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Indonesian media and conflict management delegation visits for inter-religious dialogue

ATHENS, Ohio (April 18, 2006) -- Ohio University's Center for International Studies will host a delegation of five conflict management specialists from Indonesia between April 19 and May 10. The group will be on campus from April 19 to 27 to finalize production of a series of videos on peer mediation, inter-religious dialogue and conflict management themes.

Participants are involved in a number of initiatives in Indonesia designed to promote harmony between social groups through various education and media initiatives. Their United States visit is intended to advance international collaboration on conflict management activities and broaden dialogue on issues affecting social cohesion in various national contexts.

This is the fourth delegation of Indonesian civic and religious leaders to visit Ohio University in the past two years in connection with the center's Inter-Religious Dialogue Project. These exchanges, as well as an American delegation visit to Indonesia in 2005, are designed to motivate serious efforts to strengthen inter-group harmony by promoting conflict management efforts in areas affected by sectarian strife. They are also intended to build support for civic education and tolerance promotion activities more generally. A key goal is to facilitate long-term relationships between Indonesian and American participants to promote sustained dialogue on how to manage differences among religious groups in a pluralistic civil society.

The project is funded through a grant from the Office of Citizen Exchanges at the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. It is being implemented by the Center for Southeast Asian Studies and the Department of Classics and World Religions at Ohio University.

The Media and Conflict Management delegation will begin their visit in Athens, Ohio on Wednesday, April 19. Although participants will be busy finalizing their video project, they will also observe peer mediation efforts in Athens County schools and participate in numerous campus activities. Then the group will travel to Cincinnati, Ohio, on April 27, where participants will meet with community leaders working to bridge racial divides. In particular, they will participate in Peace Village's Hunger Awareness Night in the city's impoverished Over-the-Rhine neighborhood.

The delegation will then travel to Washington, D.C., on April 30, where they will meet with U.S. government officials, visit conflict management practitioners working on international efforts, participate in a conference on Islam and democracy, and observe peer mediation programs in the Fairfax County, Virginia, schools. Finally, the delegation will visit Boston from May 7-10 where participants will explore university-public sector collaboration involving Harvard, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, private non-governmental organizations and the Massachusetts State Attorney General's office.

Richard Kraince, who spent several years conducting research on Islamic activism in Indonesia, directs the Inter-Religious Dialogue Project.

"This program is a wonderful opportunity for students, faculty and community members to be deeply involved in dialogue on important issues of democracy," Kraince said. "I think that is what the democratic process is all about. It has been a great honor to host several delegations from the world's largest Muslim nation and to have the opportunity to explore these kinds of issues in comparative perspective."

Kraince is a Fulbright New Century Scholar and has recently returned from three months of field research on Islamic Higher Education in Indonesia. He is also completing a project on trends in Islamic education in Malaysia for the National Bureau of Asian Research's Southeast Asian Education Survey.

"Having the State Department award this grant to Ohio University demonstrates the high quality of the Southeast Asian Studies program and faculty," said Drew McDaniel, interim director of the Center for International Studies. "We feel particularly proud to be given the opportunity to make such an important contribution to promoting peace and civil society."

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Media Contact: Special Projects Manager for the Center for International Studies Richard Kraince, (740) 593-0351 or kraincer@ohio.edu, or Assistant Director of Communication and Graduate Programming of the Center for International Studies Jennifer Cochran, (740) 593-1842 or cochraj1@ohio.edu

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