How do we approach our conflicts?
It is obvious as human beings we can find ourselves in one or another type of conflicts. The cause for our conflicts could be personal or principial. Our conflicts could be based on ideological, economic or political grounds with a focus on gaining the power that will allow us to control both material and non-material resources in our context.
In some cases our conflicts are escalated because of not knowing what the other side is thinking. Having different pictures of the problems leading to the conflict as well as different ideas on possible solutions are also obstacles in dealing with conflicts.
There are cases when the parties will refuse to deal with their problems and allow them to go out of control and lead to aggressive confrontations. In other case, there are occasions where the two parts will approach each other to try to solve their problems by themselves. It is also common that the conflicting parties are asking for negotiators to get involved.
Issues on dealing with conflicts are wide and complex. It is beyond this short text to go deep into the complex parts and processes. Here it is rather an attempt to give a simple personal experiences and reflections on how a conflict was dealt with.
About a decade and half ago, there were issues that lead to a conflict between two groups within St. Gabriel congregation in Gothenburg. In addition to these two groups, there was a conflict between St. Gabriel congregation in Gothenburg and the Ethiopian Orthodox Church in Stockholm . The issues that lead to the conflict in the local congregation were mainly administrative while the one with the mother church in Stockholm was due to both resource sharing and administration.
As the conflict was escalating the congregation in Gothenburg decided to discuss it and try to find solutions. At a meeting it was decided to form a committee that would deal with the problem and report back to the congregation. In this meeting eight persons were elected. I was not on the meeting but I was one of them who was elected.
In our first meeting, I was elected as a chairman for the eight persons committee. At the following meetings we discussed how to approach the issue at hand. We agreed on some basic principles such as to be as neutral as possible and to respect and listen to both parts. Beyond that we also agreed to allow both parties to define what they considered as problems, what they thought could be the solutions and what they proposed on how to prevent similar problems in the future.
In the following two to three months the committee members were meeting with the two groups in Gothenburg and with the mother church in Stockholm. We posed our questions and we listened to their replies. By showing our interest to what they said and showing our respect, we created an atmosphere of trust for each other. After gathering information from all parts, we tried to identify what were considered as problems by the parties, what they considered as possible solutions and their proposals to prevent similar problems in the future.
The issues were resolved in an acceptable way for both parties. The agreement was concluded in the presence of the archbishop Elias who lead the meeting and concluded it with his blessing.
I am just providing an example from a local issue but this could be replicated even in issues bigger than the one given in this example. To resolve conflicts, first of all there is a need to recognize the existence of the problem, the willingness to deal with it, respect for the opposing party and acceptance in the process regarding both giving and taking. If there is a third party as a mediator as we mentioned earlier it should attempt to be neutral, curious and interested and willing to listen to both parts´ definition of the problems and proposal to solutions.
The solution should be concluded with creating a win/win feeling for both sides.