Peace, spice and baby chicks: a day in Istanbul

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Today, the members of the EMY team met with professors at Bosphorus University, one of Istanbul’s premier universities, to share research, learning and our experiences using the arts to work with youth, and engaging in violence prevention and conflict resolution through education training and the arts.

Based on work done by Peter Lucas’ Peace Institute at Columbia, Bosphorus University has created Turkey’s first Peace Education Center – one of only a few in the world. The center has begun as an elective program, but with the goal of evolving into a required element of teacher education at the university. Currently, the center trains NGO (nonprofit) staff throughout Turkey, Greece, and other geographic areas where there are conflict issues, in techniques to develop empathy, understanding, and conflict resolution.

The center has created a course within the university’s political science curriculum and has supported student research into the impact of peace education on the development of emotional intelligence.

In 2010, Istanbul will become Europe’s cultural capital (a revolving honor among European cities). The university’s Peace Education Center hopes to sponsor a wide variety of arts projects led by local artists at 10 sites throughout the city that use the arts to demonstrate unity, peaceful coexistence, and conflict resolution in the region.

Bosphorus University’s campus is incredibly beautiful, with acres of green space, and venerable old and stunning new buildings on a hillside overlooking (of course) the Bosphorus.

We hope collaboration can evolve between our EMY project, sponsored by the U. S. State Department, which works at the elementary and secondary school level with at-risk youth, and the teacher education work of the university.

Oh, yes – while we spent a stimulating afternoon at the university, our group’s day began with a short visit to the Arasta Bazaar (smaller than the Grand Bazaar, but richer in quality) and the Spice Market in the city’s historic district. We gave up lunch to shop.

At Arasta, merchants will give you delicious apple tea while you decide what to buy. In the Spice Market, you can feed the pigeons or buy a chick or baby duck. We didn’t ask what people do with these baby birds. We also didn’t ask what people did with the huge jars of leeches stacked up for sale next to the baby birds. And I could not bring myself to take a picture. Sorry.

Taking an apple tea break at the Arasta Bazaar

One of the dozens of spice stalls in the Spice Market

The Spice Market

Chicks in a box

The plaza and mosques outside the Spice Market

Feed the birds: outside the Spice Market

EMY team and Bosphorus University professors on campus

Bosphorus University students and campus