I’ve always been amazed with the resilience of children living in war zones. I have spent time with them, from Colombia and El Salvador to Palestine, Iraq, the Sudans and beyond—children who have lived, are living, a hell on earth. I watch in wonder as they play laughter-filled games, make toys out of simple objects, create art that depict their daily lives. They tell stories. For some, fantasy is the only way to escape their reality.
It is, without doubt, the most difficult part of the work of witness and peace educator: what in the world drives us to create such horrors in the lives of children? How do we interrupt that drive?
The apparent resilience heard in the sound of singing and laughter often hides trauma beyond anything most of us can imagine. One of our projects in 2020 will take us back to Uganda to work in the world’s largest refugee camp, Bidi Bidi, bordering the DRC and South Sudan in the country’s north west. Many of the hundreds of thousands of residents are South Sudanese, fleeing the violent conflict that erupted only weeks after the South became the world’s newest country in 2011. Many of those are former child soldiers.
They arrive deeply scarred by both their mistreatment by the adults who forcibly recruited them to their ranks—and by the enduring memories of what horrors they themselves have done. Self-forgiveness is a critical part of our training. Our work will involve both those young men—as well as women, doing trauma-informed training in the skills of conflict transformation within the pressure-cooker community that is the camp. It is bursting at the seams, trying the patience of their Ugandan neighbours and igniting violence amongst rival groups. I invite you to have a look at ‘Silly Games?’ in order to get a sense of what this kind of training looks like. In that four-year-old blog, I recount former child soldier, NKR’s, horrifying tale.
In 2020, we will also be in Ecuador, whose political landscape is currently marked by violent street protests, as well as the Philippines, where President Duterte continues a campaign of vigilante justice in his war on drugs. Tens of thousands have been killed by agents of the state in this majority-Christian country where shocking numbers of pastors support the brutal ‘social cleansing’. Please go here to read more about our hoped-for activities in 2020.
It is a rare year that begins without a concern that we will be able to fulfill our obligations and the hopes of partners who have invited us to work with them in their search for a new day. We draw up a list of projects and fundraisers and then hope and pray, write and solicit the help of peacemakers like you to make these things happen. Twenty-twenty is looking of particular concern as we struggle to balance 2019.
Thus, this appeal to your peacemaker heart. Please give generously so that Partera’s work can go ahead as planned and hoped-for. Has there ever been a time in human history when the work and skills of peace were so needed everywhere? Climate catastrophe is going to test our reserves of good will to and, likely, beyond, the breaking point, around the world. Local campaigns will focus on militarisation and climate. Go here to make a tax-receiptable donation.
Partera is a multi-faith organisation, working with people of all confessions or none. We take faith seriously and, at this time of year, the story of Jesus as refugee seems particularly poignant as we consider the 65 million humans on the move, the majority of those women and children. Go here to donate. Thank you for your support in the past; thank you in advance for your contribution. You are enablers of peace. Awesome. With deep gratitude, on behalf of Partera International.