From supporting a transnational civil society network of Colombians to raise awareness of the ongoing peace process back home, to facilitating deep storysharing and trust-building within the Zimbabwean diaspora, convening intergenerational dialogues across genders and clans in the Somali community in Islington, and exploring the unique contribution of women in building peace in the Sri Lankan context, the programme seeks to meet a wide range of needs.
We have been proud to support a visionary transnational civil society network, Rodeemos el Dialogo (Let us surround the dialogues.) ReD consists of Colombians and friends of Colombia who support the Colombian ReD consists of Colombians and friends of Colombia who support the Colombian peace talks, and believe in the power of a culture of dialogue to build understanding in the midst of pain, and to affect transformation on a national scale.
At such a critical and momentus time, both for the diaspora and for the nation, ReD have frequently been a counter-cultural voice for dialogue, understanding and empathy on the path to securing a peace deal. Through Peace Breakfasts in Bogota and teaching peace pedagogy in educational settings, ReD have brought together individuals from all sections of Colombian society to challenge the myths around the peace process and ask what a sustainable peace looks like for future generations. It has been a privilege to support ReD to raise their voice in London.
Highlights of the programme have included facilitating internal conflict transformation processes and training in dialogue tools, hosting a Skype at St Ethelburga’s with the FARC delegation during peace negotiations in Havana and supporting ReD to run a significant conference on the role of in building peace, Education, Peace and Conflict in conjunction with Cambridge University. Highlights of some public events include Lessons on forgiveness: Building sustainable peace in post-accord Colombia in collaboration with Plan Perdon and a screening of Chocolate of Peace: Cocoa challenging violence with producer Gwen Burnyeat, exploring the journey of the Peace Community of San Jose de Apartado in Colombia.
Our work with the Somali diaspora has been in partnership with Somali Initiatives for Dialogue and Democracy and Initiatives of Change and has involved running a series of intergenerational dialogues for the community based in Finsbury Park, North London.
This programme of dialogues stemmed from consultations with the Somali community across the UK, and realising that one of the biggest divides faced by the community is intergenerational, with 2nd generational Somalis in London more invested in their lives here, speaking English and facing the economic and social challenges familiar to many young people in Britain. Older Somalis are less invested in British society, with lower levels of English and many still hoping to return home at some point in the future.
These challenges cause conflicting identities across generations. There is a lack of understanding across generations of the challenges faced in daily life. Often these conflicts remain unaddressed in families, affecting both younger and older Somalis. These challenges could be addressed in a safe and secure space of facilitated dialogue, giving opportunity for new ways of communicating, and focusing on building empathy and fresh understanding across age groups.
The dialogues included sharing personal stories both within and between generations and sharing case studies of intergenerational reconciliation; separate facilitated groups of older and younger participants, creating a list of concerns to deliver to the other generation, facilitated mixed-generation groups to brainstorm ideas for working on these concerns together and a chance to share these concerns with political and community representatives, including Islington Borough Council and Jeremy Corbyn MP.
The second strand of our work with the Somali diaspora has involved supporting a new group that has emerged from the Agenda for Reconciliation network of Initiatives of Change, Nabad Curiye (Creators of Peace in Somali). Their aim is to grow peacebuilding and conflict transformation skills among both the Somali diaspora in London and back home in Somalia. Our support to Nabad Curiye has included pro-bono trauma training, with a chance to ask questions about facing trauma within communities, how it can be recognized and acknowledged and both the challenges and the possibilities for transferring skills across cultures.
Our consultations with the Zimbabwean diaspora community in collaboration with the Britain Zimbabwe Society and Search for Common Ground Zimbabwe have led to a series of incredibly rich, moving and deep dialogues exploring identity, history and conflict transformation, building relationships across differences that have been totally absent until now in the Zimbabwean community.
The dialogues have brought together Shona, Ndebele and white Zimbabweans to start the process of building empathy, understanding and trust across deep-rooted historical divides in a safe space for encounter. This work has been the most important we have carried out this year and has evolved into something greater than we possibly envisaged at the outset.
The process has involved five linked dialogue days covering deep storysharing around experiences both leaving Zimbabwe and being a member of the diaspora here in the UK; reflections on identity and relationship to conflict; asking what are the key issues that Zimbabweans need to talk about here in the diaspora; space to share personal stories of political violence, and loss and linking these back to the wider collective story of Zimbabwe.
Out of these have emerged themes including rebuilding trust, memorialization of the past, reparation and restitution, structural and political change in Zimbabwe, acknowledgement and commemoration of the Gukurahundi massacres in the 1980s, current political violence and the role of the diaspora today.
Our work with the Sri Lankan community, in collaboration with International Alert and Creators of Peace, has been unique in bringing Sri Lankan women together from across Tamil and Sinhalese backgrounds, faiths and generations to empower and equip them to be agents of peace and reconciliation in their own lives. Women’s voices have often been missing and marginalized in previous work with the Sri Lankan diaspora. This was a response to a real need expressed through our consultations and thus enabled the group to discuss issues normally considered taboo, including the role of women in society, challenges of gender and caste politics, and domestic and sexual violence.
The dialogues involvedsharing unique personal stories of peacebuilding, and of conflict; deep listening and story sharing on identity, and what it means to be Sri Lankan and to live in the diaspora in London; reflections on what creates and destroys peace and on issues of concern in their lives, wider society and back home in Sri Lanka, and a Skype link up with Search for Common Ground Colombo sharing expertise across the London and Sri Lankan context.
Director, Search for Common Ground
Lizzie Nelson, Director of Search for Common Ground UK, is our key partner in this work. Search for Common Ground (or SFCG) is an international peacebuilding NGO operating in 34 countries whose mission is to transform the way the world deals with conflict away from adversarial approaches toward cooperative solutions. Search partners with people around the world to ignite shared solutions to destructive conflicts, working with all levels of society to build sustainable peace through dialogue, media and community.
Gwen Burnyeat, ReD London Coordinator
Visionary transnational civil society group seeking to ‘surround the dialogues’, to support the ongoing peace process in Colombia, and to be a counter-cultural voice for a culture of inclusive, sensitive and engaged dialogue in the wake of the armed conflict with chapters in Bogota, London and Barcelona.
Amina Khalid, Sustainable Communities Consultant
Initiatives of Change is an international peacebuilding organising, seeking to support individuals to live the change they wish to see in their communities and societies. Initiatives of Change works to emphasise the profound connection between the personal and global: when people and relationships change, so do situations, and these changes are how our world can build an alternative story of peace.
Kate Monkhouse, Facilitator
An arm of Initiatives of Change International, Creators of Peace transforms, empowers and engaging women in becoming radical peacebuilders, starting in their own lives and communities. Creators of Peace supports women to be powerful agents for positive change starting with her own live, family and wider community.
Seeking young adults from diverse faith and spiritual traditions!
People of the Earth is a project about living from our deepest values, building empathy and fostering friendships between Londoners and refugees seeking to make their home in the UK.
Reconciliation as a concept and practice is one of the least understood aspects of sustainable peacebuilding and conflict transformation. In collaboration with the University of Winchester, our MA in Reconciliation brings together the academic rigor of postgraduate study in higher education and the practical knowledge and skills required to work at the cutting edge of reconciliation.
St Ethelburga’s is a ‘maker of peace-makers’. We inspire and equip individuals and communities to contribute, in their own particular contexts, to activating a global culture of peace.