Lauren Griffin, a Peace Scholar from Luther College, wrote this post.
I was so pleased to learn that Steinar Bryn and the Nansen Dialogue Network have been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize once again this year. The Nansen Dialogue Network is an incredible organization that advocates for dialogue, rather than debate or negotiations, as a tool for peace. Their endeavors are mainly focused in the Balkans, where dialogue is rarely seen in many divided communities.
Over the last few years, I’ve had the privilege to spend time with Steinar at the Nansen Dialogue Network in Norway. During my sophomore year at Luther College, I spent one semester studying abroad in Lillehammer, Norway, where the Network is based. I took take classes once a week with Steinar and learned so much about how dialogue can be an effective tool for peacebuilding. The culmination of this experience was having the opportunity to return to Lillehammer this past summer to actually participate in a dialogue session.
Each year, the Nobel Peace Prize Forum sends ten students on a scholarship to study peace issues in Norway. I was one of those lucky students last year, which was the first time that the Peace Scholars spent one week at the Nansen Dialogue Network. The 20 other students from the Balkans that we met up with have had very different lives than most of us Americans. For a number of these students, this was their first time traveling outside of the Balkans because it’s not easy to cross borders of countries right next door. For many of these students, this was also their first opportunity to speak to people from the countries that they have a history of conflict with. They had never before had the chance to engage in a conversation with someone who represents the face of the “enemy”. Throughout that week, what seemed like simple conversations became the foundation for strong relationships that grew throughout our summer in Norway.
I am so grateful that I was able to go to Norway and be a part of the Nansen Dialogue Network’s amazing efforts there. But what is even better is that my friends and other students back home can hear phenomenal speakers like Steinar Bryn at the Nobel Peace Prize Forum every year. I truly hope that students take advantage of this amazing opportunity and hopefully they will be as inspired as I have.