Students are very enthusiastic about the program, and most continue to have contact with Soliya and /or their group members. A few students have even gone on to meet some of their group members, such as Arianna who has gone to do an internship in Cairo. Some students have also started to study Arabic as their interest in the Middle EAst and North Africa has grown.
"Well, it was tough…but we can’t always agree with others…and even by disagreeing, we manage to see how much we can learn from others points of view."
A student reflection paper
According to the “butterfly effect” theory, if a single butterfly flaps its wings, this innocent movement may cause a hurricane’s formation even weeks later in the opposite part of the world. This might be hard to believe, especially in a world in which everyday we come across such a tremendous amount of news that somehow become nothing more than a background noise in our lives. We can be very sentimental about a romantic comedy, cry for nonsense and yet not even be able to react indignantly when we hear of terrosistic attacks and innocents’ massacres.
Soliya Connect Program is an online cross-cultural education program integrated into curriculum that provides students with a unique opportunity to establish a deeper understanding for the perspectives of others around the world on important socio-political issues and why they feel the way they do. In other words, Soliya is a powerful means of breaking the soap balls in which we live and experiencing for yourself how it is like to be a Muslim, to hate Israel, to live in Pakistan and so on. Personally, I’ve never had the pleasure to discuss with an American or a Muslim about issues such as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the power of the media, our own interests and culture. I live in a small town in Italy, a Country full of contradictions and narrow-minded people. By way of example, here Chinese people are often labelled as “the ones who steal our jobs” and Muslims as “dangerous fundamentalists”. Indeed, I believe in small towns like the one I live in, the differences between “us” and “the others” are much more evident rather than in big cities.
Thanks to Soliya the vague picture I had of the Muslims has now an identity and a voice: her name is Yara and she comes from Jordan. And, more importantly, we became friends.
During a Soliya session our group has been asked to split into two smaller groups; one had to adopt an American point of view, the other a Muslim perspective. The aim was to discuss about a big theme which creates conflicts between these two cultures and try to suggest some solutions. If might be hard to believe, but it worked. For instance, looking at the women’s position in the American society from a Muslim point of view, I’ve noticed how often women are considered just for their aspects and not for their personalities. This happens everyday in the fashion world that opens its doors only to skinny young women. A possible solution that we found in order to defend the Muslim women’s habit to wear a veil could be to organise a flash mob thanks to the social network, in which all women would wear a veil. This might sound insignificant, but according to the previously mentioned butterly effect, it will have an effect sometime somewhere in the world.
Another important issue we dealt with is the importance of the media. We have been asked to create a video project in which we had to arrange several footage clips in order to report in 3 minutes the news of the Muslims’ protests against an American sarcastic movie about the Prophet. Although we had to be unbiased, we realised how hard it is to give an exhaustive view on such a deep topic in that little time. Still, sometimes the “Western” media willfully decide to give a certain idea of the Muslims as fundamentalists and violent people, or they choose not to report something at all. For instance, Italian TV news give far too little room to foreign policy issues or other Countries’ situations, they focus just on the Italian matters. And yet, even when we hear about a massacre on the TV, do we really stop and think about what do those numbers mean? Honestly, I rarely manage to do this. During a Soliya session Yara wrote me that she was very sad because she had heard that some Palestinian children had died that day due to a bomb attack. The number was much more little than the ones I’m used to hear from the news, but I felt profoundly touched and angry for that event. Dialogue is the real butterfly effect, dialogue is what will assure us a better future.