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

Quaker Consultation on Peaceful Prevention of Violent Conflict, Focus Africa

Epistle

3rd Annual Gathering
September 23-27 2002
Bujumbura and Gitega, Burundi

To Friends Everywhere,

Amahoro! Greetings of peace from Burundi. We, participants in the third annual Quaker Consultation on Peaceful Prevention of Violent Conflict, bring to you a concern for peace in Africa. We are grateful to Burundian Friends for their warm and generous hospitality at this year's gathering. We come from different cultures and different experiences, representing Quaker peacemaking efforts in Burundi, Colombia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, Norway, Rwanda, Sri Lanka, South Africa, Switzerland, Uganda, the United Kingdom, and the United States. We share a common commitment to the prevention of violent conflict and the building of peace in our communities and world.
During our time together, we bore witness to the effects of violence and war on individuals, families, communities, and societies, including loss of human life; suffering of children, widows, refugees, and displaced persons; destruction of communities and social structures, with the attendant injustices, lack of good governance, economic disruption, and grievous inequities; impairment of health; environmental degradation; and loss of hope and opportunity for the future. These conditions are all too often exacerbated by the ready availability of weapons in the aftermath of war.

We were blessed by our time together and recognized the hand of God in the peace work we witnessed and learned about: rehabilitation of homes, peace education initiatives, local development projects, schools, health clinics, work with displaced persons, community building activities, peace committees, Alternatives to Violence Project training, trauma healing, and peace libraries. We were inspired by the personal stories of those who have overcome violence and forgiven their enemies and of the relatives of those murdered bringing bread to the murderers in prison. We were moved and uplifted by the joy we saw amid the pain --the smiles of children, the dances and songs of peace, the dramatic enactments of reconciliation and healing. All these activities contribute to the building of a culture of peace and deserve the support of Friends everywhere. As Burundians say, "a real friend shows up in difficult times;" so we are called to reach out to support Friends and others caught in the midst of war and its bitter legacy.

The consultation provided opportunity for networking among African Quaker peaceworkers, as well as for those from elsewhere around the world. We recognize a shared need to deepen our collaboration and support for each other. We renew our commitment to the value of each human life, recognizing that our global society does not always value lives equally and that inequities run deep and continue to grow. Such inequities may contribute to conflict and war in the future. Those of us from wealthy countries felt deeply the disparities between our societies and those of most of the world's population. But we were encouraged and impressed by the deep faith, bold vision, courage, and leadership of Friends in Africa working to prevent violent conflict and to rebuild their communities.

We are heartened that our concern is shared by the World Council of Churches' Decade to Overcome Violence and the United Nations' concurrent Decade for Building a Culture of Peace, and we recognize that if we are to make our vision of just peace a reality we will need to work with those of all faiths and those of none. In witness thereof, we held a public event in Bujumbura to which government officials, peacemakers, and press were invited, explaining the purpose of our consultation and some of the Quaker efforts toward peace around the world.

We envision many possibilities of working together and supporting each other. Recognizing our limitations, we chose to work on a number of specific joint initiatives. We have committed ourselves to meeting again and working together to continue to learn and implement means of preventing and preempting violence in our lives, in our communities, and in our world.

We call on Friends everywhere to join us in renewing our commitment to our peace testimony as a living witness. As we do so, we ask you to hold all Friends working for peace in Africa in the Light.

Participants in the Third Annual Quaker Consultation on Peaceful Prevention of Violent Conflict, Focus on Africa
 
 

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