Building Inclusive and Intercultural Bridges. Member Spotlight: Ajoeb Mohamedajoeb

Ajoeb Mohamedajoeb, an experienced mediator and CEO of the firm Mohamedajoeb Mediators, has always felt a strong connection to the field of mediation, starting with his own name containing two religious prophets: Ajoeb (Job) and Mohamed. The prophets, according to the sacred writings, were reconciliatory figures, carriers of peace along their path. Ajoeb emulates this in his daily life, by helping employers and employees solving their conflicts in the workplace as well as by reconciling conflicts between neighbours in his own community. Moreover, Ajoeb is specialized in organizing team trainings for companies, where workers are provided with appropriate tools and skills to deal constructively with conflicts in the workplace. “At the end of the day, mediators are the legacy of the prophets, we are surely following their path of peace and reconciliation.” 

Ajoeb became connected to MBBI in 2017, after having attended the 8th MBBI Congress in The Hague. He was inspired by the mission and vision of MBBI, as well as by the possibility of becoming part of a global family of mediators and gaining the opportunity to exchange expertise with like-minded mediators. “I remained impressed by the global outreach and commitment of MBBI, which puts at its center “us” as professionals that can practically contribute to a more peaceful world and the well-being of people throughout the globe.”

An Unexpected Encounter with Mediation

Ajoeb’s educational background looks quite atypical for the mediator he is today. Having taken the undergraduate studies in law and econometrics, he realized that pursuing a career in these areas was not suitable for him.“One of the things I did not like about starting a career in the law field is that it is mostly unidirectional, justice often goes solely top-down. On the other hand, mediation involved two or more sides as equals, considering their preferences, perspective, and feelings.” Before becoming an official mediator, however, Ajoeb worked for more than 20 years as manager and director in companies within the technological field, particularly focusing on stimulating strong cooperation between educational institutions and technology firms, ready to provide development opportunities to young students.

It is precisely at this point in his life that Ajoeb unexpectedly encountered mediation. Thanks to the trainings that workers were offered inside his company as an asset to enhance their personal and professional skills, he opted to take an intensive training in mediation, knowing how crucial this skill could be within his working environment. And he fell for it! “After taking the training in mediation, I finally felt I had found my vocation in life, and I decided to become what I was feeling to be: a mediator.” Sparked by this conviction, Ajoeb obtained the Mediators Federation Netherlands (MFN) certification as a mediator in 2008, a special register for Dutch mediators giving proof of the high degree of qualification for the profession. He soon after decided to found his own firm, the Mohamedajoeb Mediators, specialized in employment mediation, team trainings for companies and intercultural mediation in the workplace.

Mediation to Ease Cultural Frictions in the Netherlands

One of the key areas of Ajoeb’s work concerns intercultural mediation, strengthened by the fact that he comes from a multi-cultural background. Born in The Netherlands to Surinamese parents that emigrated in the 60s from the former Dutch colony, he grew up in the City of Justice and Peace, The Hague. The Netherlands, due to its colonialist past, is an extremely varied country in terms of ethnicities and national belongings. Integration today is mired by the emergence of cultural frictions, both in the daily life of communities as well as in the workplace. From here, Ajoeb’s commitment to intercultural mediation is crucial to prevent social fragmentation and promote inclusiveness through dialogue and open confrontation. His expertise focuses on labour mediation within companies, especially for conflicts arising between employers and employees as well as community integration mediation.

“In the Netherlands, there are more than 200 nationalities plus as many ethnic and diverse backgrounds, and the topics of integration and inclusion are quite hot right now. For this reason, my work aims at stimulating companies and communities to create inclusive environments and enhance diversified settings where integration is promoted and people from any ethnic background can develop a strong sense of belonging.”

A point Ajoeb is keen to underline is that the word ‘intercultural’ does not exclusively apply to conflicts arising between exponents of different ethnicities, but it should be understood broadly as encompassing divergences between ways of thinking, such as men and women or between youngsters and elder people. In his work, Ajoeb’s personal commitment is high. He is a Muslim and hence able to understand first-hand the discriminatory attitudes and practices that affect Muslim communities. “In the Netherlands and the whole of Europe, I can see the rise of Islamaphobic sentiments, and I want to give my contribution and help using mediation to counter this rise. My religious identity is helpful in many situation when mediating disputes in which Muslims are involved because I understand the religious aspects of the conflict.”

Loosen the Hostile Spirits in Conflict

“Our societies are still highly conflictual, and a lot of conflicts are solved by going directly to Court.” According to him, the main issue stands in the fact that people are often blinded by anger and pride when any kind of dispute arises, therefore inhibiting any window of communication. There is no magic behind the intervention of a mediator, just a strong determination towards making the parties open their channels of communication to properly talk with each other. Such a process holds the extraordinary power of unleashing human beings’ potential for empathy and recognition and this is how a simple recipe based on mutual respect and acceptance can solve most conflicts. “Mediation is able to make people scrape beyond the surface and to loosen their hostile spirits by recognizing each others’ fears, emotions, and desires.”

Ajoeb agrees with the view that mediation is still too much undervalued in The Netherlands and there is widespread ignorance about it. A necessary step to improve in this direction is to make people understand that it is not necessary for an all-out conflict to exist to resort to the intervention of a mediator, but even smaller conflicts must be dealt with constructively to avoid escalations. The key to an effective conflict resolution for Ajoeb? The criticality of recognizing the action-reaction dynamics which can escalate a small controversy into a conflict. “A conflict never starts with the first sentence,” he concludes.

Written by Matteo Piovacari: MBBI Writer