In 2005, a particular focus began to emerge when leaders of the Somali community in the UK requested training in Dialogue Facilitation. Their country had collapsed, and the community was divided along clan lines. They believed that building trust within the diaspora would be a contribution to uniting the country when it became possible to return.
The courses created a network of leaders of different Somali clans who attended the AfR meetings. They created a charity ‘Somali Initiative for Dialogue and Democracy’. Sizeable delegations attended conferences at the IofC conference centre in Caux, Switzerland. Connections were made with parliamentarians and diplomats, and articles were published in newspapers. An intergenerational dialogue workshop, ‘Peace Begins at Home’ was developed to address the generation gap in the community.
Since 2012, when a transitional government was formed in Somalia, a significant number of those who had received the training returned to take part in the rebuilding process, at considerable risk to their lives. The ‘Refugees as Re-Builders‘ course grew out of this initial training.
Building on this model, AfR continues to support refugees who are working to reconcile their diaspora communities and contribute, where possible, to reconciliation in their countries of origin.
This work is coordinated through weekly open online meetings to share news from home countries and report on developments in trust-building projects.
Peter Riddell has worked with Initiatives of Change (IofC UK) organising trust-building programmes between people of different faiths based on shared ethical values, in particular with people who have suffered due to Britain’s colonial legacy.
He is currently Convenor of IofC UK’s Agenda for Reconciliation programme, supporting refugees who wish to contribute to rebuilding their country of origin, with safe space for sharing, training and accompaniment.
He is also Coordinator of Learning to be a Peacemaker, a course designed by Imam Ajmal Masroor, on Islamic approaches to peacemaking for young European Muslims and their non-Muslim peers.
Since the mid-1990s, Agenda for Reconciliation (AfR)’s aim has been to transmit Buchman’s message and methodology towards peace, particularly to refugees from and in Africa and the Near East who are grappling with rebuilding countries which are either collapsing or have collapsed. It does this through providing a Safe Space for sharing, Training, and Accompaniment.
The Safe Space is weekly online open meetings, where participants can share developments in their countries of origin and their diasporas, as well as reconciliation initiatives. Training is partially provided through the Qualities and Strategies of Peacemakers (QSP) course which is based on short documentary films on outstanding peacemakers, which participants analyse together and by AfR’s sister programme, Refugees as Re-Builders (RRB). Accompaniment is through providing support for individual and group initiatives, meeting space, mentoring, and access to IofC’s national and international conferences and networks.
These meetings act as a hub for connecting reconcilers and offers them a space to exchange information and experiences between members. Guest speakers occasionally are asked to speak at these meetings.
"Agenda for Reconciliation is a pleasant learning journey for personal development and an open space."
Around 1/4 of all people worldwide live in countries affected by conflict.
With this in mind, it’s time we started investing more in peacebuilding.
The AfR Qualities and Strategies of Peacemakers (QSP-online) is a course of five short modules, each based on a film about outstanding peacemakers.
The films show examples of reconciliation after conflict in a variety of contexts: inter-national, inter-religious, inter-ethnic and post-colonial. After an introduction and viewing of the film, participants take part in an interactive analysis. QSP alumni are also encouraged to join QSP-live events, an occasional opportunity to engage with peacemakers online from around the world.