Hostility can become a habit when people live in conflict. Impacted by inter-clan and tribal conflict for over 25 years, people living in South Sudan are still experiencing unrest today. War has left enmity in the hearts of the people. Opportunities for peacebuilding and conflict resolution are desperately needed.
Young people in South Sudan have only ever experienced conflict and division in their country - throughout their whole lives! To help them see that there are better ways to relate to others, particularly those from other tribes, safe spaces for meaningful discussions are critical.
GMP relief and development partner, the LAID Foundation of South Sudan (LAFOSS), are creating these spaces. They run peacebuilding workshops that aim to foster peace within individuals and communities. They help bridge cultural divides between community leaders and young people, promote healing, reconciliation and practice forgiveness.
The workshops empower local leaders from churches, schools, and women’s organisations to resolve differences without violence. Providing an opportunity for women to share their perspectives helps to increase their participation in community leadership. Workshops in schools help young people to learn a culture of peace from an early age. The strategies are simple, and participants can apply their knowledge straight away in their community.
After completing the peacebuilding workshop, Mary used the conflict resolution techniques she learned to conduct peace meetings for women in her community. This helped to reduce the conflict occurring between women at various water points (or boreholes) in her community. Peter, the chief of his village, said, "I mediated some community youth who had been involved in a conflict." He shared stress relief techniques and encouraged a "heart of forgiveness" among them.
Teachers and community leaders have said peace-building activities are an effective way to engage and teach young people about peace. ‘Peace Clubs’ held in local schools provide peace-building skills to children and youth. Peace Clubs teach conflict resolution skills and identify non-violent options for youth to resolve problems and challenges peacefully.
Mary observed that the training provided by LAFOSS paves the way for providing a variety of interactions, not just for youth, but for everyone in the community. “Social activities like wrestling, sport and dances that bring them [the community] together… these activities are for peace.”
Regular engagement, by trained community leaders, is needed to achieve ongoing, sustainable peace. LAFOSS aims to provide a ‘bottom-up’ approach to conflict resolution, meaning “Community leaders can stop [any] conflict before it gets out of hand.” This is the most critical outcome that can come from the peacebuilding and conflict resolution training. LAFOSS believe this will complement the South Sudanese Government’s peace initiatives, which are decreasing violence in conflict-affected areas.
A participant said, "The communities have experienced the importance of living peacefully [because] it brings full security around them."
Your Great Gift of a Peace Club will equip youth and local leaders in South Sudan with the skills needed to help stop conflict, build ongoing peace and lasting change in their communities. Make this Christmas even more meaningful by giving people, like Mary and Peter, access to a LAFOSS peacebuilding workshop.