How easily can ICON promote peace in communities?

As part of the ICON’s role in community engagement, it works through the Durban Leadership Programme on a Peace Forest initiative in Lindelani, Ntuzuma, an area of the city that has a history of extreme violence.
As part of this work the Director was due to speak at a peace service at a church on 8th September. After a long delay, the service started with about 80 people, including women and a few older men, young men, teenagers and younger children. Some had come from rural areas and another province.
As the Director said, ‘Although the invitation had been to give a motivational speech on peace, I said I had little to say except that peace rested on two key elements: people’s thinking and their values and I wanted to connect with these. I asked those present to provide us with their questions around peace. I said that I would not answer the questions. Indeed there were no solutions for those present in London and New York – the solutions would need to be developed by the people present.’
After a brief hesitation, the questions started to come. They are presented here, with a statement as to which group the questioner was in:
Why is there a high rate of drugs?
How can we protect older citizens from abuse?
Why do we have a high rate of prostitutes?
Why do Christians quarrel amongst themselves?
Why are young girls at school falling pregnant?
Why are fathers deemed to be people who protect families, but they are in the forefront of carrying out abuse?
When people complain, why do they need to burn things?
Young men
How can we have development in our communities?
Why do people who get into authority treat people as if they are dirty clothes?
Very young children
Why are people jealous if a neighbour buys a new car?
It is allowed for teachers to hit children for wrong answers?
Why are taxi drivers not respected?
Young children
Why are people killing each other because of money?
What kinds of things must we do to bring peace in the world?
How can we help drug addicts?
Why do rich people not respect poor people?
Why do drunk people abuse women?
How can we help street kids?
Why do learners in school sell drugs?
Is it allowed by right or law for learners to harm teachers?
Why are young girls selling their bodies?
Why do old people want to sleep with young kids?
Clearly the older people present were very struck by the quality of young people’s thinking.  Possibly, women were using the opportunity to put issues on the table that are not often brought into discussion. There was not time to speak further, but if there had been more time, we could have taken just one of those issues to explore further how communities could start to develop more effective responses.
This approach draws on different bodies of theory – the one is the work on ‘wicked problems’ (Grint 2008). The other is the theory around the forms of knowledge that exist in communities (for example, critical race theory;  Kretzmann and McKnight 1996; Yosso 2005). The third is the need not to structure university-community relationships on the basis of either structural violence or cultural violence (Galtung 1990). For example, our community engagement needs to affirm and recognise the qualities of leadership amongst people in ‘the community’.
For ethical reasons, the images of the work are not posted here.
  • Galtung, J. 1990. Cultural violence. Journal of Peace Research, 27(3): 291-305.
  • Grint, K. 2008. Wicked problems and clumsy solutions: the role of leadership. Clinical Leader 1(2), 11-26.
  • Kretzmann, J. P., & McKnight, J. L. 1996. A twenty-first century map for healthy communities and families.Evanston, IL: Asset-Based Community Development Institute, North-western University.
  • Yosso T. 2005. Whose culture has capital? A critical race theory discussion of community cultural wealth. Race Ethnicity and Education (8) 1: 69-91.

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.