Saleh, Ombdurman 2010
One of the compound bitches has borne a litter of eight puppies. They are tiny, mewling, crawling blindly over their mother’s limbs and each other in search of nourishment. In the 42 degree mid-day heat, she leaves them to shade herself under the rear wheel wells of a derelict bus on the edge of the compound. Left in the hot sun, the puppies’ wails attract some lunchtime human attention. With the help of one of the compound workers, the puppies are moved one by one into the shade of the bus, reunited with their mother, who has dug a cooling burrow for herself.
One puppy is left behind with a scrawny female that is licking its drying umbilicus, rehearsing an earlier litter of her own. The puppy is still, unresponsive, its mewling ceased. The bitch abruptly stops her licking and bites the puppy in two, chomping briefly before swallowing.
‘That’s us,’ I hear someone coming up behind me. ‘Cannibalising our own,’ says Saleh. ‘So much has to change,’ he suddenly asserts. ‘Like me; I have changed. I am not the same person who arrived here. I am not yet sure how, but I will devote my life to peacemaking.’ He watches for a few seconds, then resumes his trip to the latrine.
Widad Derwish, Sudan
I remember when Widad arrived at a training in Ombdurman. She was in her early 20s, a little cheeky, pushing boundaries in some ways but not one we thought would take up the learnings in the amazing way that she did. She put her training-of-trainers skills into good effect as well as her training in non-violent direct action, organising youth and neighbourhoods in the risky task of challenging an oppressive government, whose leader had been indicted before the International Criminal Court for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. Her training and organising work caught the eye of Al Jazeera English and they produced a documentary on her work and that of her friend and colleague, Daoud Roudwan. The film is called How to Organise a Million.
Mai Shutta, Sudan
In order to participate in SONAD’s training, you had to demonstrate that you were already involved in justice-seeking work of some sort. Mai was already at it, working as a volunteer with SONAD. She joined a training as an enthusiastic participant. When the training was over, she took up her learnings and started to build her own programming.
Mai was one of those arrested in June of 2012 when the neighbourhood uprisings took place. The SONAD alumnae were critical in keeping the demonstrations and marches nonviolent despite the violent response of the Sudanese security forces. She spent months in the Women’s Prison in Ombdurman,
Luka Deng, South Sudan
Luka is a Christian from the South, now living in Juba, the capital of South Sudan. He returned several times in subsequent years to co-facilitate and translate.
Feraz Legita, Henna Caipang, Deliciosa Baclagon, The Philippines
These three women had their start in peacemaking at a gathering in Chiang Main in Thailand, led by staff and volunteers of the Baptist Peace Fellowship of North America. But perhaps that puts too much credit where it doesn’t belong. These three women are sisters, engaged for many years already in the work of justice seeking for the marginalised people of the country, torn for years by low intensity conflict between government and insurgency forces. We first worked together in March of 2003, in the days leading up to and into the invasion of Iraq by US American and British forces. Declared by President Bush to be the ‘Second Front on the War on Terrorism’, the news collapsed the geographic gap between Iraq and the Philippines. All of them work for the Convention of Philippine Baptist churches – in aid, relief and development/rehabilitation, education and peacemaking. What has the impact been of Partera’s work on them? I think they would have carried on their good work, regardless. Impact goes both ways. I have learned a great deal at their sides—about mining injustice, the decades-long complaints of insurgency movements and the Muslim and indigenous peoples of Mindanao; the impacts of economic injustice, women’s marginalisation and the contours of Philippine politics. It was Deli who first urged us to systematise the biblical work we did with all-Christian groups – which has become Peacemaking by the Book: 13 Keys to reading a Violent Bible, a curriculum project in the final manuscript stages in preparation for eventual publication.
Atungo Shitri, North East India
I first met Atungo in the Philippines as one of an Asia-Pacific-wide training in Conflict Transformation. It was a show-and-tell of conflict zones, with participants from many Asian countries, including Sri Lanka, Myanmar and India. He liked what he saw and what he learned and before too long, we received an invitation to go Guwahati, Assam in order to conduct a training in conflict transformation. It was a novel training for me: the participants were all men. It was meant to include a woman or two and it was meant to include Muslims. Neither of those two groups showed up. It was an amazing week that began with a room trembling with hostility amongst the five tribal groups present and ended with them embraced in play as they worked to find their common humanity – and create plans for community-based peace commissions.