The long awaited Conflict Transformation Encounter took place from the 17th-19th of October at the Bosco Centre in Walkerville. We are thankful to the nearly 300 people who were able to join us! For those of you who weren’t able to make it we hope that this article will serve as a suitable update to fill you in on the event. More photos of the activities can be found on facebook
The main activities of the event took place on Saturday 18th, with workshops and presentations exploring the conflict transformation approach to peacebuilding, and it’s relevance to global peace and security issues. Delegates and speakers from over 20 countries attended, presenting examples of how conflict transformation makes sense across multiple contexts. Local Peace Committee members from Alexandra, Orange Farm and Soweto as well as members of the South African Somali Women’s Network also attended.
According to event organizer Charity Mungweme, ”The Conflict Transformation Encounter is part of an on-going contribution of the ACTION Support Centre to a long term process of changing relationships, behaviours, attitudes and structures, and to building a new and better world.” The event sought to take a dynamic approach to the topic of Conflict Transformation, with the structure of the event and the activities designed to be interactive and creative in order to engage participants on not just an intellectual level, but an experiential level as well.
It was kicked off on Saturday with a formal opening at 9:00am, which was followed by sessions in which delegates rotated between several interactive encounters with transformative thinking.
Each station had an activity to stimulate thought and discussion on particular topics. Some of the encounters included the following:
- A photograph showing the controversial treatment of an Ebola victim, to stimulate discussion on the stigma and fears directed at Ebola victims and West Africans in general by the rest of the world.
- Quotes from Kwame Nkrumah reflecting on freedom and the challenges facing Africa post-liberation:
“Action without thought is empty. Thought without action is blind.”
“I am not African because I was born in Africa but because Africa was born in me.”
“Freedom is not something that one people can bestow on another as a gift.
They claim it as their own and none can keep it from them.”
- A ‘Vision for Africa’ poster-making station, in which participants were encouraged to use visual means to express their dreams for our continent.
- Freedom songs from Zambia: learning the lyrics and meaning of freedom songs as activism and engagement.
- The Conflict Knot; an activity in which participants have to work together to untangle themselves from a human knot, without letting go of each others’ hands: a lesson in communication and team work.
- A discussion on the role of religion in conflict and peacebuilding.
- A short video exposing quick judgements made on identity, even with no more than an outward glimpse of a person.
Workshops were held in the afternoon, with speakers from Somalia, Tanzania, Uganda, Kenya, Mozambique, South Africa and Zambia discussing how the conflict transformation approach has been used to build peace in their own contexts. The workshops centred around themes such as African Solidarity, Local Peace Committees and dialogue and religious differences. There was also a focus on the post-2015 development agenda, to contribute to global discussions that are underway on the follow up to the UN Millennium Development Goals.
The workshops were supplemented with healing themed activities such as dance therapy, massage, a drumming circle and a drama performance. According to Ms Mungweme “The Encounter [was] a chance to give back to those who invest their time and energy in peacebuilding, a chance to revitalise ourselves and each other”.
The event culminated in a cultural evening, which was an opportunity to celebrate both the wealth of diversity and our unity as Africans. The evening featured Ambassador Welile Nhlapo as a guest speaker, who shared a thorough analysis of the challenges we face in Africa, and the opportunities to overcome them and move forward, as well as reminding us to tap into our collective potential and the power of organised formations.
Dishes from across the continent were accompanied by performances from highly acclaimed Common Factor, the Blue Boy Pantsula dance group and the bluesy Congolese rhythms of Les Fantastique.
Positive feedback was expressed by participants, among them the Alexandra Peace Committee who shared that, “the sentiments were that we all enjoyed and learned a lot. We appreciated the standard of organisation and the detail of the programmes. It was evident that thorough thought went into it.”
The ACTION Support Centre thanks all those who attended the event and helped to make it a success.