Generations For Peace bridging ethnic divides in SkopjeFebruary 19, 2013 – Skopje, Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia: In a society fractured along ethnic lines, Generations For Peace (GFP) volunteers are finding ways to bridge ethnic divides and transform attitudes. A workshop on Working with Children and Youth (WWCY) concluded yesterday in Skopje. The three-day workshop organized by certified GFP Pioneer, Sanja Angelovska, brought together 23 young men and women from Albanian and Macedonian origins for training to provide knowledge and practice of conflict transformation strategies to overcome deeply-held misperceptions between the different ethnic groups.

Conflict between Macedonian and Albanian groups, which culminated in 2001, has had an immense social impact on both ethnic groups living in Skopje. Since then, little to no communication has taken place between the two groups. The youth, in their quest to build a peaceful environment in their home community, found the answer in GFP programs.

Angelovska, having attended GFP Sochi Camp in 2010, is a passionate advocate for volunteerism, youth leadership and the role of responsible citizenship and active tolerance in transforming conflicts and violence. Applying the facilitation skills she acquired at the Camp, she helped participants to reassess their stereotypes and break down barriers, providing the opportunity for developing new relationships of tolerance and trust across ethnic divides.

Commenting on the success of the training, Angelovska says “I am very happy to be continuing the peace-building efforts in my community. My fellow volunteers and I are devoted to achieving a peaceful society filled with dialogue, tolerance, respect and responsible citizenship.”

One of the participants in this training was Aleksandra Milanova who found the programme to be very positive and helpful, commenting: “From Generations For Peace I’ve learned a lot. Mostly I liked the part when we were talking about conflicts, their solutions, negotiation and mediation. I’ve learned more about peace building, working with kids aged 6 – 11 years to help change their attitudes and behaviour, and I’ve learned that we should not make any differences between people based or religion or nationality.”

Communities in Skopje are still facing difficult challenges; with each ethnic group having poor perceptions and stereotypes of the other. As an experienced GFP Pioneer, Angelovska knows that the training is just the beginning of the journey for the newly-trained volunteers. She is planning for them to work together to pass on the values she herself learned to others, using the universal language of sport to engage more children and youth from across conflict divides in different activities that aim to build sustainable peace. “It is up to us as young community leaders to bring about positive change, so we will keep working on it.” says Angelovska.