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Asia: Love among neighbors

Asia: Love among neighbors

Published: March 10, 2014
Woman and man behind a plant

DPRK farm manager delegation visits China in March of 2013

Photo: AFSC / T.W. Moore

AFSC’s programs in Indonesia, Myanmar (Burma), China, and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea) create space for people and countries alike to discover common interests and bridge a wide variety of divides. From grassroots youth movements affirming diversity to influential policy experts, we support regional leaders working for conflict prevention and peace.

In Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where a narrow interpretation of Sharia law has resulted in increasing restrictions on minorities and women, AFSC supported youth groups in organizing a Peace Torch parade and celebration of diversity involving dozens of organizations, hundreds of participants, and local and national leaders.

An innovative teacher-training program continued to help community schools run by Buddhist monasteries in Myanmar build critical thinking skills, tolerance, respect for the environment, and motivation for learning. AFSC helped train 55 teachers from 28 schools and exposed leaders of 14 schools to models of child-centered education in neighboring countries.

Amid rising interreligious tensions, AFSC brought together 25 youth from Indonesia, Myanmar, Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, and Vietnam to learn skills for promoting tolerance in their home communities.

The Chinese Ministry of Commerce worked with AFSC to publish a carefully researched resource book demonstrating that failure of foreign investors to consult with local communities is a key driver of conflict in fragile states. A related workshop opened space for Southeast Asian civil society partners to communicate with top executives of companies investing in the region.

AFSC staff were among the first people from the U.S. to visit the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) in the wake of military exercises last spring. We continued to help DPRK farmers improve yields through seed tray technologies, greenhouses, and other innovations. Farmers were able to introduce new winter crops following an AFSC-sponsored study tour to China.

We also provided support to our former peace programs in Cambodia, which are now locally sustained.