As global violence surges in the form of humanitarian crises, racial injustices and political oppression, it is important to highlight the work being done in local communities around the world to transform lives and communities through non-violent means. From Sudan to Zimbabwe, we share inspiring examples of non-violent solutions created by grassroots actors, and working towards peace.
“All my adult life I have deplored violence and war as instruments for achieving solutions to mankind’s problems. I am firmly committed to the creative power of non-violence as the force which is capable of winning lasting and meaningful brotherhood and peace.”
These are the powerful words of Martin Luther King Jr on the strength of non-violent action, and the creativity it yields for achieving sustainable solutions to conflict and unrest. From being forced to become fighters, separated from their loved ones or threatened, violent conflict tears communities apart and leaves people with uncertain and fearful futures. These experiences often go unheard, yet so too do the stories of those around the world who are wielding the power of non-violent action to heal and to rebuild.
Non-violence is more than just passively waiting for peace, it is the creative, inclusive and innovative action to diminish injustice, prevent atrocities, and build peaceful lives and communities. Today, 2nd October, is International Day of Non-Violence, and so we’re marking the day by shining a light on the work being carried out by our local partners to turn away from violence, extremism and fear, and turn towards peace.
Every action counts
21 year old Karishma is a student at Peshawar University. After taking part in training run by our local partner organisation in Pakistan, Aware Girls, she started a campaign in her University called “Every Young Woman Counts for Peace”. Through the campaign she is educating young women on the role women and girls have to play in countering violent extremism, and the need for young women to support ideologies of peace, non-violence and tolerance for countering extremism. Through the campaign she set up a meeting between several young women from the University to take part in inter-faith dialogue activities, to speak about their experiences and learn more about other religions and perspectives. Through her campaign, she has turned her classroom into a safe place that young women can openly discuss ways that young people can counter violent extremism, and instead support ideologies of peace.
Building better lives
In various local communities in Zimbabwe, our local partner Envision Zimbabwe Women’s Trust has taken steps to address a deeply embedded culture of violence. Their activities have included training traditional local leaders and engaging the police force in conflict transformation. Envision Zimbabwe carried out refresher training sessions on conflict transformation and violence prevention with 60 traditional leaders, chiefs and village heads to ensure that communities are resilient in resisting violence. They reach community leaders by strengthening existing violence prevention mechanisms at community level such as local peace committees, which resolve conflict through negotiation and mediation as opposed to punishment or brutality. These activities have given civil society actors the information, knowledge and skills to handle conflict through non-violent means. In a political environment experiencing high unemployment, recent military coups, a trail of uncertainty following Mugabe’s departure from office, non-violent action is both significant and timely.
Resolving difference peacefully
In Sudan, our local partner implements ‘rapid response’ interventions, to immediately mobilise, mediate and deescalate tensions which could potentially turn violent and deadly. These activities are complemented by locally led Peace Committees, which are often the only way of mediating conflicts in rural communities. Last year, Rasha observed a local Peace Committee in the Abyei community prevent a tribal conflict by resolving a dispute between herders and citizens. It started when a group of herders set out on their way to the south eight months ago. They stole food from one of the families living in the area and fled. The family informed the administration, who decided to prevent the herders from continuing their migration south – a decision which the group met with total refusal. They called for an armed group from the tribe to help them. The Peace Committees immediately intervened. The intent was to stop the southern family using violence against the herders to halt their journey, which risked escalating tension and possible aggression. The Committees contacted local youth and tribal chiefs to stop them sending any armed groups, which prevented escalation of violence. Following long consultations, the Committees in the two communities were able to persuade the herders to pay for the food they took, and they continued their trip to the south without turning to violence.
Unearthing new opportunities for peace and prosperity
A few years ago Jackson was recruited into the ‘Mai Mai’, a community-based militia group in Eastern DR Congo, under the illusion that he was joining a mining group digging for gold. Joined by three friends, he tried digging gold for some time but was mostly involved in racketing of civilians. After spending seven months in the militia group he finally managed to escape the militia after a friend was killed during a battle to capture Mambasa town. He found himself in Butembo and was directed to our local partner Centre Résolution Conflits (CRC), whose work aims to support those affected by conflict to find non-violent solutions to rebuild their lives. Gold mines can often be a dangerous place for young people, who risk being recruited into violent militias, or face perilous work in mines that lack the necessary safety.
With our support CRC will be implementing an award winning ‘Peace Gold’ project, to support ex-combatants like Jackson to produce ethical and environmentally friendly gold. As well as giving young people affected by war non-violent opportunities to regain a trusted place in their communities, our local partner is leading the way toward increased incomes in the region, and strengthened prospects for peace. This project, locally led, is giving young people a space away from violence to work, that will help them gain the skills and the income to support their communities and themselves.
Today, like every day, our local partners continue to provide non-violent alternatives to those whose lives have been affected by conflict. Their work and their commitment is allowing young men, women and children to claim their rights and to find a space in their communities where they can contribute to peace, to hope and brighter futures.
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