New 2018 initiative: Peace Forests

Sibusiso Xaba, community leader in Lindelani, shows the stream at the centre of the Peace Forest.

In response to requests from members of the Lindelani community, ICON is assisting in developing a Peace Forest. Lindelani has a long history of intense violence, in particular during the years before the transition to democracy. At one stage, a stream surrounded by trees was the dividing line between warring communities. Members of the local community, led by Sibusiso Xaba, have proposed that the area now been made into a Peace Forest; a place that offers local people peace and that also symbolises and celebrates peace.

The stream is presently polluted with sewerage overflow and a lot of plastic.

In 2018, this will be a project of the Durban Leadership Programme, which operates from the International Centre of Nonviolence in collaboration with staff of DUT and the African Centre for Constructive Resolution of Disputes (ACCORD). A group of students will work on the project, undertaking tasks like assisting in the removal of refuse from the stream, removing alien vegetation, developing signage and setting up a web presence for the project.

Discussion taking place with community leadership about the project.

In addition, the project will also work at Pigeon Valley nature reserve, in Glenwood on the Durban Berea. This is a well-established and systematically managed municipal nature reserve. However, some of the issues, like the threat of crime, pollution and invasive plants, also affect this park. It could also be developed in innovative ways to foster ways of achieving greater peace.

Building peace through action research – our new resource

ICON proudly makes available on this website the book edited by Sylvia Kaye and Geoff Harris.

To access this, please go to Resources where you will be able to access the book directly.
The authors write in their Preface:
This book arose from an increasing concern – which we believe is shared by many peace researchers – that our research makes very little difference to policy and practice. The reasons for this can be many, including a lack of connection between the researchers and policymakers. The latter may not act on our research either because they are not aware of it or because their own agendas do not in fact prioritise peace.
Action researchers are impatient and do not want to wait for a gradual change over many years in the way policymakers think and act. Action research provides an opportunity for at least some peace to be built during the course of the research. Action researchers are committed to genuine participation of the people whose situations are being researched. Hopefully, they are willing to be catalysts and facilitators and let the people take the research in the way which seems best to them.
The case studies in this book illustrate the challenges involved in carrying out action research within the broad constraints imposed by the requirements of a postgraduate degree. The case studies represent a wide range of possible uses of action research in peacebuilding. We asked contributors for submissions to include the following:
• A clear statement of the problem which the research was intended to tackle
• A clear description of the action processes which were planned and the ways the data which was generated, including how it was collected/recorded and analysed
• The challenges faced in conducting the action and the responses made to them
• An evaluation of the action process
• The project’s outcomes.
In the last few weeks of putting this book together, we came across an excellent book edited by Christiane Kayser and Flaubert Djateng, titled Action research: a necessity in peace work and published by Bread for the World – Protestant Development Service, Berlin, 2015. Its main thrust, with which we totally agree, is encapsulated in the title of its first chapter – ‘Action research – an essential tool in the work for social change and sustainable peace’.
Sylvia Kaye and Geoff Harris

Innovative workshop on peace activism

Most gatherings of peace activists are inspired by great speakers; this was not the format ICON chose to celebrate Peace Month in 2017. Instead, a diverse gathering of those working in such sectors as disability, youth, environmental justice, gender, racism, poverty and came together.
Work was done mainly in sector groups; after identifying who was present and what they are doing in that area, there was a focus on successes and challenges.

In the foreground, a group focuses on gender activism

The aim was to build collaboration and understanding across difference. This meant a lot of translation from English to isiZulu and back. One of the issues that was addressed was the gaps in experience between young and old.
This is a prelude to an ongoing series of events under the title of Peace Education Forum.

Great new videos on peacebuilding in the Democratic Republic of Congo

September is Peace Month, and this year ICON focuses on peacebuilding in the eastern DR Congo. ICON supports directly an annual Peacebuilding Conference, which was held on 11-12 September 2017.
This arises from ICON’s close association with the Sub-Saharan Africa University (SSAU) which was established in Goma in 2014 by Dr Joseph Rudigi, who is its current vice rector. Given its location in a highly volatile region, and in keeping with its commitment to peacebuilding, SSAU organises an annual Peacebuilding Conference.
Six of the video presentations presented at the 2017 conference (September 11-12) are here available. These were produced at Durban University of Technology by CONNECTWORLD TELEVISION, who were highly professional and remarkably generous with their time and expertise. Each video, except for the one by Professor Geoff Harris, is in French.
Professor Geoffrey Harris of the Peacebuilding Programme at the International Centre of Nonviolence at Durban University of Technology, provides a welcome and introduction to the videos.

Dr Diaku Dianzenza on training young men to be responsible, loving and nonviolent fathers.

Dr Maroyi Mulumeoderhwa on relationships between young men and young women in North Kivu.

Dr Josephine Mauwa speaks on dealing with the community impacts of rape.

Dr Beatrice Umubyeyi on nonviolent ways of bringing up children.

Mr Theophile Mukambilwa on trauma healing, as practised by the Healing of Memories organisation.

ICON’s role in the Cornerstone module

The International Centre of Nonviolence has contributed significantly to the development of a module that is compulsory in all new DUT programmes, the Cornerstone module. In 2017 over 4 000 students took the module. It includes a strong focus on students’ personal and family histories, often in contexts of violence, and on related issues of gender, and draws on pedagogies that are transformative and promote nonviolence.
In 2015 the Director, Crispin Hemson, tutored a group of students who were in the Medical Orthotics and Prosthetics Programme. This meant that he was teaching students who would become professionals in an area relevant to himself, as he has used orthopaedic shoes his whole life.

Students from the 2015 Cornerstone class

On a visit to the Wentworth Orthopaedic Workshop in August 2017, Crispin was able to meet some of his former students. “It was great to see our former students in a professional context, carrying out their service to the community,” he said.

Using nonviolent leadership in a context of violence

The annual Masakhane youth leadership programme, run by the Community Development Association on the Edgewood campus of the University of KwaZulu-Natal, offers a great opportunity for focusing on how young people take leadership despite the pervasive violence of South African society. This year, instead of taking sole responsibility, Crispin Hemson, ICON Director, involved a group of young students from the Innovative Leadership Programme at Durban University of Technology.

Nkonzo Mkhize, from the Innovative Leadership Programme, explaining a participatory exercise

Youngsters spoke in pairs on their experience of violence and then discussed what that was like.

Young leaders participate in the discussion; about 230 Grade 11 learners were present.

The final section consisted of young people who volunteered to speak about their own nonviolent response to bad, often violent situations. This revealed just how resourceful students have been in confronting very difficult situations. One spoke of having to challenge a family over the sexual abuse of a young woman by a family member. Another spoke of organising resistance to violence within school and forming an organisation that deals with the challenges facing young people. Another confronted in a loving way a family member who had just hit her. Yet another spoke of the way he challenged the humiliating treatment of fellow learners.

Those who spoke on taking nonviolent action

In response, Crispin Hemson spoke of the seeds of greatness amongst the young people, both those who spoke and those who listened, and urged them to remind themselves constantly of their intelligence and worth. South Africa, despite its violent history and often violent presence, has produced remarkable leaders who have practised and demonstrated nonviolent leadership.