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A WPDI youth leader helps local communities identify paths to dialogue and openness at a peace workshop in Ikwoto, South Sudan

In May 2017, Atanga, one of our young peacemakers from Ikwoto, was invited to participate as co-facilitator for a community conference entitled 'Youth Justice and Peace workshop', which aimed to raise awareness on the importance of practicing peace and reconciliation in daily life. Atanga just completed a training session he conducted for a local youth group on peacebuilding, and was excited to have an opportunity to put in practice the principles he had been teaching his fellow youth. In partnership with the Catholic Church, the workshop drew in 112 participants from 15 villages. The 35 women and 77 men who participated represented a diversity of stakeholders: youth, women, chapel catechists, village chiefs and landlords, community intellectuals and government officials.

The workshop consisted of group discussions that allowed for open and candid exchanges. This proved instrumental in identifying and discussing existing conflicts within and between communities as well as the causes of such conflicts and their potential solutions. Drawing on the principles behind our Cinema for Peace program, films were projected and debated, which helped to further highlight the negative aspects of conflict and promote the benefits of peace.

Workshop participants discussed the daily conflicts they faced in their lives including cattle raiding, road looting and robbery, politics, revenge killings, produce theft and domestic disputes. They believed that most of these conflicts had roots in economic insecurity and cultural norms as well as political instability. As different solutions were discussed – concrete solutions and suggestions such as allowing people to move freely across the country – it became clear to the participants that the authorities were not the only ones responsible for shouldering the burden for the creation and maintenance of peace.

The main message to surface during the workshop was that “We must all be Peace Agents to our people.” 

At the end of the three day workshop, all agreed that their first action after the meeting would be to go back to their communities and disseminate the message of peace among their fellow citizens.

This level of commitment could be achieved because all the participants actively participated and shared their experiences, addressing many issues of concern with the interest of their respective villages and neighborhoods in mind.

Measuring what could be achieved through effective facilitation, Atanga, who had never coordinated such a large number of people, attributed his success to the training and mentoring provided by WPDI. He now feels more ready than ever to engage communities on the path to peace.