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Conference to address listening techniques

Megan O'Neil | Friday, November 19, 2004

As part of its commitment to interfaith dialogue, the Center for Women’s Intercultural Leadership (CWIL) is hosting a two-day conference this weekend at Saint Mary’s titled “Called to be Compassionate Listeners.”

Two prominent figures in the field, Leah Green and Linda Wolf, will serve as facilitators for the workshops.

The event, part of a CWIL program called “Living as Women of Faith,” will focus on the importance of compassionate listening and the techniques one should utilize in order to be a conscious listener. Green founded and serves as the director of The Compassionate Listening Project, a program which focuses largely on the Israel-Palestinian crisis. She has led 16 citizen delegations to Middle Eastern hot spots.

Wolf, the author of numerous books, is the founder and director of the Teen Talking Circle Project. She also co-founded Global Youth Allies, an organization committed to youth empowerment on an international level.

The conference was born out of discussion at a human rights intercultural dialogue at the college last year, said coordinator Sister Marianne Farina. Participants realized that real progress in the area of human rights would require compassionate listening and requested a forum specifically dedicated to that topic.

“They really wanted to learn how to do it well, not just a sample of it,” Farina said.

The theme of compassionate listening, Farina added, is “striking a chord” with students and community members. “We don’t know how to really to talk to one another, and to listen to one another deeply,” Farina said.

Publicized through student government and the student diversity board, the conference quickly filled its 35 available slots, and Farina was forced to create a waiting list.

Organizers hope, however, that the conference will mark only the beginning of the recognition of the role of compassionate listening in conflict resolution. The skill, they believe, can be used both in violent world conflicts and conflicts on the campus itself. “Hopefully what will emerge is the notion of compassionate listening circles where we can bring issues that occur on this campus,” Farina said, “and where we can discuss them openly.”