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Group Seeks Quiet, Behind-The-Scenes Method of Conflict Resolution - 2002-06-13

A group called "Initiatives of Change", formerly the Moral Rearmament Movement, is gearing up under its new name to promote reconciliation work both at the grassroots and policy-making level. The group said the Kashmiri crisis is high on its agenda.

The tiny Swiss mountain village of Caux, outside of Lausanne, is preparing to welcome high-powered guests who hope to find a solution to the Kashmiri problem and other conflicts involving Muslims.

Caux, where Initiatives of Change is based, gathers people from different cultures and religions involved in seemingly intractable conflicts. The group seeks to foster dialogue between such people as the Indians and Pakistanis, caught up in violence and hatred by providing the chance for dialogue and reconciliation.

Initiatives President Cornelio Sommargua, the former head of the International Committee of the Red Cross, said influential Indians, like Rajmouhand Gandhi, and Pakistanis will be soon meeting in Caux, joined by other Muslim leaders such as Jordan's Prince Hassan, to discuss Kashmir.

"The grandson of the great Muhatma Gandhi has taken the initiative, and I think the presence of Hassan of Jordan will help to have this serious dialogue. But it will certainly be a dialogue that will be closed - not something that we would wish to make in front of the press," Mr. Sommargua said.

This quiet, behind-the-scenes peace-building approach used by Initiatives was brought to Bradford, England, recently. The northern English city has Britain's largest Muslim community and was the scene of severe race riots last year. A group of Lebanese Christians and Muslims working with Initiatives met with Bradford's people.

Initiative's Christoph Spreng was with the Lebanese who shared their own experiences of civil war and the need to understand different people and work together to rebuild lives.

"Thirteen months ago, the city was just about aflame with race riots. So the Lebanese experience of rebuilding confidence across the lines of the various groups which has been going on in Lebanon was discussed with Muslim leaders in Bradford and with Bradford's 'proper English,'" Mr. Spreng said.

Initiatives has said peace-building and reconciliation takes a lot of time and patience. But, it said, the effort is worth it when the fruit of peace is finally achieved, and peoples find ways of living and working together.

The organization is based in Switzerland but has branches in 70 countries throughout the world.