Conflict Resolution in Northern Ireland

A large group of students in Saint Mary's t-shirts .

It’s not every day that undergraduate students get to participate in an international exchange program with so much at stake. But every year, in partnership with Peaceful Schools International, members of Saint Mary’s Conflict Resolution Society set out to Northern Ireland to teach conflict resolution workshops in elementary schools.

The Peaceful Schools International program got its start in Halifax in 1991, founded by a woman named Hetty Van Gurt. Tragically, Hetty lost her son to an act of violent bullying in school. From that day forward, Hetty dedicated her life to the pursuit of bringing peace education to schools.

In 2001, after a particularly violent protest in Northern Ireland, Program Coordinator and Conflict Resolution Advisor Bridget Brownlow contacted Hetty, who had a plan to visit Northern Ireland with Peaceful Schools International—the rest is history.

While the goal of the program is to facilitate workshops that promote peace in schools, the curriculum changes each year to reflect the current climate, but by-and-large the message stays consistent. For example, the promotion of peace might be taught through empathy, de-escalation, or acceptance themes. However, no matter the lens, the ultimate takeaway for Saint Mary’s students is the same: to illuminate students’ worldview and their compassion for those who have experienced injustice and systemic violence.

To learn more about the program, click here.


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