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.
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.
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.
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.
Professor Joanne Ciulla, Professor of Leadership Ethics and Research Director of the Institute for Ethical Leadership at Rutgers University, New York, recently visited ICON as a Fulbright specialist in the area of leadership ethics. The reason for the visit was to provide the benefit of her expertise and considerable experience to the Innovative Leadership Programme, which has 45 students from different faculties and levels of DUT.
Joanne Ciulla was previously with the Jepson School of Leadership Studies (University of Richmond) and is a distinguished scholar in the area of leadership, with many publications and awards to her name.
Presenting to the Leadership class her research on Mandela as a leader.
While at DUT Professor Ciulla gave a public lecture and a research seminar. She also interacted with committee members of the Leadership Programme, and finally spent a morning with the class of the Leadership Programme. She brought both a considerable depth of knowledge and a very accessible manner to the interaction with students and staff.
Some of those who attended the research seminar on leadership
At present ICON, with its partners, staff from other faculties and departments at DUT, and ACCORD, needs to decide how best to take the Leadership Programme ahead. We have at present a nonformal programme, but also a formal module at first year level. The two are rather similar, though the nonformal programme relies more on outside visitors.
Professor Ciulla, Crispin Hemson and Jairam Reddy with some of the students on the Programme
I spent the month of May at the University of Seychelles helping to establish the Sir James Mancham International Centre of Peace Studies and Diplomacy. (Mancham was a former president who was deposed by a coup in 1977 and lived in exile until 1992, when he returned with a strong commitment to reconciliation. He died just a few months ago and the driving force behind the centre’s establishment was lost).
At one level, the Seychelles is like paradise – friendly people, warm (at times very hot) weather, wonderful beaches and seas of remarkable blues. But there some big issues close to the surface
• Human rights abuses and economic losses between 1977 and 1993 have left many people traumatised and angry; a truth and reconciliation process has only just begun
• Drug and alcohol addiction rates are high (one estimate puts the number of heroin users at 5 000 in a population of 90 000) and this leads to break-ins and robberies
• Gender based violence, family breakup and neglect of children are widespread.
Seychelles combines idyllic scenes with challenging social issues
There is certainly a role for the Centre in promoting new ways of thinking and acting about such domestic challenges. In addition, within the wider Indian Ocean community (the Maldives, Seychelles, Comoros, Madagascar, Mauritius and Reunion) there are the threats of piracy, poaching of marine resources and the effects of climate change.
The Centre’s steering committee and trustees are examining the most effective ways of tackling with such issues. Most will involve building networks of peacebuilders and others to support each other and to learn from one another’s experiences.