Can Theater Help Resolve Conflict?

While much of the world's focus on conflict is on the most violent stages and the immediate peace negotiations necessary to stop war, there is very little attention paid to preventing violent conflicts before they start and making sure conflicts that have ended do not start again.

One powerful way peace-builders are promoting non-violence and re-uniting divided groups is through theater.

In South Sudan, international organisation Search for Common Ground is using participatory theater to diffuse tensions between groups in refugee camps.

The beauty of participatory theater is that the issues dealt with come from the communities watching, and are very relevant for the audience.

"In this type of theater you speak to audiences and learn about the problems that exist within a community,” said Search for Common Ground actor Micheal Franco Ladu Wani.

“Then you put it into a form of drama and present it as a subject to the audience, allowing them to provide solutions, instead of bringing your own solutions to them," he said.

In Yemen, theater has been a useful tool on the ground, despite horrific conditions. Entrenched violence, and the direct impact on children in particular, is a major concern in Yemen, with one English teacher from Sana'a saying that the “school environment and community as a whole are overwhelmed with violence".

However puppet shows and games have proven to be effective in addressing the social norms of violence in schools, and encourage children to look for non-violent solutions in their everyday encounters.

"We are working in education, working with community dialogue, working with awareness raising and on child protection, working with youth, trying to maintain that social cohesion, trying to focus people's energy at a local level, at a very local level," said Search for Common Ground country director Shoqi A. Maktary.

"In such an environment, where people hear the aeroplanes circling around their heads, and they still go to school, they still have fun in the school and learn something - that means a lot," he said.

Footage courtesy of Search for Common Ground.

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