Stories from the Peace to the City Campaign:(1997 - 1998)
Last Autumn, some of those who had taken part in these developments felt more was required. To worship together and to socialise was relatively easy. The real challenge they felt would be to open up discussion between members of the two churches on some of the contentious political issues dividing their society. They approached the Mediation Network for Northern Ireland, and asked for help in setting up such a process.
After two meetings with a small group from both churches to explore their hopes for such a process plans were made for a day away together. Sixty adults from the two congregations agreed to take part, and the organising group hired a bus so that the participants could all travel together to the retreat centre being used.
By the time they arrived an atmosphere of warmth had already been created. Initial ice-breakers and a sculpting exercise were used to make participants aware of some of the diversity of experience and opinion in the group. Then most of the day was spent in small groups. Participants where invited first to share two or three of the key experiences which had shaped their own personal experience of the conflict over the past 27 years. Next, they were asked to speak about the peace they hoped for out of the current process - and the peace they feared. Having once got the groups going the most difficult task for the organisers was to get them stopped.
Some outcomes of the day were:
a deeper understanding for participants about what had shaped their own and others' experiences,
One definition which the Mediation Network often uses for mediation is simply "helping people to have awkward conversations with each other."
With proper attention given to the process and atmosphere in which those conversations take place, our experience is that participants rarely find them anything like as awkward as they expected. (March Bulletin)
Local Coordinator in Belfast:
Rev. Doug Baker
The National Ten-Point Leadership Foundation (NTLF) is the national extension of the work of the Boston Ten-Point Coalition. The work of the Coalition started in May 1992, when a gang invaded a church during a funeral in Boston, shooting up the sanctuary, and nearly stabbing a teenager to death. A group of ministers decided to tackle head-on the mushrooming problem of youth violence in the city, and started walking the streets of the most dangerous sections of Boston, reaching out to youth where they were.
The Ten-Point Plan is not a result of the deliberations of ministers on how to address the problem. It is a result of conversations pursued with drug dealers, gang bangers, prostitutes, addicts, etc., who were asked: How do you see the church best responding to your needs, to get you out of the morass that you find yourself in?
A Ten-Point plan to mobilise the churches
1. Establish 4-5 church cluster-collaborations which sponsor "Adopt-A-Gang" programs to organise and evangelize youth in gangs, inner-city churches would serve as drop-in centers providing sanctuary for troubled youth.
2. Commission missionaries to serve as advocates and ombudsmen for black and Latino juveniles in the courts. Such missionaries would work closely with probation officers, law enforcement officials, and youth streetworkers to assist at-risk youth and their families. They would also convene summit meetings between school superintendents, principals of public middle and high schools, and black and Latino pastors to develop partnerships that will focus on the youth most at-risk. We propose to do pastoral work with the most violent and troubled young people and their families. In our judgement this is a rational alternative to ill-conceived proposals to substitute incarceration for education.
3. Commission youth evangelists to do street-level one-on-one evangelism with youth involved in drug trafficking. These evangelists would also work to prepare these youth for participation in the economic life of the nation. Such work might include preparation for college, the development of legal revenue- generating enterprises, and acquisition of trade skills and union membership.
4. Establish accountable, community-based economic development projects that go beyond "market and state" visions of revenue generation. Such an economic development initiative will include community and trusts, microenterprise projects, worker cooperatives, and democratically run community development corporations.
5. Establish links between suburban and downtown churches and front-line ministries to provide spiritual, human resource, and material support.
6. Initiate and support neighborhood crime-watch programs within local church neighborhoods. If, for example, 200 churches covered the four corners surrounding their sites, 800 blocks would be safer.
7. Establish working relationships between local churches and community-based health centers to provide pastoral counseling for families during times of crisis. We also propose the initiation of drug abuse prevention programs and abstinence-oriented educational programs focusing on the prevention of AIDS and sexually-transmitted diseases.
8. Convene a working summit meeting for Christian black and Latino men and women in order to discuss the development of Christian brotherhoods and sisterhoods that would provide rational alternatives to violent gang life. Such groups would also be charged with fostering responsibility to family and protecting houses of worship.
9. Establish rape crisis drop-in centers and services for battered women in churches. Counseling programs must be established for abusive men, particularly teenagers and young adults.
10. Develop an aggressive black and Latino curriculum, with an additional focus on the struggles of women and poor people. Such a curriculum could be taught in churches as a means of helping our youth understand that the God of history has been and remains active in the lives of all people.
Eugene Rivers training prospective leaders of Ten-Point's "Boston Freedom Summer" programme, which includes projects ranging from computer camps to street outreach.
Photo: Teny Goss
Boston Local Coordinator:
The Sinhalese politicians had a "baptism of fire" in regard to the thinking in Tamil-majority areas which are in the war zone, when an appeal from a Sinhala politicians that "we should live in peace" was angrily rebutted by a young Tamil women who retorted with the demand "first give us our rights, and then we will talk about peace". This led the Sinhalese delegation to conclude that their main role was not to talk, but to listen. If they listened, and felt they understood, only then would they make their own observations.
A workshop was one of the activities in the programme. While also acting as a forum for the sharing of difficulties faced by the local level elected politicians in exercising powers that are supposed to be vested in them by the central government, it mainly dealt with ways in which local communities can work towards realising the goal of a negotiated peace. Frustrations that emerged about endless talk at the top' led to identifying the need to build understanding and consensus at a community level while reinforcing the need for political leadership. As one Tamil politician summed it up "the PA and UNP should sit together under the Gandhi statue in Batticaloa, say we are willing to talk this thing through and invite the LTTE to join. If national leaders cannot do this, can local level representatives animate this as a beginning?" A Sinhala politician drew strength from his own experience of conflict resolution training by the NPC and said that "we who constitute this delegation - PA and UNP - were like snake and mongoose a few months ago. Today we have traveled to the war zone together and are in dialogue with you. It is a process that can easily be extended to the LTTE as well".
On the way back to Matara, the Sinhalese politicians discussed the three days they had spent in the east. They agreed that what the NPC had put across at the earlier sensitisation workshops had turned out to be the reality. They also felt encouraged that through dialogue a mutual change in positions had been possible. They hoped that what they had shown was possible at the "Micro-level" might also be possible at the "Macro-level" between the government and LTTE. (April Bulletin)
Colombo Local Coordinator:
The Independent Projects Trust (IPT) is one of the NGOs involved in the Peace to the City Campaign in Durban. It is a non-governmental organisation which has as its focus training, research and facilitation, particularly to 22 schools in the region and selected stations of the South African Police Services.
As well as providing training with these two groups IPT conducts action research to influence policy at provincial and national level. Needs-based assessments, surveys, and focus groups helps to design training material so that it is learner specific and therefore has the maximum impact on the recipients. They also conduct long-term research into causes, and solutions to, violence which is intended for academic publications and is based on social science methods.
A question IPT is often asked is, "Why the focus on schools and police?" Since 1994 a large portion of the national discourse has been around the grave situation facing South Africa in terms of crime, and its negative impact on the future of the country. The SAPS are untrained and under-resourced. Their transformation from apartheid's "force" to a people's service must be one of the most significant of recent changes but unless they have good conflict management skills, display empathy, have good listening skills and begin to develop a broader understanding of their clients' the public - this service will be stillborn.
IPT begins by working at management level in a police station and then with all personnel, following the needs assessment procedures. Conflict management skills are taught, often with a focus on empathetic victim support. This is a time-consuming process and can involve members of the local community police forum as well.
Why schools? The school system is also undergoing a massive transformation and the new system provides a golden opportunity for better interpersonal skills and the development of critical and lateral thinking skills. The schools are also struggling to overcome the legacy of apartheid and transform themselves into democratic institutions. During this time of transformation in schools the training of new skills is vital and conflict management skills can be customised to provide training which is relevant and practical.
Globally and nationally the link between youth and crime is evident, and the poor relationship between youth and police exacerbates this problem. So the IPT strategy is to work in schools in an area, then also work with the police in the same area and through the training of similar skills and techniques, provide both groups with a common language.
Durban Local Coordinator:
The implementation of the first Brazilian Civilian Volunteer Service in the State of Rio de Janeiro is an ambitious program involving nearly 15,000 youth and 600 community organisations. The immediate goal of the programme is to provide underprivileged youth with a new opportunity to complete their basic education and acquire technical skills in exchange for community work.
Beyond this initial dimension, the programme aims to create a volunteer corps of youth invested with a two-fold mission:
a mission of community service in benefit of the most underprivileged areas of the State where these youth live.
The project, already underway, was initiated on April 18, 1998 with 3,100 18-year-old boys and girls. The activities of the program include training and community action. The training is comprised of (i) remedial courses to complete the primary educational level implementing the Telecurso 2000 teaching methodology; (ii) computer training with access to the internet; (iii) human rights; and (iv) projects for job creation and small-business management. The community action work includes five hours of voluntary work per week and participation in public awareness campaigns (safe driving, public clean-up campaigns, blood donations, prevention of natural disasters etc).
The youth are placed in program training stations called "Stations of the Future". These Stations are located within social organisations (neighborhood associations, churches, trade unions, businesses, etc). The stations are distributed among the low-income neighborhoods in municipalities within the State of Rio de Janeiro, meeting the requirements of supply and demand. Each station is directed by three professionals: Consultant for Community Action, Training Monitor, and Computer Training Monitor. Viva Rio coordinates, trains and supervises the stations and their personnel.
The Civilian Volunteer Service is a program of the Federal Government, coordinated by the National Secretariat for Human Rights of the Ministry of Justice, and executed by Viva Rio in partnership with local community organisations.
A handbook of learning exercises for use in multi-cultural Fiji is one of the main achievements of the People for Intercultural Awareness (PIA). The handbook was launched by the Permanent Secretary for Education in July, 1996 and has been described in his ministry as a "very useful tool for helping pupils develop social and intercultural skills".
The handbook includes exercises which allow students to explore why people of different cultures do things differently, and how this can enhance cooperation, rather than divide Fiji's peoples. Each exercise takes about 40 minutes, and progresses from encouraging students to be positive about their own and others' cultures, to understanding discrimination by experiencing it. It also includes rules of good behaviour in different cultures.
PIA says it tries to encourage us to take responsibility for improving situations rather than blaming others for what is wrong. It also aims to counteract prejudicial attitudes which communities give their children while they are still open and idealistic.
The author is Father Frank Hoare, a Columban priest from Ireland who came to Fiji in 1973. Father Hoare has visited schools around the country, including Sigatoka, Ba, Nadi, Vatukoula and Tavua promoting the handbook to secondary school teachers. It has been promoted and sold by other PIA members in Vanua Levu, Suva, Lautoka and Navua.
PIA is an independent voluntary organisation dedicated to improving community relations in Fiji. It believes the promotion of tolerance and mutual understanding within the national community as essential for peace and prosperity in the future.
Suva Local Coordinator:
In addition to the seven cities in the Campaign, we continue to encourage other groups, organisations, and cities to join the campaign at a variety of levels, including developing web pages on the issues faced in their region and the efforts to respond to them, and writing monthly bulletins to be shared through the Peace to the City Campaign.
We are now extremely happy to welcome the city of Bethlehem in the campaign thanks to Wi'am: Palestinian Conflict Resolution Center. Following the visit of the POV staff coordinator to Bethlehem in January 1998 the members of Wi'am became excited about the Campaign and have now joined. We are very pleased to be able to share their work in nonviolent conflict mediation in the West Bank. We are encouraged by their witness in the land where Jesus was born, their commitment to peacebuilding, enthusiasm and support.
Wi'am was created to provide a means for resolving conflict within the Palestinian community at a time when power was being transferred between Israeli occupiers and the Palestinian Authority. Wi'am opened its doors in March of 1995, the result of local initiative and with support from international non-governmental organisations.
Stalled peace negotiations, state-sponsored as well as terrorist violence, continued human rights violations, economic hardship due to the Israeli-imposed closure and political instability are all regional problems which feed cycles of community violence. There is a growing need here for persons trained in conflict resolution and mediation to resolve disputes.
The strategy of Wi'am is:
To expand the precedent for nonviolent conflict mediation in the West Bank;
Wi'am's program pays particular attention to several new and ongoing projects:
Sulha/Conflict Resolution Project: Wi'am is a nonpartisan center renowned for providing mediation services to the Palestinian population in the West Bank. Sulha, the traditional Arabic method of reconciliation, is used in conjunction with western mediation techniques to resolve conflict. When a severe conflict erupts, a group of mediators responds immediately to establish a binding commitment to nonviolence, to bring the two conflicting parties together in honor and humility, to address the wrongs done, and to create constructive relationships between the disputants and Wi'am's mediators. When appropriate, Wi'am works in cooperation with the Palestinian Authority. To date, Wi'am has dealt with over 1000 of these cases, successfully resolving 87% of the disputes.
Volunteer Training Project: This is a crucial, ongoing part of the entire program. Wi'am's conflict mediation effort in the West Bank is successful thanks to the commitment of its corps of volunteer mediators. Training workshops are held regularly for Wi'am staff, volunteers, and the general public to improve conflict resolution skills. Experienced representatives from Wi'am have served as trainers in nonviolent mediation programs internationally, most recently in the United States and Germany.
Community Education Project: Wi'am focuses educational and personal development efforts on women and youth. Women Against Violence, a working group within Wi'am, coordinates activities and workshops to address the needs of women in the region, to examine the effects of social violence on women and children, and to advocate formal leadership for women in their communities. Wi'am has also found that constructive approaches to conflict are best learned in youth. Wi'am coordinates conflict resolution training in several secondary schools in the Bethlehem area. The center hosts an ongoing Ecumenical Youth Group and an interfaith gathering, Democracy and Conflict Resolution, for teens. Long-range goals include establishing a community center for Bethlehem youth.