Academic Alliance for Reconciliation in the Middle East and Northern Africa (AARMENA) - Inauguration & Conference (12th-16th of August, 2018)



The Jena Center for Reconciliation Studies (JCRS) invited all their partners of the Academic Alliance for Reconciliation in the Middle East and Northern Africa (AARMENA) to its inauguration ceremony and five-day conference from 12th to 16th of August in Jena.

Scientists and experts from Europe and the Middle East met to present and discuss their researches on "Refugees and Reconciliation". Refugees are in need of reconciliation in many respects, but often those needs are not addressed and fulfilled. Professor Leiner, director of the JCRS, stated that reconciliation is one way to deal with violent conflicts, "it is costly and needs generations, but it is the better way than ongoing fighting until the end or the creation of frozen conflicts with resentment, mistrust and the constant danger of revenge."

Today the MENA region is the most affected by wars, civil wars and gross human rights violations on earth. Since the 1990s, reconciliation studies have strongly developed in some centres around the world. However, they still are relatively absent from the academic curricula of universities in the MENA-region. The establishment and the spreading of reconciliation studies in the MENA-region is therefore one main goal of the AARMENA.

Professor Martin Leiner and Ayad Dajani, researcher at JCRS and project coordinator of the AARMENA, welcomed the international conference attendees: Presidents, professors and researchers from Universities in Jordan, Egypt, Austria, Germany, United Kingdom, Netherlands, Ireland, Turkey, Morocco and Palestine as well as representatives of the German Research Foundation (DFG) and the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) and other experienced experts.

The programme covered topics such as "Refugees and Reconciliation", "Refugees and Reconciliation in Media", "Reconciliation and Education" and "Religion and Reconciliation". All topics were approached in a very interdisciplinary perspective.

The inspiring discussions lead to a reaffirmation of the necessity of a network like the AARMENA and to the request of making the AARMENA conference a regular event. In this context the vice president of Tanta university, Prof. Dr. Mostafa El-Sheekh, invited to hold the next conference in Egypt in year 2020.

The conference caught attention not only on an academic but also on a political level: In a letter written on behalf of the office of Chancelor Angela Merkel the AARMENA is described as a project which "deserves recognition and support". Michelle Müntefering, Minister of State for International Cultural Politics in the German Foreign Office emphasizes that "a global scientific exchange that links civil societies is a sustainable investment into future collaboration". Also the former Prime Minister of Jordan, Prof. Dr. Adnan Badran spoke out in favour of reconciliation studies and their positive impact on the MENA region.

The conference was funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG) and the Ernst-Abbe-Foundation.