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ROM 2023 Equips Young Leaders to Pursue Peace

8/15/23, 10:00 AM

Over the last week of June and the first week of July, 44 participants from 15 countries came together in Crikvenica, Croatia to learn how to be agents of change in their communities and throughout the world.

Through talks led by sixteen speakers with a wide range of backgrounds, small group discussions, and  interactive workshops, attendees of ROM’s annual gathering came away  better equipped to pursue peace at the individual, societal, and global  level.

The first week of the Gathering was focused on ensuring participants  feel welcome and embraced, allowing all to feel more comfortable  sharing their stories, talking about their identities, and acknowledging  their need for healing–and how they might help others to heal. A vital  starting point was a talk about identity in the context of  peacebuilding, and how those who take on this role might be perceived as  enemies by some. We further explored peacebuilding by learning about  positive and negative peace, as well as the importance of learning to  disagree well, an essential component of conflict resolution. To  understand our own identities better, we explored our own personalities.  We were also reminded of two connected realities: it’s never too late  to understand and refine our identities, no matter how old we get, and  that when we have discussions about what we believe are the most  pressing issues in our society, we need to invite all generations to the  table.

To help aid in healing, participants attended a session on “art as a  weapon of peace,” which challenged them to create as an antidote to  violence and war. Later in the week, we leaned into our vulnerability by  using art to reflect on our experiences and process what we’d been  learning, sharing stories, poems, and paintings. We were reminded that  sharing deeply, in a space filled with empathy, is a way to release our  trauma and our burdens.

To mark the midpoint of the Gathering, we joined with our sister organization EDI (Economics, Diplomacy, and Integrity) for spiritual sessions centered on Jesus and his example of servant  leadership. This neatly tied together a few themes from earlier in the  week: How Jesus’ actions were able to disrupt the Roman Empire, the  importance of maintaining our integrity when we gain power, and the need  to use power to improve the lives of others, particularly those who  hold very little.

This delved nicely into our second week, which focused on practical  ways we can lead and serve. Leaders, we were taught, must not only know  how to manage difficult conversations, but be able to ask themselves,  “Am I the difficult person in this situation?” Attendees participated in  workshops on the power of mentorship, leadership and parenting, and on  self-knowledge and feedback. To consider problems close to home that  require both leadership and service, speakers conducted workshops on the  reality of human trafficking, disrupted peace, and the rise of  nationalism in the Balkans.

The Gathering was brought to a close with ideas about how we can all  move forward with peacebuilding and social change. Speakers shared  their knowledge of how to take actionable steps in moving an  organization forward, reminded us to use the skills we already have on  hand, and discussed the importance of controlling the future of  organizations rather than trying to predict what might happen next. We  were reminded of the importance of forgiveness in healing from trauma;  without healing, it is impossible to create lasting peace and  reconciliation. It is also impossible to truly effect change if one  succumbs to burnout, which is why we conducted a roundtable discussion on the feelings that arise when one is approaching such a point and how to halt its advance.

One of the biggest obstacles to pursuing peace and creating change  is a feeling of isolation. One benefit of events like ROM’s summer  gathering is having the time to forge relationships with other  like-minded individuals. Friendships were struck over shared meals and  hikes along the beautiful Croatian coastline. They were deepened through  laughter and tears, the willingness to be vulnerable and the sharing of  passions and dreams. Connections were formed through International  Night, which included learning a Syrian dance, hearing music from  Brazil, and sharing jokes from Serbia, as well as Talent Night, filled  with songs, dances, and skits. Participants came away knowing that  they’re not alone in this work, that they have others to whom they can  confide their worries and express their joys.

Throughout the year, ROM intends to help strengthen the bonds  created in Crikvenica, as well as encouraging new ones. In addition to  individual check ins with the leadership team, we plan to host events in  Novi Sad, Serbia and Bucharest, Romania, and hope to add others to the  list.

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