The Virtual Majlis (VM) is a program of regular online meetups between international student groups, designed to overcome the physical blockade on Gaza and connect students in Gaza with to connect with students in Gaza, and together advocate for change.
Part of Fakhoora.org's advocacy program, the goal is to bring youth together in the Middle East, US and Europe to communicate using video conference facilities and challenge preconceptions and stereotypes; engage in creative and critical thinking; develop a deeper understanding of different cultures, identity and history and help students on all sides form their own narratives about the situation affecting people in Gaza.
Our network of youth in the USA, the Middle East and Europe also encourage a wider understanding of the situation, which continues to grow with the program's popularity.
We aim to bring this new experience to the youth and people around the world and instil understanding along with a lasting attitude change.
Taking no notice of geographical, physical, cultural or political distance, Virtual Majlis, or 'VM' has proved to be highly effective in fostering cultural exchange, developing skills of self and social advocacy, creative and critical thinking and offering mutual support during times of conflict.
Why is it important?
Students in Gaza are deprived of freedom of movement; surrounded on all sides by a blockade enforced by the military, often forcefully, living among political destruction, tension and fears that many people will never know. The importance of expressing their culture, experiences and thoughts, is as important now, as it was at the time of the first attacks on Gaza.
What does the future hold for VM?
The goal of the VM program is to extend its reach and offer a toolkit on setting up your own Virtual Majlis to youth around the world looking to participate in breaking the blockade digitally and facilitating discussions between open-minded people in order to remove the platform of fear and misunderstanding and open the doorway to peace in new ways with new people and new solutions.
Click on an icon to see which universities are already holding their own Virtual Majlis VM conversations with Gaza are happening in the USA, Qatar and the UK, though we have hopes for lots more universities to join the conversation in the future!
Meetings can last from one to two hours, depending upon student class schedules, and might cover questions like; “How is the blockade affecting your hopes and dreams?” or “How does the blockade affect your education?” The power supply in Gaza can be temperamental, with just one power station servicing 1.5 million people, so the process sometimes requires patience and understanding!
How it works
It’s also possible to ask more sensitive questions, with respect and empathy. Questions like, “Where were you when the bombing started?” will bring back painful memories of death and destruction, but in sharing these accounts findings suggest that everyone benefits from the process of expressing their feelings. Whether it is sympathy and understanding from the international youth, or discomfort from youth in Gaza; the experience is revealing and fulfilling for everyone.
Various tasks are required to ensure a smooth flow of conversation. Translation is not necessary, but can be helpful in bringing more complex discussions onto the table, which the student facilitators in Gaza are able to provide. Facilitation training and discussions planning allow for a greater diversity and depth on both sides and lead to capacity building that can be relevant both inside and outside the scope of the VM program.
Everyone is welcome to get involved with VM, just contact out team to find out more; students, facilitators, translators and technicians are all needed and welcomed!
If you need some time to coordinate getting your group together, feel free to get involved by following the progress of the VM via our website, and social media.
Talk to us if you would like to find out more about support in setting up your own Virtual Majlis with students in Gaza.
To follow the Virtual Majlis on social media:
The core of every dialogue is made up of the participants, who tend to be university students. For some, their attendance is integrated into their program and students thus receive credit, but for everyone, attending the VM is an opportunity to gain uncensored and genuine insight. Without open-minded and respectful participants, there would be no conversation.
Our bilingual facilitators are trained by World in Conversation (WinC), which works to facilitate dialogue and promote understanding between all kinds of cultural and social groups. WinC use the Socratic Method of questioning which involves fair and open-ended lines of questioning along with, most importantly, total neutrality.
CISCO very generously provided top of the range teleconferencing equipment to ensure communication with Gaza is a streamlined process with sound and vision of the best quality. The coordinators oversee the schedules and times for dialogues, while technicians take care of the technology that is required; from cameras and computers to the audio, video and network administration.
These individuals are chosen for their natural interest and understanding of a group conversation as well as their ability to assist the participants in an exploration of all the ideas that are planned.