We waited for weeks. We waited for days. We waited for hours.
This is how excited we were for our Face to Faith activity with students from Jordan in Universal Civilization Academy (UCA). We never really expected that this activity would be fulfilling both for the participants and observers, but before doing the actual video conference, we had a lot of preparation to do.
We had about five days to prepare and organize everything to make the conference a success. Thus, with the help of our teachers, we were all taught to formulate appropriate questions, share our insights about a specific topic, and how to respect others’ ideas. It took a while for us to get used to it.
One activity we did in class involved the use of scratch papers and a box which was placed in the front of the classroom. The rules were very easy: from wherever you are seated in the classroom, throw your balled up paper into the box. Those who had successfully shot the paper into the box would be rich, and those who didn’t would be poor; this allowed the “wealthy” to make laws pertaining to consequent rounds of the game. After the whole activity, our teacher explained social mobility, how it affects us, and how the Face-toFaith program helps us to be open-minded with this situation.
When the teachers announced that not everyone would be involved in the conference, there was a mix of reactions evident on everyone’s faces. Some were glad to hear that not everyone would take part while some were anxious that they would not be chosen. Our batch’s chosen participants had to be ready, so they had a practice video conference with the teachers.
In the beginning, the participants took the conversation seriously, but as time flew by their actions began to change in a funny manner. Some would play with their hands while others would slouch and slowly lean on the chair and every move is observed by the teachers. Once the conference ended the teachers gave feedback regarding the participants’ behavior.
On the day of the video conference with UCA, the participants looked generally calm and relaxed, but some were worried that they may not share their insights. Nevertheless, thrill and excitement was still at hand. However, since there was still plenty of time, the participants had time to converse with one another and utter jokes that would cheer them up throughout the Dialogue.
After the usual technical run and testing, the dialogue began. We (both the participants and observers) met our fellow students from Jordan. The dialogue got off on a rocky start as there were some technical difficulties that occurred, but despite the audio-deficiencies, our facilitator Mr. Fadi Elbarbar proceeded with the conference. He asked the participants various questions about their communities, focusing on the effect of one’s wealth or social status on one’s academic performance. When asked to answer this, someone from UCA said that the less fortunate people have that goal in life to strive for money and for a job in their future. They related it to themselves getting scholarships which in turn motivates them to do well. From our end, one Xaverian shared his personal experience with two of his friends who are rich. One friend doesn’t really ask his parents for everything he wants and yet he studies hard. The other friend is the opposite because the boy gets everything he wants, yet he doesn’t study well. In the end, though, it was interesting to note that despite the differences in cultures and beliefs and contexts, the students from both XSN and UCA agreed with each other that success depends on one’s motivation to work hard in life.
Unfortunately, since there was a delay in time due to some technical difficulties, not all the question were answered. However, both schools reflected on this Face to Faith activity ending it by sharing their thoughts. The general feeling among all the students was that they found the experience too short and that they want another one. This type of enthusiasm for dialogue between two starkly different groups of students gives one hope that peace and understanding is within reach.