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Friends Peace Teams Project
by Bill Samuel
Originally published November 12, 2000 at Suite101.com
NOTE: This article is somewhat dated now. It provides some history on this project, but it does not contain information on developments in recent years. For current information, see the Friends Peace Teams Web site.
It was just seven years ago this month (based on original publication date) that a group of American Quakers met about how Friends could respond to the violence of our world. They felt a need for a Friends project that could help recruit, train and place Friends in organizations with peace teams in world trouble spots; and also to encourage Friends meetings and churches to undertake active peace work in communities in violence throughout the United States.
Apparently it was the right time for this vision. In just a few short years, the Friends Peace Teams Project (FPTP) has gotten the support of 14 Friends yearly meetings and has embarked on several projects.
African Great Lakes Initiative
Although originally the FPTP did not envision itself as organizing its own international peace teams, when the need became evident it was able to respond. The call came from the troubled African Great Lakes region. This region has faced continuing ethnic and political conflict, including attempted genocide in Burundi and Rwanda in 1994 resulting in millions of people losing their lives or being forced to flee their homes.
All the countries in the African Great Lakes area have Friends churches. These churches cross ethnic lines, including both Hutus and Tutsis. About a fourth of the Quakers in Rwanda and about a tenth of those in Burundi were slaughtered in 1994. Friends came out of this experience with an even deeper commitment to Christ's call for peace and reconciliation among people.
In the summer of 1998, the Tutsi army ethnically cleansed two sections of Bujumbura, the capital of Burundi. One section hit was a poor area called Kamenge. The large Kamenge Friends Church was seriously damaged, and its residence house and guest house were totally destroyed. David Niyonzima, the General Superintendent of Burundi Yearly Meeting, asked for international help in rebuilding.
The FPTP responded to the call from Burundi Friends by establishing its African Great Lakes Initiative (AGLI). Its first project was the Kamenge Reconciliation and Reconstruction Project.
This Project not only worked on the reconstruction needed at Kanenge, but also began the reconciliation work that has continued through several other missions and projects. All of this effort has involved Friends and others from the countries involved, the United States and other countries around the world working together. In addition to Burundi and Rwanda, the work has extended into Uganda and Kenya. The projects have included helping people with post-trauma healing, alternatives to violence training, and peacemaking workshops.
Burundi Yearly Meeting fo Friends is now seeking to establish the Burundi Trauma Healing and Reconciliation Center with the support of the AGLI. The AGLI is also partnering with Rwandan Friends and the Alternatives to Violence Program-Uganda to provide training in alternatives to violence in Rwanda.
Peace Teams Partners
The FPTP also works with two other groups providing peace teams in trouble spots, Christian Peacemaker Teams and Peace Brigades International. FPTP facilitates individual Friends participating in training and peace teams sponsored by these groups. Through these partnerships, the FPTP extends its involvement to such areas as the Palestinian West Bank, the Mexican state of Chiapas, Columbia and Haiti.
Centers for Peacemaking
Since the beginning, the FPTP has emphasized the need for Friends to not only participate in peacebuilding and peacemaking internationally, but also at home. It encourages each local Friends meeting or church to become a center for peacemaking locally. A number of local Quaker congregations have provided peacemaking training for their members and become involved in working to prevent violence in their own areas.
© by Bill Samuel. Do not reprint in whole or in part without prior permission of the author, except for limited quoting in accordance with "fair use" principles. You are welcome to link to this page.
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