Trust and Friendship in This Year’s Russell Berrie Fellows Skills-Building Workshop

On March 25-26, the Russell Berrie Fellows participated in the annual Skills-Building Workshop, held this year at the San Tarcisio Institute, a religious home in the midst of an archeological park in Rome. 

Facilitated by Dr. Amjad Mohamed-Saleem, Manager of Inclusion, Engagement, and Protection at International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent (IFRC), this workshop offered interactive sessions on relationship-building, holding space, and engaging in meaningful dialogue. 

“Mr. Amjad, the facilitator of the workshop, did a great job by engaging us in different activities and making sure that we may learn […] the skills of interreligious dialogue by practicing the 5 R’s of trust building, that are: Responsibility, Relationship, Respect, Reflection and Renew,” explains Kashif Anthony (Pakistan). 

“The topic was clearly presented in an approach of conveying theoretical knowledge and creating spaces in order to build trust among the participants through group activities,” Halil Avci (Germany) adds.

Trust was a major theme throughout the workshop—and one of the key takeaways for the Fellows. As Sr. Josmy Jose (India) shares, “I learned the importance of the responsibility in trust building in the scenario of an interreligious dialogue.”

“Trust is the foundation for lasting peace,” expresses Rev. Karikoga Tawanda Hope (Zimbabwe), “All IRD practitioners should foster the foundation of trust in their works as building trust is a long term commitment.” Kashif adds: “The process of trust is a mutual process which has no limits, it goes deeper and deeper when two people open themselves to each other.” 

Activities and down time were important for fostering trust and friendship between the Fellows. “This experience highlighted the importance of socializing in order to build trust among us,” reflects Halil Avci, “I especially enjoyed these group activities and the opportunity to share my spirituality with the other  Fellows.”

On Saturday evening, Fellows shared an Iftar dinner, the meal eaten after sunset during the month of Ramadan, with guests. For Halil, it was “a significant sign of the generosity of the Christian hosts in cooperation with the JPII Center to accommodate us and to serve an enjoyable Iftar dinner for all the guests.” “It was a golden opportunity to know each other better,” says Sr. Josmy Jose, “The participation in the Ramadan meal and being part of the Muslim prayer moments was very inspiring.”

“Hearing from professionals in the field of interreligious dialogue sharing their experiences on building trust among diverse communities was inspiring,” shares Andrew Mixson (USA) regarding an online session that was organized with members of the Network 4 Dialogue, a European-wide platform established to bring faith and civil society actors together to promote the use of dialogue and develop more effective recommendations for social inclusion policies for migrants and refugees in Europe. The guests from Network 4 Dialogue discussed their work with the Fellows. “What I cherished the most were interactions from the practitioners of interreligious dialogue,” expresses Sr. Josmy Jose.

Beginning with a Sunday morning mass celebrated by Fellow Fr. Jackson Johnson, the second day of the Skills-Building Workshop concluded in the afternoon of Sunday, March 26.

“The skills-building workshop was invaluable for turning the essential though oftentimes theoretical and academic work of studying at the Angelicum into practical grassroots initiatives,” shares Andrew Mixson. Indeed, for Rev. Karikoga, it’s this crucial bridging of the academic and the practical that makes the Skills-Building Workshop “the heartbeat of the success of the Fellowship program.”