Remember last year when we wrote about the incredible group of young adults who were taking a certificate course in peace and reconciliation? Well this year, as a result of what they were able to learn through the course, they have developed a project that seeks to impact local communities through the formation of youth and children in peace building. While the course has ended, the learning and the impact has not. Over the course of the past few months a group of those who studied in the peace and reconciliation course, were a part of drafting and developing a national project for the Association of Colombian Covenant Youth. Together, using their gifts, talents, education, and work experiences they created the “Be Peace, Make Peace: youth peacemakers” (SéHpaz) project.
The project is designed to be three years and the first year, beginning in March 2018, the project is being developed in El Bagre. This is a town that has a high rate of its residents living below the poverty line and has been affected by conflict that has resulted in violence through the years. It is also a place where leaders from the local Covenant church are actively involved in their community.This is the reason that this project is focused on promoting processes of formation in peace and reconciliation to equip youth and children in this community to transform their context. The hope is that after this first year this project will be extended to other parts of Colombia where the Association of Colombian Covenant Youth is present and the community could benefit from it.
The work in this town has begun through a formational process where youth (ages 14-28) and children (7-13) are coming together to learn about pertinent themes related to peace. As youth are equipped, they will begin to work with the children in the community through sports tournaments, art activities, peace fairs and forums. Diana, coordinator of the project, tells us that in April a group of young adults from Medellin who had participated in the peace and reconciliation course in 2017 went to El Bagre to work with the local coordinator and leaders of the project to offer participatory workshops on what it means to treat each other well. She explains, “We were with the boys and girls from the surrounding neighborhood and during the time together the children identified the values and attitudes that are necessary to treat each other well and fairly, like respect, tolerance, love, cooperation, solidarity, friendship, honesty. They also identified what it means to create an environment that stimulates good relationships and places a priority on the well-being of people.” It was a fun afternoon of working with the children, and then later with the group of youth leaders.
In May, the workshop with children focused on the theme of non-violence and the youth gathered to learn about entrepreneurship.
The goal is to train 20 youth leaders, who will work with over 100 children from the community. These formational workshops will continue in the following months and will help the youth and children work through themes of peace building, advocacy, and peace practices. This work is so vital in order to transform the way the people have tried to resolve their conflicts through violence and to prevent young people from being recruited to participate in violence. The leaders of the project in this town, including Stephanie, are working with different local networks and organizations to offer these opportunities for formation in peace that is not only theoretical but practical.
Pray for the leaders in this town and for the support team that is helping to carry out this project. Praise God for the Community Development grant that was given by Covenant World Relief to help with the start up of this project! If you would like to support this project financially you can go online: http://www.covchurchgiving.com/p-145-covenant-world-relief-general-fund.aspx Please Note: As you get to the check out section on the webpage there is a “giving notes” box where you can designate too this project by writing: “Be peace, make peace project“.