The delegation began on November 14th with a visit to the Treasures collection of the British Library, where ancient religious texts, Shakespeare, and the Magna Carta are all on display. The students then went to Bentham House, where they had an engaging discussion on public international law, and the laws of war, with Professor Kimberley Trapp. The delegation then met with several Middle East experts at Chatham House for a discussion about peacebuilding, and the “Israel and Palestine: Beyond the Stalemate” project. Afterwards there was a two hour workshop at Europe House, which focused on Brexit. There the delegation also met with youth from different countries through the Asfar organization. Finally, the day concluded with a briefing at the Behavioral Insights Team, where the students learned about behavioral economics, and its impact on policy-making.
On Friday the delegation was photographed Fran Monks as part of the Hug Project. Then the delegation joined the Muslim Educational Center of Oxford for Juma’a prayers, where they heard the khutba from Dr Taj Hargey and had a lively discussion on contemporary Islam. That evening the delegation joined the Jewish community at the University of Oxford for shabbat dinner.
From Friday afternoon until Sunday afternoon the students engaged in their respective committees, representing a range of countries such as Australia, China, Russia, the United Arab Emirates, and the United States. At the closing ceremony on Sunday Teba Massalha (UAE) received a Best Position Paper award in OPEC, while Eliran Ben Yair (China) received an Honorable Mention award in CSW.
Back in London the delegation met with peacebuilding experts at Conciliation Resources, and visited the Embassy of Ecuador, where they met Ambassador Jaime Marchan-Romero, and the Embassy of Kosovo, where they met Counselor Imer Berisha. They also visited one of the largest Hindu temples outside of India, and heard a piano concert by Rachel Starritt at the St. Martin in the Fields church. The delegation also received a private tour of the Institute of Ismaili Studies, including a visit to the Agha Khan Centre Gallery, featuring work by contemporary Egyptian artist Bahia Shehab. The delegation was lucky to be guided by curator Esen Kaya, and joined by academic and musician Dr. Vanessa Paloma. Kaya told Diplomacy that she was very interested in “hearing about the students debate programme and the passionate messages they had conveyed in Oxford. They all liked our building, the Islamic gardens and were amused with reading some Arabic text within specific art works and gardens around the building.” She added that it was interesting to see the responses of young leaders to topical contemporary culture as well as traditional religious texts.
The delegation also found time to visit the National Gallery, the Museum of Natural History, and the British Museum, featuring the Rosetta Stone and Egyptian mummies and other treasures. They finished the delegation by meeting with Jaron Soh to learn about his efforts to help refugees and displaced persons support themselves using traditional handcrafts, contemporary technology, and global economics.
Lareen Habashi from Iksal High School told Diplomacy that this was “a special experience that I did not have before. We discussed different topics concerning the whole world, we met people from different ages, different positions and fields from several countries around the world.”
Shahaf Navon, from Ben Gurion Comprehensive school in Petah Tiqva, added that the delegation “helped us to personally evolve and not only to get to know the other side but to befriend them, (and the) meetings with different NGO was a wonderful experience.
Maya Qawasmi from Al Qassemi high school in Baqa added “we had an amazing week, visiting different places and meeting with people who gave us so much information about several subjects. We had a fun time in the museums, and finally three incredible days in Oxford conference.”
The upcoming Debate for Peace delegations will be to Yale MUN and Johns Hopkins MUN in the US.
Photo Credit: Fran Monks and Debate for Peace