“Peace cannot be kept by force; it can only be achieved by understanding.”
What is Project Common Ground?
Project Common Ground is modeled after a long running programme by SUKA Society. Since 2011, SUKA Society had been running camps between refugee and Malaysian youths. The organization has always been looking for ways to bridge the gaps and foster understanding between different communities through peace-building activities.
In 2019, the organization started looking beyond the camp format to develop a more holistic programme that provides members of different communities adequate time and space to meet and share experiences.
SUKA Society Peacebuilding Camp between Orang Asli and Rohingya youths in 2016
Foster understanding and remove prejudices between communities
Discover commonalities shared between communities and embrace the differences
Provide a safe platform for communities to meet and engage with one another
Who will be part of Project Common Ground?
Peace-building is the core of Project Common Ground. The communities at large have their own fears, perceptions and mistrusts. Starting with the young people from various communities in Malaysia, the project hopes to create a ripple effect that will inspire the public to embrace the common ground they may share with people from unfamiliar communities.
For Project Common Ground 2019/2020, the focus is on building relationships between unaccompanied or separated refugee and Malaysian youths.
Why is the peace-building a crucial component?
Human beings are very diverse. The social groups we belong to contribute to the formation of our identities. Even though we share many commonalities, we also have many differences. These differences may be difficult for some people to reconcile, which may lead to prejudice and discrimination against people who are members of an unfamiliar community.
A lot of these negative perceptions stem from fears, anxieties and false beliefs. How we perceive another community affects the way we treat them. This is why it is important for us to make available platforms for members of different communities to engage, interact and build relationships in order to address the negative perceptions.
How will Project Common Ground promote peace-building?
Change of perspectives are not built overnight. It is important that adequate time and space are given for selected participants to get to know each other. Each of the activities are designed to create opportunities for them to share their thoughts and stories according to their comfort level.
The activities are curated based on the year’s focus and collaboration effort. They are always guided by the three C’s; Communicate, Create and Collaborate. We believe that prejudices can be removed and peace can be made between two groups of people if there are platforms for them to communicate, create rapport with one another and collaborate by working towards a common goal.
Project Common Ground is not just about the participants’ journey of discovery and peace building. They are a glimpse of what is possible if we allow ourselves to find commonalities with those perceived to be so different from us.
There are four main components that we work around with.
This component is designed to introduce participants to each other. They are a bunch of strangers that do not know much about each other beyond what they see, hear or know from the media. It is therefore essential for them to have the opportunities to get to know each other personally.
The Building Blocks
This component is an essential part of peace-building. It is tailored to allow participants to discover each other’s commonalities, embrace their differences and share their stories.
This component is a project goal that they work on together. Participants will learn new skills through workshops and mentorship programme in order to accomplish their goal.
This component highlights the project’s purpose and goal through the collaboration output. Every year, Project Common Ground intends to use this platform to bring awareness to a particular community. This gives participants a voice and platform to play a part in changing public perception.