A New Approach to Peacebuilding?
By Mark Young
President, Rational Games, Inc.
The mammoth COP 28 conference just finished in Dubai was memorable as it was the first such gathering to unanimously affirm (however conditionally) a worldwide movement away
from the burning of fossil fuels. More specifically, some have claimed that this last-minute breakthrough was enabled by another first-time event: the organization of an Islamic Majlis.
Majlis, an institution even older than Islam itself, is an Arabic word for “sitting place”, “salon” or also “council”. It is a unique form of problem-solving gathering that has never been attempted before in this setting, and it appears to have made a difference.
Majlis is remarkable for:
First, it's a unique setting. Since Majlis is both a place and an event, great care is taken to create a conducive atmosphere for a fruitful discussion. Beautiful decorations such as Nagash paintings, bright colors, geometric designs and non-hierarchal seating arrangements (concentric rings) invite participants to slow down, relax and speak simply from the heart.
Second, deep mutual respect between the participants and what they have to impart to the discussion. From the start, a spirit of collaboration is established, with ground rules set, no particular person in charge and all bringing proven credentials and well-known capable faces. This is indeed a community gathering to solve problems, not a theater for debate or even negotiation.
Finally, the appeal to a higher power fundamentally reframes the debate. It is remarkable that Islam, not generally known for its ecumenism, can establish the profound spirituality
that is the hallmark of this particular gathering. All faiths are welcome, and all that is formally required is that speakers be just, and have knowledge and wisdom. Interventions are forms of oral heritage, so stories and poems.
The focus is on what binds us and can lead us to a better solution. An idea whose time has come?