Recently, I had the privilege of visiting AFSC’s pro-grams in the Middle East and Africa. I returned hopeful and inspired that peace is truly possible, even in places emerging from decades of brutal civil war, military occupation, and violent political struggles.
I met young people determined to claim their right to a peaceful future in Gaza and the West Bank. I witnessed deep commitment to healing the wounds of past violence among returning refugees, ex-combatants, and long-time residents of a Peace Village in Burundi.
I felt the pride for the residents of Hatcliffe Extension just outside the capital city of Harare, Zimbabwe, as they worked together to replace makeshift shanties with real brick houses.
In all of these war-weary communities, one message was clear: Building lasting peace requires much more than merely stopping the violence. Healing and restoration, truth and reconciliation must be part of the process. Those displaced by war and famine, sometimes for decades, must be reintegrated into their communities. And economic development must bring opportunities for meaningful livelihoods to everyone.
AFSC’s Livelihoods Restoration Program in Hatcliffe Extension is a powerful example of this integrated approach to building peace. The grinding poverty of Hatcliffe Extension was a breeding ground for hopelessness and violence. In less than three years, more than 130 residents have been trained in carpentry, welding, leatherwork and sewing—trades that are in high demand. They also have learned basic business, communication, and collaboration skills.
With access to an adequate living, they’ve turned to planning and building a new Work Space that will allow their businesses to grow, as well as providing space for classrooms and shops to serve the entire community. They are working with government agencies to bring water and electricity to Hatcliffe and are lobbying for licensed schools for their children. The community is being transformed.
Over and over again, AFSC has seen this grassroots approach work. Patiently, we listen, consult, facilitate. We bring together partners who might not otherwise have been at the table. And we rejoice to see our brothers and sisters emerge from the shadows of war and violence with energy, confidence, and the capacity to succeed.
In Zimbabwe and everywhere we work, AFSC is building the foundations for lasting peace. This issue of Quaker Action focuses on how we do that, offering a timeline of our peace efforts over the last decade. You’ll find “briefs” of a few programs, an article on our concern for the increase of “Islamophobia” in the United States, an inspiring story of how one Friends meeting supports AFSC, and plenty of resources on war and peace to support your personal witness.
I hope you will be as encouraged and inspired by AFSC’s work as I am. Thank you for your support as we accompany our friends in Hatcliffe Extension and communities around the world on our shared journey of peace.
With grateful thanks for your dedication and support,