Debating Peace: Fostering Peace through Youth Debate
AbstractThe incongruent presence of debate in Rwandas educational and political spheres raises many questions concerning the role of debate in Rwanda. In order to prevent a legacy of fear and self-censorship from continuing to limit political engagement, humanitarian organizationsRwandan and international alikehave redirected their efforts toward the youth population. Recognizing the passion with which youth approach debate, youth organizations have embraced debate as a means of connecting with youth on sensitive issues. But can something as inherently divisive as debate also foster peace and honest politics? Scholarly works suggest yes, and discussions with students and NGO representatives affirm that answer. An examination of primary and secondary research suggests that debate is particularly suited toward cultivating an appreciation for three critical peacebuilding concepts. These concepts are (1) a commitment to truth-seeking, (2) the transcension of egocentric/sociocentric moral identities, and (3) the development of empathy. The research presented in this paper is hopeful, suggesting that Rwanda has come a long way since 1994. The high level of youth engagement in debate programs, paired with youth endorsement of the principles of debate, suggests that Rwanda is and will continue to make strides in opening political space and sustaining peace.
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