. He then acted as a mediator for the duration of the panel.

“We all think we are right, but we can’t possibly all be right, and being able to approach conflicts with humility allows for curiosity, so we can learn from others,” said Cook. “Curiosity leads us to compassion. At some point we all know what it’s like to be hurt, and somehow we need to learn to see each other, no matter our view on any topic.”

Tuminez discussed a job she took working for the U.S. government to help resolve conflict that was happening in the Philippines in 2003. She noted that during that time there was civil unrest between the Muslims and other citizens of the Philippines. “My job was to delegate peace between the Islamic liberation and Philippine government,” said Tuminez.

Tuminez shared three lessons she learned during her time in this position. “The first lesson I learned was personal, I am a Filipino, and I look Filipino, but when I got there, everyone hated us because we were from the US,” said Tuminez. “For me it was a moment of truth and humility. The first question in a healing conversation is who am I? What kind of self righteous person am I?”

“The second lesson I learned is the importance of history in a healing conversation. One of the things we had to do was write and teach the history of the Muslim people, because if they are not seen, then they were not a part of the country and would not be accepted,” said Tuminez. “If you don’t know the other person’s history, it is difficult to have a healing conversation.”

The last lesson Tuminez said she learned was operational. “In healing conversations, find the margins where you can make a difference. One problem was the Muslims were not talking to each other,” said Tuminez. “By bringing them together there were important changes made.” 

Tuminez mentioned how they brought in people all around the world who had faced challenges similar to those faced by local Muslims, and it helped them realize they were not alone, which brought unity. “You have to ask yourself, where can I make a difference? How do I deploy resources?” said Tuminez.

In response to a question about standing against widespread discrimination, Tuminez offered a message to attendees: “You have great work to do. You are not a victim, life is hard. Don’t get distracted from your own greatness.” 

The panel featuring Tuminez’s discussion was recorded and can be viewed here. Recordings of the other speakers and panel discussions can be accessed on the Healing Conversations Conference website