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SUMMER 1998: v3i2 INDEX

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SUMMER, 1998: Volume 3 Issue 2

Report on African Great Lakes Initiative by Dave Zarembka

As of the end of April, the response to Friends Peace Teams Project's initiative-developing an alliance with African Quakers to introduce the essence of the peacemaking programs of Alternatives to Violence Project (AVP), Children's Creative Response to Conflict (CCRC), and Help Increase the Peace Project (HIPP) in the Great Lakes Region of Africa-has been extremely positive.


We have been delighted to hear about the project of sending an exploration team to our region to see what the Peace Teams can do. This is exactly what has been our vision since our country, Burundi, entered into a crisis.
David Niyonzima

As can be expected, those people who are trainers in the various programs have been the most positive, with many willing to pack their bags and go right on over. Africans residing in the United States, both Quaker and non-Quaker, have also been positive in their response. Friends World Committee for Consultation in London responded with a list of about sixty people, including individuals from all fourteen yearly meetings in Kenya and Tanzania, who needed to receive a copy of the exploration proposal. These letters were sent out at the beginning of April, all by regular mail so that expatriates who frequently have access to e-mail would not be at an advantage to those who do not, including most Africans.

I have had time to receive only e-mail responses: David Niyonzima, General Secretary of Burundi Yearly Meeting who will be a keynote speaker at FGC this summer, responded, "We have been delighted to hear about the project of sending an exploration team to our region to see what the Peace Teams can do. This is exactly what has been our vision since our country, Burundi, entered into a crisis. In an effort to realize this vision, we invited MCC (Mennonite Central Committee) volunteers to come and spend time with us. Some stayed up to a year. So, in response to your message, the Burundi Yearly Meeting will be glad to work with you in partnership."

But there have been some cautions. The most common one is that in introducing the peacemaking program, we must stay aware of the cultural differences of the African context. Another concern is that the program may seem too secular to some Christ-centered African Friends. I received responses from Central and Southern Africa Yearly Meeting, whose clerk sent my letters out to everyone with e-mail. I asked Colin Glen, who organizes the AVP program in South Africa, to respond to the following questions:

DZ: "How much have you changed the AVP program to adapt to the local South African culture?"
CG: "Not very much at all-not because we don't believe that such change will have value-but because the original programme seems to work well with all participants and we simply haven't had the time to 'localise' it. When we have facilitators who speak indigenous languages, we try to include something from them, suchas song and sometimes L&L's [Light and Lively's]."
DZ: "How well is it being received?"
CG: "AVP works very well in South Africa and is received with wonderful enthusiasm. At our last workshop we had 16 participants, of whom about 50% were of European extraction and 50% African. In our quality control review, every participant sought further training and asked to be put on our mailing list."
DZ: "Do you have any other advice for us?"
CG: "It has been our experience that AVP works very well in South Africa. The African social ways seem far closer to Quaker and AVP ways than typical Western ways. It seems to me that the workshops affirm, for our African participants, what many of them seem to have known all along."

A most interesting suggestion has come from the United Society of Friends Women. This group suggests that East African women might be interested in this peacemaking for healing the wounds which occurred during the many separations that have led to the formation of fourteen yearly meetings there. Gordon Matthews, a part time secretary for Quaker Hilfe, the service organization of German Quakers, also expressed interest in the Initiative. They already support a Rural Service Programme of Kenyan Friends and have given some small assistance to the Burundi Peace Initiative mentioned by David Niyonzima above.

As we are still in the information gathering mode, all comments and suggestions are welcomed and can be sent to me. I am planning a local Washington DC area working group to help me with this project since it is already gaining more momentum than I can handle adequately by myself. If you want a copy of the letter and description of AVP, CCRC, and HIPP contact:

David Zaremka 17734 Larchmont Terrace Gaithersburg MD 20877 e-mail: davidzarembka@juno.com



From The Essential Desmond Tutu

The West has achieved a great deal through individual initiative and ingenuity and must be commended for these often spectacular achievements. But the cost may have been high. All this has permitted a culture of achievement and success to evolve, assiduously encouraging the rat-race mentality. The awful consquence is that persons tend then not to be valued in and for themselves with a worth that is intrinsic.

In Africa we have something called ubuntu in Nguni languages, or botho in Sotho, which is difficult to translate into English. It is the essence of being human. It speaks of the fact that my humanity is caught up and inextricably bound up in yours. I am human because I belong. It speaks about wholeness, it speaks about compassion. A person with ubuntu is welcoming, hospitable, warm and generous, willing to share. Such people are open and available to others, affirming of others, does [sic] not feel threatened that others are able and good, for they have a proper self-assurance that comes from knowing that they belong in a greater whole and are diminished when others are humiliated or diminished, when others are tortured or oppressed, or treated as if they were less than who they are. It gives people resilience, enabling them to survive and emerge still human despite all efforts to dehumanise them. It means it is not a great good to be successful through being aggressively competitive, that our purpose is social and communal harmony and well-being.


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