An Indirect route to mediation
It all began when Gabor Farkas worked as a bouncer at a nightclub in Geneva, Switzerland. He began mediation in a very indirect route, mediating conflict outside the doors of Geneva’s buzzing nightlife. “I never had to use violence, not once”, Gabor explains, “when facing conflicts I was looking into all the ways to work with people and through this, I discovered non-violent communication”.
Although Gabor did not become a certified mediator until much later, he continued experiencing major events that lit his path towards mediation. Gabor recalls the Sabra and Shatila massacre of 1982 in Lebanon. It was perpetrated by a Lebanese Christian militia, the Phalangists, which was under the political and military control of Israel. Most victims were Palestinians and Lebanese Shiites. Gabor, who was spending some time in a kibbutz that year, attended the demonstration in Tel Aviv that followed the massacre. With 400,000 people marching, which at the time was an eighth of the Israeli population, Gabor states, “it had a very deep impact on me”. Trying to make sense of the interreligious/intercultural conflict that persisted, he affirms, “From this, I knew I wanted to be involved in promoting and building peace”.
From Media to Mediation: Reinventing yourself
Stemming from Gabor’s ability to adapt to circumstances and well-rounded knowledge, he was able to work in many different career paths. He was the Marketing Director of the first European company to offer internet access over cable and was an early pioneer in web-based projects starting in 1995. Moving towards fashion, Gabor then became founder and CEO of retail stores in Switzerland. With his extensive experience in Communications, Marketing and Management, Gabor is now also a trained and certified mediator. He became an accredited mediator with CEDR in the U.K., CMAP and ESCP in France, and CSMC in Switzerland. Gabor now has over 200 training hours in mediation, and works in the commercial, neighborhood, and intercultural mediation.
The path to a career in mediation was not always so clear. Gabor explains that while his wife had a job that required much travelling, he stayed home with his kids. But when his children grew older, Gabor explains, “I needed to reinvent myself”. Gabor looked at what he liked to do, “I like to help people get over difficulties and solve problems so, if my intuition and professional experiences could help mediate conflictual situations, then I could remain active longer”. This became an interesting intellectual challenge, he notes, as he delved into the career path that he had begun on the streets of Geneva’s nightlife.
“At the beginning of my mediation practice I was not well-trained, I was clumsy, but I knew I wanted to help people through their conflict”. In his practice, Gabor had to detach himself from the conflict and pacify the situation, which he asserts “is a big achievement”.
A Brief History of Mediation
Gabor demonstrates that mediation has historically always been very important. He refers to the book called Mutual Aid written by Russian naturalist and anarchist philosopher Peter Kropotkin in 1902. Kropotkin comments on Darwin’s theory of evolution through an alternative perspective. He explains that evolution does not only revolve around the concept of survival of the fittest, but also mutual aid. “Mutual aid was seen in many communities who would help one another to survive because the communities were interconnected, so if one fell the others would inevitably fall too.” Gabor gives an example that if people needed food, it could not be produced by one person alone, communities would come together to aid with the harvest because they had a common goal, survival. Mediation grew from this interconnectedness. If communities were faced with conflicts, they would select community members to help the parties find solutions to those conflicts.
Gabor came to know MBBI in the spring of 2020. Kenneth Cloke, one of the key founders of MBBI, was meant to give a conference in Geneva, but due to the novel virus, the session was held online. Gabor notes that it was strange to listen to Kenneth Cloke and then to other mediators involved with certain other organisations, “because it’s difficult to reconcile the idea that they’re actually talking about the same thing; Kenneth’s humanistic approach to mediation and other mediators approach are two different worlds”. Gabor was inspired by this conference and bought one of Kenneth Cloke’s mediation books. After the e-mediation seminar, Gabor became eagerly involved and joined DPACE, the Climate Change Policy Project, and the UN Multilateral Working Group. He also aided with the interview process during the summer for the member engagement team. Now, Gabor is working alongside others to build a European Regional Group. He would like to use his marketing and multimedia skills to promote MBBI in Europe, fostering network growth with other peacebuilding organizations.
To future peacebuilders…
To future peacebuilders, Gabor advises reading The 4 Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom, by Don Miguel Ruiz. The book points out the importance of remaining without judgment against oneself and others and explains the value of being impeccable with your word, not making assumptions, and always do your best.
“When you realize not to take anything personally, you learn one important element is that the mediation is not about you, it is about a conflict you are not a part of. If you can realize that and remain detached, then you can help them in so many ways”. In mediation while being exposed to conflict, “one of the dangers is being dragged into it”. Gabor proclaims that “we can all mediate conflict, we just need to learn how.”
Article by Emily Shultis, MBBI Writer