“Until now I was without hope. This training has given me hope.”
Simple but powerful words from *Omar, a participant in one of NP’s intensive workshops in the Middle East to identify civilian efforts to help communities feel and be safer. These are the stories that the world rarely sees or hears about, civilians that dedicate their time and energy to promote nonviolence. They provide services such as basic health care and crèches (day care) for children to escape from the stresses of war. Others provide psycho-social support and legal advice to victims of domestic violence, which often increase in times of war.
However, even for the most dedicated, this vital work can take its toll, emotionally and physically. There are many, like Omar, who have been exposed to constant insecurity and violence for half a decade. After such a long period, one’s belief in the value, worth and efficacy of his or her efforts may begin to falter. Nonviolent Peaceforce believes that these heroes deserve better support that enables them to carry on. NP is providing that support.
A core NP value is the primacy of local actors. This means that we acknowledge and support the agency of civilians to make decisions about their own safety and security. At times, the picture can seem bleak. Nevertheless, civil society deserves to be celebrated and supported. At NP, we believe from our experiences in conflict zones around the globe that we can help provide renewed motivation, inspiration, practical tools for reducing local violence, and challenge cultures of violence that war creates.
NP’s push to create spaces for peaceful engagement amongst civilians is vital. However, without hope it is impossible. NP strives to return hope by providing civilians with spaces away from the everyday pressures of work and war. Spaces, where they can reflect, share stories and learn from similar case studies around the globe including from the Philippines, Sri Lanka and the streets of Chicago.
The intended outcome is for individuals to be better equipped and trained. Through these efforts, civilians can build on the best of their previous work and incorporate new tactics to address conflict in the communities they know and love. These special people are not waiting for the world to ‘solve’ war in the Middle East and return it to peace and prosperity. With NP’s support they are building the conditions for that future today.
* (named changed for protection)
By Derek Oakley, Project Officer for Nonviolent Peaceforce in Lebanon