08 April 2024

Empowering Communities: Our Journey in Peacebuilding 

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In a world rife with conflicts and divisions, the quest for peace remains a paramount yet challenging goal. Mensen met een Missie has been at the forefront of peacebuilding efforts, working tirelessly to transform harmful convictions, foster cohesive connections, and promote conducive conditions for peace in diverse countries such as DR Congo, Burundi, Uganda, and South Sudan. 

Mensen met een Missie’s approach to peacebuilding is rooted in the belief that sustainable peace can only be achieved by addressing the underlying causes of conflict and nurturing positive relationships within communities. Over the years, we have implemented several projects that exemplify their expertise and commitment to this cause. 

Building bridges in Burundi

One notable project was the programme called “Building Bridges in Burundi: Promoting Social Cohesion, Human Security, and Resilience for Burundian Youth and Local Communities.” This project aimed to reduce the root causes of armed conflict and instability in Burundi by equipping youth with non-violent conflict management techniques, facilitating community participation in decision-making processes, and encouraging the use of paralegals and mediators for nonviolent conflict resolution. The project reached over 18,426 adults and youth, contributing significantly to the reduction of conflicts and fostering a sense of trust and cooperation within the community.

Odette: “When I returned to Burundi after fleeing the violence outbreak in 2015, I faced a corrupt government and prejudice against refugees like me. They wouldn’t let my children enroll in school without birth certificates. Thankfully, the Local Committee for Good Governance, formed and trained by partners of Mensen met een Missie, stepped in. They lobbied for our rights, helped register my children, and brought more peace to our region.”

Freedom of Religion and Belief

Another impactful initiative was the “Freedom of Religion and Belief (FoRB)” project series, which focused on improving religious tolerance between communities in India, Indonesia, Pakistan, Kenya, Cameroon and the Philippines. These projects aimed to strengthen the voices of local actors, sensitize the public to the effects of exclusion, and connect stakeholders to improve policy and legislation. The FoRB projects have been successful in promoting cross-country knowledge exchange, capacity building, and policy changes that highlight the organization’s ability to influence both grassroots and policy levels for peacebuilding.

Salihou: “Partners of Mensen met een Missie encouraged people in my village in Northern Cameroon to form an interreligious peace committee. I decided to join them after attending a workshop about equality, peace, and freedom of belief. We organize activities such as cultural nights and sports tournaments, inviting both Christian and Muslim communities. We form mixed teams and use these events to emphasize the importance of non-violent conflict resolution and religious tolerance.”

Trauma healing

In Colombia, South Sudan, and Uganda, we integrated mental health and trauma healing approaches into their peacebuilding programs. This project supported victims of conflict by providing individual and group therapy, training community leaders and caregivers in counseling, and fostering a culture of healing and resilience. This holistic approach to peacebuilding demonstrates the organization’s understanding that addressing psychological wounds is crucial for lasting peace.

Victoria: “In South Sudan, where conflict has caused immense suffering, the Savings and Loan Groups that Mensen met een Missie initiated, have been a beacon of hope to me and my community. It empowered me to start a small business and earn my own money for the first time, bringing a sense of independence and light to my life. These groups are not just about financial support; they’re about rebuilding trust and community, offering a lifeline to those in need and helping us all rise together.”

Expanding Peacebuilding Horizons

The Peace and Reconciliation programme showcases our comprehensive strategy for peacebuilding. This program focuses on peaceful conflict transformation, interreligious dialogue, democratization, and inclusion across Africa, Asia, and South America. The program has significantly increased accountability of local authorities, initiated interreligious cooperation, and decreased prejudice, creating meaningful change at multiple levels of society.

Promoting peaceful and just societies

Mensen met een Missie’s expertise in peacebuilding has also been imperative in the Joint Initiative for Strategic Religious Action (JISRA): an interfaith consortium aimed at enhancing Freedom of Religion or Belief (FoRB) across Ethiopia, Indonesia, Iraq, Kenya, Mali, Nigeria, and Uganda. JISRA stands as a testament to the organization’s ability to collaborate with diverse religious and secular partners to promote peaceful and just societies. Through policy-influencing interventions, JISRA has achieved notable successes, such as the institutionalization of women’s leadership in Qadhi courts in Uganda and the integration of religious leaders into state-level peacebuilding commissions in Nigeria. These achievements highlight our capacity to effect change at both grassroots and policy levels, fostering a more inclusive and peaceful world.

JISRA has achieved notable successes, such as the institutionalization of women’s leadership in Qadhi courts in Uganda and the integration of religious leaders into state-level peacebuilding commissions in Nigeria

The essential role of women in peacebuilding

Another cornerstone of Mensen met een Missie’s peacebuilding efforts is the Women, Peace and Security (WPS) program, which has been implemented in Colombia, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), and Burundi. This program aims to empower women as central agents in peacebuilding processes, recognizing their pivotal role in conflict resolution and community reconciliation. In Colombia, the program facilitated the participation of women’s organizations in political decision-making and peacebuilding bodies, contributing to a more inclusive peace process. In the DRC, the MAnU (Mwanamke Amani na Usalama) initiative has been successful in improving the protection of women and girls, transforming harmful gender norms, and ensuring women’s effective participation in conflict transformation. The extension of this program to Burundi further demonstrates our commitment to gender equality and women’s empowerment in peacebuilding efforts. 

Lasting peace

Mensen met een Missie’s journey in peacebuilding is a testament to our unwavering commitment to transforming harmful convictions, fostering cohesive connections, and promoting conducive conditions for peace. Our projects across DR Congo, Burundi, Uganda, South Sudan, and beyond have not only alleviated immediate conflicts but have also laid the groundwork for long-term peace and harmony. By addressing religious freedom, gender equality, and social cohesion, we continue to build bridges of understanding and cooperation, paving the way for lasting peace in communities torn by conflict.