I’ve been asked several times on Twitter – and sometimes rather sarcastically – about what the Bahrain Foundation For Reconciliation and Civil Dialogue (BFRCD) has achieved since it’s inception in June this year.
Before I answer that, I want to reiterate some important points about the Foundation, which some people might not be aware of.
It’s true that we were born out of the 2011 political crisis, but we are a non-political foundation dedicated to bridging the social/sectarian divide that has inflicted Bahrain. And I think that one of the best ways to achieve this is by avoiding commenting on the current political situation. We’re keen to maintain our independence and neutrality, and if we start commenting on events, we might gain one side at the expense of the other – and besides, we wouldn’t hear the end of it.
We have love and respect for all, and we don’t criticise any public figures. We’re proud to be endorsed by HRH the Crown Prince, and we’re very happy to have received the blessing of key government officials, as well as key opposition figures. We want to maintain this, and continue building bridges with all sides.
As to the cause of the crisis, we acknowledge that there are two very opposing points of view, one says that the crisis is purely political, and one that says it’s purely sectarian. Either way, we now have social and sectarian problems, which we aim to help combat.
As I see it, one of the biggest problems we have today is the lack of respect, or even acknowledgement, of another person’s point of view. Therefore one of our goals is to facilitate communication and dialogue (civil discourse) among different sectors of society.
Let me reiterate, we’re not going to solve Bahrain’s problems, but my attitude is “why wait?” Instead of waiting for the politicians to sort things out, why not work on the civil side? Each of us can do our bit to help this country heal.
Why Was The BFRCD Mentioned in The Government’s BICI Follow Up Report?
We were asked by the Ministry of Justice if we didn’t mind being mentioned in an “upcoming report”, and I said yes. I was not aware that it would be the BICI follow up report, but I don’t think that would have changed our answer. Like I said, our aim is to build bridges and relationships, and we are keen to build them with all. It does not mean the BFRCD is part of the government. In fact the report states the that BFRCD is an independent organisation.
So What Have We Achieved So Far?
Our first event was a lecture on the reconciliation experience in Northern Ireland. This event was attended by around 150 people from different political affiliations, including members of the ruling family. The feedback we have received from the event was overwhelmingly positive.
Since June, we’ve been holding a monthly “Dialogue Dinner”, where we invite people from different walks of life (Sunni, Shia, men, women, old and young, upper and lower income etc.) to just sit together and talk. The people we invite are those that would normally not sit together and exchange their views. These dinners are completely private, and not covered by the media.
These dinners are not exactly going to change the situation in Bahrain, but they are fruitful nonetheless. The feedback we get from the attendees is overwhelmingly positive. There is a desperate need for people to express themselves, and an equally strong need to be heard. People love these gatherings.
Furthermore, we recently held a two day workshop entitled From Conflict to Dialogue. Here the participants learned new skills and techniques on handling conflict, as well as receiving valuable information on how human beings behave during conflict. The average rating for the event was 9.27 out of ten.
So far this year, our events have involved 191 people, with an average rating of 8.5 out of ten given by the attendees.
We plan to achieve our goals by conducting more lectures, workshops and grass roots programmes. We have a long way to go, but you have to start somewhere, right?
I’m told that political reconciliation in both Northern Ireland and South Africa was helped by the presence of a strong civil society. Like I said, we all have to do our bit…
If you’re interested in joining, please contact us through the BFRCD website. We need as much help as we can get.
Thanks for reading and God bless.