A documentary film aimed at encouraging peaceful dialogue and conflict resolution is coming to Oklahoma next week.
The film, “333,” focuses on ideas put forth in a set of manuscripts from the medieval University of Timbuktu in Mali. Included in the manuscripts are centuries-old ideas on peaceful conflict resolution through understanding and forgiveness.
The documentary will be screened next week at Oklahoma City University, Oklahoma State University and Oklahoma City Community College.
“You're going to find that your thought processes are stimulated,” said Michael Covitt, the film's producer. “You're going to see a part of Africa rarely seen in modern times.”
The film takes its title from Timbuktu's nickname, “The City of 333 Saints.” Between the 12th and 16th centuries, trade in salt, gold and slaves made the kingdom of Mali a global center of wealth and education, said Covitt, the founder and chairman of the Malian Manuscripts Foundation.
Scholars came from as far away as Turkey, Persia and Portugal to study at Mali's University of Timbuktu, he said, and many of those scholars stayed and wrote their own manuscripts in nearly every discipline imaginable.
Among those manuscripts are ideas on forgiveness, understanding and resolving conflict peacefully, he said.
“Mali has a road map for peace for the entire world,” Covitt said.
More recently, Mali has been plagued by civil war after President Amadou Toumani Toure was toppled in a coup and rebel groups seized the northern part of the country. The rebel groups were ousted in a French-led military intervention earlier this year.
Although the film was made before that conflict broke out and doesn't address those issues, Covitt said centuries of wisdom give Mali the tools to deal with conflicts when they do arise.
“It's amazing how quickly they forgive each other over there,” he said.
Marty O'Gwynn, OCU's vice president for university advancement and external relations, said the screening at OCU came after about a year of conversations between university officials and Covitt.
The film includes valuable lessons on peace and understanding among groups, O'Gwynn said. He hopes it will foster a better understanding of peaceful conflict resolution, he said.