Growing up in a former conflict-torn area of Poso, 18-year-old Wulan Trisya Lembonunu always thought conflict and violence were synonymous. But that mindset changed after she participated in a May workshop in Jakarta to foster peacebuilding initiatives among students.
"I learned that conflict is something natural due to differences in our society, which is also something natural," she told Khabar Southeast Asia. "We can turn conflict into something constructive if we think about and confront it rationally."
The sociology student and her four classmates from Tadulako University in Palu were joined by 12 students from Jakarta State University, Muhammadiyah Jakarta University and Sultan Ageng Tirtayasa University (Untirta) in Banten. The workshop was organised by the Indonesian chapter of Search for Common Ground (SFCG), an NGO focusing on conflict prevention.
Wulan said she often heard inflammatory rumours among different religious groups that bred distrust in her home regency of Morowali and in Palu, the provincial capital of Central Sulawesi. After the workshop, she said she could see conflict in a more rational manner.
"Suspicions among us only create barriers for us and prevent us from developing as human beings," she said.
Fajri Falah, an early childhood education student at Untirta, said he too learned to regard conflict more positively. "I can identify ways to overcome conflict in persuasive manners," he told Khabar.
Fajri, who works part time as a teacher in his community's early childhood education facility, said he would try to impart conflict-resolution methods he learned to some abusive parents of his students.
"I know that some of my students suffer from being hit by their parents," he said. "I want to practice what I learned by talking to the parents so we can prevent their children from growing up in an abusive home and being infected by violent surroundings."
SFCG programme manager Agus Nahrowi said the workshop was held to inspire students to become "peace leaders" and promote tolerance, teaching select students identified as youth leaders on each campus.
"We take special consideration to choose students from Palu or Poso, since they are used to people resorting to violence as a way out of a conflict," Agus said. The workshop will also be held in Palu and throughout Java over the coming months.
"We are trying to change their mindset about conflict and diversity by instilling the idea that people who are in conflict do not need to be archenemies. Instead, they can be partners in finding a resolution."