From 19 – 22 October 2023 Friends from Burundi, the DRC, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Norway, South Africa, Rwanda, Uganda and Zimbabwe met in Bujumbura, Burundi for the first meeting of Africa’s Quaker Peace Network for many years.
The gathering was hosted by Friends World Committee for Consultation, Africa Section with sponsorship from the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), Africa Great Lakes Initiative (AGLI) and Quaker Service Norway (QSN).
Exploring “Rethinking Quaker strategies in the evolving conflicts in Africa”, keynote speaker, Moses Chasieh, Director of the AFSC SALAMA HUB, spoke about distinctive Quaker approach to peace work, rooted in the belief that there is that of God in every person, and that there are alternatives to the use of arms and violence.
FWCC Justice and Peace Secretary Hezron Masitsa gave an overview of the origins of QPN and the present work of FWCC, including representing Friends on the committees of the Quaker United Nations Office and the initiation of a new Climate Emergency Fund to provide short term funding to projects, especially those in the Global South experiencing the immediate impacts of the climate crisis.
In small groups Friends shared news of their use of the Alternatives to Violence Program (AVP) and support for trauma Healing/Reconciliation using Transformative Dialogue/Mediation. These include projects in communities, prisons and schools. Others target socio-political changes through civic education, election monitoring and observation.
QPN emerged from two prior consultations involving three international Quaker organizations on “Quaker Consultation for the Peaceful Prevention of Violent Conflict” held in England (1998) and Washington (2001). These included Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL) in the US, the Quaker United Nations Office (QUNO), and Quaker Peace and Social Witness (QPSW) in Britain who came together with others involved with international peace work, for sharing and consultation.
The first Quaker Peace Network was held in Burundi, in 2002. Traditionally, QPN Africa gatherings were convened after every two years. The last gathering was held in Rwanda in 2015, thereafter there arose funding challenges that made it difficult to host subsequent gatherings.
With the 2023 gathering, the purpose and vision for QPN is restored as a space for learning, sharing and exchange of information on Quaker peace initiatives, and a way of connecting them with international Quaker agencies.
The work is carried forward by QPN clerk, Parfaite Ndahuba, and a new committee, comprising Antoine Samvura (Assistant Clerk), Georges Bani (Secretary), Wycliffe Kibisu (Treasurer), Ruvimbo Kandungure and Donatien Ndeziye (youth representatives) and Nokuthula Mbete and Elie Nahimana (Elders/Advisors). The new committee will meet and communicate the venue and dates for the next gathering.