Quaker Network for the Prevention of Violent Conflict
Le Réseau de quaker pour l'Empêchment de Conflit Violent


 


Epistle
from the Quaker Peace Network – Africa consultation
held in Gitega, Burundi from 6-10 October 2005

If you want to know what we believe, look at our work.
Bayard Rustin- Quaker peace activist

This African Friends Consultation, being the 6th of the Quaker Network for the Prevention of Violent Conflict consultations, has been characterized by a considerable level of openness and willingness to focus on matters that will help to develop the spiritual and practical aspects of the work to be accomplished on the ground. We were hosted by Burundi Friends and Friends came from Rwanda, Kenya, DR Congo, Uganda, South Africa, Sierra-Leone, Liberia, Congo Brazzaville, Norway, USA and Canada.

We changed the name of our part of the network from the Quaker Network for the Prevention of Violent Conflict which was too long, and which was abbreviated as the Quaker Prevention Network, which was unclear about what or who was being prevented, to the Quaker Peace Network – Africa (QPN Africa). This reflects the fact that we have progressed to the original goal of the network to focus on Africa for sufficient time until the African network can exist independently and cooperatively. The time has come and we have set up a structure to take the QPN-Africa forward, building on the strengths of the Quaker projects and supporting exciting new initiatives such as the work in West Africa.

Friends enjoyed gathering in Gitega, the second town of  Burundi. A team of Friends from Rwanda, DR Congo and Burundi were among the independent observers in its recent successful elections and we all caught the excitement of this move towards peace. Friends agreed to hold neighboring countries in the Light where other elections are expected in a near future.

The MiPAREC (Ministry for Peace and Reconciliation under the Cross) hosted the QPN-Africa gathering. Ten years ago, MiPAREC was like other small local organizations operating in Burundi. Its spectacular growth to the point to be able to host such a big gathering of Friends was admirable. Working there in the beautiful buildings, Friends could smell the hard work and inspiration of those devoted peacemakers.

We valued meeting and exchanging ideas. Our main task was a strategic planning exercise to take us forward as QPN-Africa in a sustainable way. We explored ways to cooperate and exchange, to undertake joint projects such as election monitoring and participate in and support other peace initiatives.

We heard about how Quakers have responded courageously and with forgiveness to situations of genocide, violence and chaos and gone on through collective efforts to setup processes to rebuild, heal, reconcile and run workshops that enable participants to find the resources within themselves to transform conflict. These processes have been shown to be effective and reproducible in different situations.
The Alternatives to Violence Project (AVP) workshops are used by many Friends’ organizations to pass on peace skills and as a base for other initiatives such as election monitoring, workcamps, change agents, peace education and trauma and community healing. We had a sense from our experience of the success of this robust programme using lay facilitators that it has a significant role to play in peacemaking in Africa. We wish to take it to scale by introducing it to other churches and NGOs as well as government departments (prisons, schools) and official peacemaking initiatives.

We welcomed the Christian Peace Teams who are exploring working in Africa and reviewed a draft video of the WCC consultation of the historic peace churches in Kenya that six of our members attended, feeling that it had fallen into the trap of Afro-pessimism which did not reflect our experience or the current reality. We wrote a letter outlining our views and willingness to assist.
We were nourished by the worship each morning and the worship sharing in the evening. We enjoyed our visits in groups of three to 10 churches to preach and worship.

Our heartfelt thanks go to the organizing team as well as the sponsors (AFSC and Quaker Service –Norway) for their excellent and hard work that made possible this gathering. We particularly thank Burundi government for having delivered visas to Friends in need of them, MiPAREC for the good accommodation and Burundi Yearly Meeting for hosting us on Sunday in their churches and for lunch at Kibimba. To all participating Friends we say thank you for the hard work.

We departed with a definite sense of being a family and supporting one another. We are excited about what we can contribute to peace in Africa. God bless Africa.
 
 

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