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Mon 24 Aug 2015 09:41 AM

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Bahrain looks to Belfast for conflict resolution

Officials have met with Northern Ireland officials in attempt to bring peace to the kingdom

Bahrain looks to Belfast for conflict resolution

A Bahrain-based political think tank is working with Northern Ireland peacekeepers to resolve national conflict that threatens to undermine the security of the Gulf state.

Representatives from the Bahrain Foundation for Reconciliation and Civil Discourse (BFRDC) have held a series of meetings over the past two years with the Belfast-based Causeway Institute for Peace-building and Conflict Resolution, Gulf Daily News revealed on Sunday.

The talks with former terrorists, prisoners, politicians and negotiators are intended to help map out a way for Bahrain to tackle entrenched political and sectarian conflict that often erupts in violence.

BFRCD chairman Suhail Al Gosaibi told the newspaper that the problems Bahrain is facing are not on the same scale as the 30-year Northern Ireland conflict.

However, he said he believed lessons can be learnt from the way in which Irish community leaders, activists and politicians had dealt with the turbulence.

And, if Bahrain does not work quickly to resolve internal conflict, it could one day end up in a situation as messy as the Northern Irish “Troubles” not so long ago.

He was quoted as saying: “Bahrain has a lot to learn from Northern Ireland because we have some similarities, but it is very important to point out that our conflicts are not the same.

“Sectarian tensions in [Northern Ireland] left more than 3,000 killed and tens of thousands injured.

“Bahrain’s crisis is in no way close to this, but I am concerned that if we don’t resolve our crisis, one day we will become like they were.

“This is because we have a generation growing up inured to violence that might become even more prone to it than they are now.”

Bahrain has suffered a series of attacks on its police and other authorities, plots to overthrow its parliament and homegrown ‘terrorism’.

Al Gosaibi now intends to form a task force to chart a way forward for the country.

He said: “These sessions [orchestrated by the Causeway Institute] have been powerful and inspiring because we met people who once believed that violence was a solution to conflicts, but have now changed their beliefs and ways.

“The people with whom we interacted included former terrorists and prisoners, who had committed terrible crimes but later realised violence was not the way.

“Some had lost loved ones or been horribly injured, but they have been through these experiences and emerged with the incredible strength to forgive.

“We have also met community leaders, activists and politicians – a whole spectrum of society who shared with us their experiences.

“We need to think how we can implement these experiences that we received in Northern Ireland.

“We should be thinking in terms of what can be done immediately, for Bahrain’s present situation, as well as in the longer term.

The BFRCD signed a memorandum of understanding with the Causeway Institute in 2013 to help address conflict in Bahrain. Its next visit to Northern Ireland is scheduled for August 30.