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The views and perspectives contained in these Blogs are from individual contributors and external sources, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions or position of the Cordoba Foundation of Geneva. The links are neither intended as an endorsement of particular publications nor the only source for the updates, but to connect to information in the public domain, for those interested in background or further details.

The Cordoba Foundation of Geneva has a small and dedicated team of staff in Geneva and the field, with a variety of backgrounds and experience. We have worked on themes as diverse as community tensions in the Sahel; preventing violence and extremism through working with credible Muslim scholars; polarizations and tensions among Muslim actors with different religious references in the Middle East and Gulf regions; and building peace promotion capacities among journalists in East Africa. Our methodology is based on encouraging and facilitating dialogues, as a means of directly communicating with “the other”, discussing differences and similarities, and identifying common areas for collaborative work.

Our projects are reinforced through our collaboration with a large and talented pool of consultants and researchers throughout the regions where we work. We asked our partners in Chad, Iraq, Lebanon, Mali, Mauritania, Morocco, Nigeria and Tunisia for their perspectives on the unique value and strengths of the CFG.

AidaYazbek

Sister Aida Yazbek
Director of Al-Mouna Cultural Centre, established by the Diocese of N'Djamena - Chad

We have been honoured at Al-Mouna Centre in N'Djamena, to work with the Cordoba Foundation of Geneva. Our cooperation with all the trainers was excellent, within the peacekeeping program for peaceful coexistence and the establishment of peace-monitoring units.

With the participation of the Swiss Embassy in Chad, your organisation has trained staff and volunteers at Al-Mouna Centre in understanding types of conflicts (religious, environmental and ethnic) and ways to address them peacefully, by involving the local community in order to promote dialogue between cultures and civilizations. It has also enabled them to become mediators in conflict resolution and trainers for capacity-building, focusing on mutual respect among groups, institutions and individuals, and working for promoting peace.

I personally have had the honour of contributing to several conferences and workshops at your invitation, in Switzerland, Mauritania, and Senegal, in the area of rapprochement between Muslims in Chad and other Sahel countries, of reducing tensions and creating opportunities for meeting, dialogue and exchange of experience among the organisations with which they work.

AliAlAhmad

Ali Al-Ahmad
Vice-President, Kalima Centre for Dialogue and Cooperation - Iraq

The methodology and tools used by the CFG to find solutions to problems between different ethnic and ideological groups (by creating a common working space through which to begin a practical dialogue and interaction to directly solve a problem) is the best way for societies to identify their commonalities and to get to know the ‘other’.

While our experience with the CFG is recent, we are optimistic for the success of their methodology in Iraq because we, at the Kalima Centre for Dialogue and Cooperation, believe that communication among the segments of the spectrum of Iraqi society is the beginning of a roadmap by which we can develop a set of solutions. We also emphasize that organizations supporting such a project should study the Iraqi reality and its transformations, through regular communication and visits, action research, and direct cooperation with active consultants on the ground, to understand what is possible to achieve.

KassemKassir

Kassem Kassir
Journalist and activist in dialogue, unity and violence - Lebanon

The CFG is an institution active in promoting dialogue and cooperation in many Arab countries and the North African region, which I came to know about several years ago through friends including Dr. Abbas Aroua. I also had the honour of participating in several workshops in Switzerland, Istanbul, and Beirut, in which men and women from several countries facing conflicts and wars participated. These workshops have played an important role in facilitating communication between many active figures in Arab societies, in addition to contributing to the meeting of worldviews and the search for common spaces for work among participants.

In Lebanon, the CFG contributed to gathering several Muslim institutions and associations, experts, and activists to discuss sensitive issues, including support for Syrian refugees, the poor and the needy, as well as detainees in Lebanese prisons. This forum has undertaken numerous and ongoing activities and has played an important role in bringing together diverse Muslim associations, alleviating relations in the climate of sectarian tensions.

MeriemeYafout

Merieme Yafout
Doctor in political science and researcher at the Research Centre on Political Work, University of Ouazzane - Morocco

Conflict transformation and mediation between conflicting parties is a very important goal, especially at a time when we are most in need of accepting pluralism, differences, peaceful coexistence and acceptance of “the other”. I salute the CFG for adopting this goal and its endeavour to achieve it in many countries.

Personally, I had the opportunity to cooperate with the Foundation as part of a project to mediate and transform conflicts between different parties on the topic of women’s issues in Morocco. The experience was very important and proved that sitting at the same table with another party, and correcting prejudices and misunderstandings, is not impossible. The project overcame a great challenge by encouraging different parties to sit together and exchange views, sometimes expressing a prior misunderstanding of the other's position; especially parties that no one could imagine sitting around a table discussing a very sensitive topic like women's rights (e.g. a secular party and a party with a Salafi orientation).

The ambition of the project that we accomplished was very great. It aimed to move towards convincing the various parties to work on a field project for the benefit of Moroccan women. Working together would provide a greater opportunity to understand “the other” and guide everyone's thinking towards the common good of women and the country. Regrettably, this goal could not be achieved because of many political and ideological obstacles. But this does not detract from the great work done by the CFG. And I wish the Foundation a successful journey.

HamidouMagassa

Hamidou Magassa
Socio-Economist at the Centre for Studies for Research in Natural Resources and Environment in the Sahel (CERNES) - Mali

My general appreciation of the CFG is its cross-cutting approach to contemporary issues that may appear to be incompatible at first glance. As part of the Sahel Platform, I had the advantage of participating in two workshops in Dakar and Bamako as part of the study on interactions between politics, religion and peace in Mali. The glimpses of the participants from various African countries allowed us to go beyond this case study and extend it to the various concerns of mobilizing religious civil society. This allowed, on a case-by-case basis, to relativize local situations by giving them a widely shared dimension of political research for peace to practice one's faith.

MohammedAbuAl Maali

Mohammed Mahmoud Abu Al-Ma'ali
Journalist and researcher specialising in “jihadist” movements and armed groups in the Sahel and Sahara - Mauritania

The CFG is considered a leading institution in its field of promoting peace in the Muslim and Arab world and transforming violent conflicts into peaceful dialogues, as well as in its role of seeking moderate, balanced Islamic discourse against rhetoric of extremism and violence. Its advantage over other institutions working in this field is its relationship with people close to, or influential within, violent circles. This makes its work relevant to the interests and concerns of young people involved in violence, unlike others, who adopt a hostile approach towards violent groups and their appeals.

I participated in the CFG’s projects related to conflict in Mali, extremism in Mauritania and in the Sahel region in general. I listened to the approaches of scholars and researchers, some of whom were active in the upper circles of violent extremist groups and were aware of the gaps in armed groups’ discourse and justifications. This facilitated a calm and comprehensive response to the doubts and confusion of young people involved in those groups or young people qualified to join them. This was in addition to participating with CFG in the Sufi-Salafi dialogue in Chad, as well as cultural and ethnic dialogues in Mauritania.

The presence of the CFG as a Swiss institution has helped win confidence because of Switzerland’s well-known neutrality policy and its non-involvement in armed conflicts. However, I think that the Foundation must review its methodology, especially in its workshops, which are usually dense, leaving little opportunity to develop a subject and make necessary recommendations on it. Therefore, I propose that in the future, this density of discussion topics in workshops and meetings should be mitigated.

SalaheddineJourchi

Salaheddine Al-Jourchi
Writer and journalist, founding political and civil society activist - Tunisia

I believe that the CFG is a serious institution that enjoys credibility and a wide and diverse network of contacts, thanks to its non-discriminatory approach to all parties. It has remained impartial in the many complex conflicts and tensions experienced by most Arab and Muslim-majority countries.

The CFG's importance lies in its ongoing endeavours to resolve the conflicts that beset many peoples. Many of these conflicts are complex, chronic and sometimes costly, yet the Foundation strives to disentangle them and move towards a solution. It relies on a methodology that is simple and challenging at the same time. First, it seeks to gather opposing groups, by necessity, reassuring some of them. It invites them to a serious dialogue, away from the limelight, gradually pushing them to jointly discover their commonalities and to identify their fundamental differences. From that point begin the confidence-building efforts among the parties to the conflict.

The meetings in which I participated, in the Foundation's work in Tunisia, showed that they consolidated the participating groups’ belief that an open and responsible dialogue can overcome challenges and alleviate political and ideological confrontations. These tensions are difficult to overcome in short periods and this work takes time, but what the CFG achieved was useful, positive and successful, in spite of the persistence of Secular-Islamist tensions in Tunisia.

MuhammadLemu

Muhammad Nuruddeen Lemu
Director of Research and Training at the Da’wah Institute of Nigeria (DIN), Islamic Education Trust (IET) in Minna - Nigeria

There are very few organisations I have met that have the approach of the CFG in their work on peace-making and building resilience against violent extremism. I find them very humble and curious in their dealings with local partners. They show a lot of religious and cultural sensitivity, and a lot of respect for the uniqueness of each context. They listen critically and really try to understand the local voices without insisting on pushing a particular foreign “best practice” or ready-made agenda that is not appropriate for our context.

The distribution of well-researched and important resources on alternative narratives in local languages and the training programmes for Imams and religious leaders supported by the CFG has empowered these community leaders by with well-reviewed, credible, relevant and effective alternative religious narratives that only a few organisations have access to. Their readiness to allow local communities and others to take ownership and full credit for their (CFG) work, training programmes, media content and even publications on alternative narratives has shown their sincerity and commitment to really bringing an end to ideologically inspired forms of religious extremism.