Studying peace and religion in Berlin

FIU students have spent the summer doing some pretty cool things. You can read about their adventures in our Summer Sojourn series. In this edition, we hear from Global Governance student Natalia Liviero who took a two-week course on peace and religion in Berlin as part of the Aladdin Project.

2014 international studies cohort participating in the Aladdin Project.

2014 international studies cohort participating in the Aladdin Project.

By Natalia Liviero

The Aladdin Project of the Summer University in Berlin was a great experience, not only in the academic field but in the human relations sphere. We were 60 students from diverse countries and territories such as Azerbaijan, Moldova, Kurdistan and the Palestinian Territories, among approximately 15 other countries. The lectures we had at Freie Universitat Berlin in the mornings about peace, religion, secularism and conflict sparked an interest to dig deeper into the subject at a later time. Conversations among students were non-stop from 8:30 a.m. to almost midnight when we were back at the dorms. The exchange of ideas, culture, religious and political knowledge were very enriching.

From left to right: Eliyaim Gonzalez, Aquiles Consuegra, Natalia Liviero and Professor Tudor Parfitt.

From left to right: Eliyaim Gonzalez, Aquiles Consuegra, Natalia Liviero and Professor Tudor Parfitt.

In addition, it was very nice to meet faculty members from FIU who went to Berlin – such as Professor Tudor Parfitt, who lectured about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict (which I’m very much into), and Professor Whitney Bauman, whose presentations were among the most dynamic and engaging of the program.

In addition, it was an amazing coincidence that this summer, in order to complete my Graduate Certificate in Middle Eastern Studies, I enrolled in the on-line Holocaust Representations class with Professor Oren Stier; the class helped me experience Berlin from a deeper perspective. The city of Berlin has a very dramatic modern history, which includes World War II, the Holocaust, the Berlin Wall dividing Eastern and Western Germany, and the recent unification of both Germany after the fall of the Wall. With a group of friends, we visited the remainders of the Wall, former SS and Gestapo buildings, Check Point Charlie and its museum, and the Holocaust Memorial and its museum.

We visited the History of German Jews Museum, which it is the most amazing and dynamic museum I’ve ever visited. Another visit was to Morus 14, an NGO that promotes the integration of the more than 30 different ethnicities of immigrants in a specific neighborhood in Berlin – mostly Turkish, Lebanese, and Palestinians. They do a great job of supporting education for the youth and promoting tolerance.

We were also taken to Postdam, a beautiful city that holds the Royal Gardens and Palaces. This city witnessed many important historical events that are relevant to my Middle Eastern studies: in 1685, the Edict of Postdam granted freedom or religion to its inhabitants, and in August of 1945, after the Night of Postdam, Germany surrendered bringing World War II to an end. During the Postdam Conference, Truman, Stalin and Churchill met and divided Germany in four areas, leaving Postdam under Soviet control.

As part of the Aladdin Project, we now have to work on an on-line group research paper to be submitted early October. My group, including a student of history from Morocco and a student of law from Tunis, will work on women’s rights after the Arab Spring, comparing and analyzing the cases of Tunis and Egypt. A committee will review the papers and grant an award to the best three papers to be received at the French Parliament next year!

The program concluded with a presentation on the topic of our papers followed by a distinction granted as “Youth Ambassador for Peace and Dialogue among Cultures.” We then went to the Bundestag, the parliament of the Federal Republic of Germany, where we were welcomed by its Vice President Ms. Edelgard Bulmahn, and participated in a panel discussion by the religious leaders in Berlin of the three Abrahamic religions, the founders of the Aladdin Project, and other distinguished participants in the academic and government fields.

I had applied to the Summer University in Berlin on the topic “Religion, Peace and Conflict in the Century” with the certainty (or, hoping) that I was going to be selected. This topic motivated me to change careers from international business to global affairs and security in the Middle East, with a focus in the peace process between Israel and Palestine. I am a firm believer that inter-religious dialogue and religious tolerance are key elements to bring about peace in the Middle East – a peace that will eliminate most of the security threats to the United States, Europe and Israel.

It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and I am most appreciative to FIU, the Master of Arts in Global Governance (MAGG) Program, the Aladdin Project and UNESCO for sponsoring the Summer University and for having selected me as a participant.

Natalia Liviero

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