Peace Stakes among Rural Friends

First AVP workshop with Nepal Quakers
First AVP workshop with Nepal Quakers

We facilitated an AVP workshop in Ramecchap Nepal for 18 Evangelical Friends. These Friends are not used to workshops on peace, social issues or self-esteem. The church has no running water nor chairs. But these Quakers were very savvy about social justice. They survived an earthquake; they heard about the generous world-wide donations after this disaster, and they knew that this money wasn't distributed fairly.

Older sister (maybe 7 years) helps babysit
Older sister (maybe 7 years) helps babysit

These friends are not scholars, but they are wise in the ways of structural violence. They are fishermen and farmers living where the rivers run more and more turbid and the soil is too rocky to support crops. They live on steep mountainsides with frequent landslides. Nepal government released $150 for any earthquake family victim. Now the monsoon season has begun and the government's many promises to disperse the international aid has not occured. Fifty years ago people in Ramecchap lived with milk and honey, their land a jewel. Now, what are they?--the salt of the rumbling earth.Read more


Peace work in Nepal

AVP design of Transforming Power
AVP design of Transforming Power

So what's different about doing AVP in Nepal? Alternatives to Violence is very needed and very welcomed in this country. Nepal, lying on the backbone of the world is wedged between 2 military giants: China and India. Nepal is around the size of New York, although it takes over 2 days to travel across east to west. AVP started in Nepal in 2006. Nepal will host the AVP international gathering in Nov. 2017. AVP leaders are excited to welcome peacemakers from 40 countries here. It's a dream come true.Read more


Earthquakes and Stupas

Buddhist stupa
Buddhist stupa, the "1" between the eyes means unity, not a nose

What can be more exotic than Kathmandu, Nepal? We will not go to the world's rooftop or graze Mt. Everest. But we are happy to live in cooler climes. Mountain breezes brush prayer flags drying clothes equally. The mood is gentler: religion, farms and shops blend together. We are staying at Pradip, Barsha and Prabal's home, a Quaker family. How soothing to make Darjeeling tea when we want and cook comfort food. Betsy sent us a care package which we got in Kigali and we still have some favorite foods from that!

Most people know about the Himalayas with eight of the ten highest peaks worldwide. But Nepal also has jungle, and parks where the rare tigers and one-horned rhinos can be seen. We have not heard anyone spotting yetis, but there is a Yeti Savings Bank. Are banks our modern abominable snowmen?

NepalFlag 2,000 years oldDid you know Nepal has the only national flag that isn't a rectangle? Nepal has never been colonized and therefore doesn't need an Independence Day. So my assumptions are challenged once again. Why aren't flags different shapes? Why are most countries colonized, why is this the status quo?Read more


Kerala State, India

imageWe have been in India for 3 weeks. It's a amazing place and I know so little about it. English is always hard to understand, only about 10% can speak with us. In Kerala the local language is Mayalayam which has beautiful script. It is related to the Tamil language. They speak in a fast cadence, to me it's a rapid sound--madayamathiryala'am...

Kerala is great for eco-tourism, it's a thin seaside state, much like the country of Chile with low mountains called the Western Ghats. This has many forests, some jungle, lots of mangroves. It has white tigers and langurs (monkeys) and lots of birds like storks, toucans, kites, and the heaviest air-borne bird in the world called a vulture. There are reserves and zoos. I see cashew, mahogany and cork trees. This is the land of 'The Life of Pi' if you read that book about an Indian boy and tiger marooned in the Ocean.

imageThe history is rich here. This is a major learning center for Ayurvedic medicine. This ancient medicine (Ayur = life and Veda =Science) is at least 3,000 years old and is the foundation of Chinese and Greek science. I know very little, only that ayurveda is preventative and works to restore balance in your system. Balance between your kitta, vata and kapha or wind, fire and earth energy. when my knee joint started aching, I saw a practioner yesterday and he gave me 3 medicines to take: Rsnayogajagulgulu, Punarnavadi Kashayam, and Bala Thatlam twice a day. Two of them taste like bitter cashew leaves. He asked me about diabetes, blood pressure and accurately guessed my age. He said the joint pain is because of 'old age.' I'll let you know how it turns out. The Ayurveda prescription seems healthier for my knee than a shot of cortisone, but more labor intensive. Jonathan had 2 teeth worked on, and the cost averaged about $30, whereas in the US it would be 10x that cost.Read more


Church, History, & Truth-telling

Solange
Solange

Solange was 5 years old in 1994, yet parts of the genocide are brittle and clear. When the slaughter started in April, she learned that her family is Tutsi. Solange lost two older brothers; and her sister who was just 11 years old. All four of her grandparents were murdered. And she had two aunts and three uncles who were killed.

It was a strange time. Nothing was predictable. You wake up from your mattress one day to ruckus and chaos, and the next day only a deathly silence. In April, Solange and two sisters were stowed at a neighbor's home (Hutu) where five children were living. After three weeks these Hutu friends ran out of food and they sent Solange and her sisters back home. Solange's father had been assaulted and left with a huge wound on his scalp. Her Dad never fully recovered from the wound, going in and out of hospitals until he died in 2011. After the genocide, her Dad couldn't work and money was very scarce.

AVP exercise on structural violence
AVP exercise on structural violence

Growing up post-genocide was difficult: society was chaotic. Many Rwandans in 1994 fled the killings, and for years afterward there was still fleeing, escaping and returning home. "I lost so many friends in primary school." Solange sighed. She had Congo, Burundi and Uganda classmates. In 1995 a Hutu neighbor escaped from the RPF (Rwanda Patriotic Front) to Congo. Solange says, "I lost these childhood friends, and then I got new ones."

Solange was raised Catholic but the genocide left her disillusioned. Her Aunt Angelic, like thousands of Tutsis, took refuge in Nyamata parish church on April 14th. Ten thousand were killed that day. The priests colluded with the Hutus, letting the murderers go rampage with hoes and machetes. The Bugesera district around Nyamata was flowing with blood. Before 1994 Nyamata had about 120,000 residents. Ten years after the genocide, the population of the town was estimated at 12,000.Read more


Life, Liberty, and Pursuit of HIPP

imageDoes the generation now in their 20s, born after the genocide, concern themselves with peace and justice? Peacebuilding is more than non-violence. Nor is it an individual endeavor. To work for peace (inside and out) is to work for your salvation. Rwanda Friends, like many churches around the world are loosing their young people. They move away from churches trying to get an education, to get a job, or to explore where they can most use their talents. Some stop coming to church at age 13 (sound familiar?) and more leave after high school at 18.

A few Rwandan Friends sought antidotes to the youth diaspora in the Quaker church. They saw young people who held little hope, many not having enough money to pay for school, 14 year olds dropping out of school. Some youth wonder what happened to uncles, or grandmothers or their cousins. At family reunions young people felt gaping holes, and few Rwandans explain why older cousins were killed, or why uncles were in prison.Read more


What is a PeaceBuilder?

Daniel and daughterEveryone wants peace, but not everybody works for peace. how does a person move from a passive bystander who favors a peaceful world, to someone who intentionally works actively for justice and peace? To find out I talked to a Rwandan Quaker who's an indisputable peacebuilder.

Daniel Nteziyaremye is a 34 year old father of two young daughters. He speaks three languages and, like all Rwandans born before 1994, he's a survivor. As I learned from Palestinian Quakers: Hope is not a feeling, it is an action. Daniel's life shows that peacework includes your mind, heart and hands. But this story starts with a dark part of his life.

Surviving Genocide

During the genocide Daniel was exposed to dying-- he watched people riveted with fear, and witnessed hysterical grief. His Mom was stopped 6 times in 1994 by the Interhawme—they considered killing her just by her looks. As a 13 year old, Daniel and his siblings surrounded their Mom crying and hugging her. With this swarm of protesting children, the militia let her go, saying they'd finish her off next time.Read more