After contemplating entering politics, Leah Wolfthal realized she could magnify her impact if she could bring tools to other political leaders that would support them mediating successfully from the positions they held so deeply, across the political spectrum. After participating in a range of mediation and conflict transformation classes, she approached Ike Lasater and John Kinyon, co-developers of unique empathy-based conflict resolution techniques, about bringing their powerful tools to leaders in political contexts. Ayiesh's first workshop, in Istanbul in Spring 2016 with Syrian political opposition leaders, taught Ayeish much, and we are grateful. Ayiesh continues to work to spread access to these tools in the U.S. and internationally.
Ike and John's Beginnings..
In 2002, Ike Lasater and John Kinyon traveled to Afghan refugee camps in Pakistan to offer conflict resolution skills training to Elder leaders.
With a letter of introduction from the Pakistani government they went to meet the U.N. head of security Lt. Col. Abdul Hafeez, who could grant or deny access to the camps. Lt. Col. Hafeez was skeptical - "What organization?" "No organization?" They tried to sell him on the idea of letting them in, with no success. "When we switched to starting to empathize with him, in less than ten minutes, he pushed his chair back and had tears in his eyes." Colonel Hafeez said he had worked with these refugees for 13 years. He said that he'd do anything he could to help them. "If your work might help them, I want you to have a chance to do it." He wrote a pass for them to go the Shamsatoo Refugee camp.
At first, the Elders were not interested in "training" from westerners. For two days, using translators, Ike and John empathized with their pain at what actions by the West and Soviets had catalyzed in their lives. By the third day, they were open but unconvinced of the merits of the training. On that day a conflict arose when some of the Elders invited Ike and John to go to a mosque and others were opposed because Ike and John were not Muslim. With 25 men and multiple languages, after surfacing the underlying needs of both sides and connecting each side with the others' needs, an agreement was reached. The success of that mediation led to excitement about what Ike and John were offering, and the training collaboration that ultimately led to Ayeish.