The Alliance for Peacebuilding recently highlighted a program called Saliya, which sets up online dialogue between students from different countries and religious backgrounds. The goal is to promote dialogue and understanding across the boundaries that usually divide us through the use of online tools. Participants then use their understanding to respond differently in situations of conflict involving the other.
The unspoken assumption in the article, however, is that the students share a language through which they can communicate. Whether that means the students are learning the other’s language directly (the screen shot shows a chat in English), or making use of those with interpretive skills or translation tools, understanding can only happen when language facilitates it and only for those who have access to that language. Language education, whether for participants or interpreters, then, is at the heart of any international exchange and dialogue efforts for peace.