AFRICA GREAT LAKES: Doing peace in our countries

01 08 2014
AFRICA GREAT LAKES: Doing peace in their our country
by Cliff Kindy

Cliff Kindy with nonviolent workshop participants in DRC

If you fled a war zone for your safety, would you voluntarily choose to return to that zone of violence? A church in the Democratic Republic of theCongo (DRC) chose to do so. Self-identified as Church of the Brethren (COB) this group of eight congregations and about eight hundred members felt a call to return to their communities as bridge builders and peace makers despite the dangers. The peace churches attracted them because of the emphasis on living alternatives to war and violence. They previously held a trauma care training with the Friends in the Africa Great Lakes Region because trauma is endemic in the DRC, where six million people have been killed since the 1990s.

The Congo COB asked Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) for training in nonviolence. Through a partnership effortā€”CPT supplying a trainer and US COB providing funding and experience with the Congo COBā€”CPTer Cliff Kindy went to the shores of Lake Tanganyika. 
The local facilitator pulled together a diverse group for the training. The twenty-four participants were from five different ethnic groups, five denominations, ages 22 to 50, both women and men, and three different regions of the DRC. The translator moved fluidly from Swahili to English throughout the three days. There were ten pastors in the group, so biblical connections became an important foundational piece of the nonviolent peacemaking experience.

Major components of the training included: examining spiritual undergirding, building a trusting community from which to act for peace, breaking through the differences and walls that divide people, growing in willingness to risk, comparing tools of violence and tools of peacemaking, and then experimenting with those nonviolent tools through role plays.  Finally, workshop participants strategized about building the constructive program that will replace the culture of violence in families, villages, and larger social settings. Role plays dealt with ransom demands and inviting fighters out of the rebel groups to try tools of nonviolence instead.

The training group formed three regional groups and called themselves CPTers. They set objectives to build peace not only in families and villages but to spread that spirit through their country and across national boundaries to Burundi, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda and the world.

Toward the end of the training one of the participants pointed out, "The DRC doesn't manufacture or sell guns. The First World is THE arms supplier of the world. It is the corporations from your countries that hire the armed groups here to maintain control over mines and export routes. That means few benefits and most of the cost in lives fall to the people of the DRC when our resources leave the country. The major peace work needs to be done in your countries!"   So, readers, this is your task!

For further reading:

CPT article about nonviolence training in DRC in 2009

CPTnet article about prior CPT partners in DRC in 2009