“Pis taay go” – is peace everybody’s business?

Traditional and religious leaders discussing the sources of conflict affecting their communities. Photo: Caterina Becorpi
Traditional and religious leaders discussing the sources of conflict affecting their communities. Photo: Caterina Becorpi

From the 7th to the 10th of July 2014, Finn Church Aid (FCA) and its Sierra Leonean partner Network Movement for Justice and Development (NMJD) have delivered the first training in conflict transformation for chiefs and religious leaders in the communities of Pujehun District, Sierra Leone.

The project is called “Pis taay go”, which in Mende language means “Peace always”, and it will train different types of community leaders in conflict transformation.

Imams, pastors, chiefs, mammy queens and youth leaders from three chiefdoms will learn together how to manage conflicts in their communities and how to contribute to sustainable peace. Every month NMJD animators will also facilitate Dialogue Sessions, supporting communities in addressing conflict peacefully and in building resilience.

At the end of this three-year project the participants to the trainings funded by FCA will be encouraged to form a network of peacemakers which will help local communities to achieve sustainable and non-violent conflict resolution. Peace Always -project will also organise exchange visits between chiefdoms, promoting experience sharing and sustainable empowerment.

A baseline survey was conducted in April this year to assess the needs of the communities in Kpaka, Ya Kpuumu Krim  and Gallines Perri and to understand how people deal with conflict and disputes in the rural communities of Sierra Leone.

Building on the findings of the survey, a training package has been conceived and every year about 45 leaders will be learning about conflict analysis, human rights, justice and transformative power of social cohesion. The training just concluded in Kpaka is the first step towards this direction.

“Peace is a collective responsibility”, says one of the participants.

“Peace is like children: they belong to the community and all members are in charge of their good up-bringing. We need to care about problems before they escalate out of control.”

All training and monthly dialogue sessions will be based on a participatory approach, using sensitisation and participated analysis to introduce new concepts gradually, addressing that resistance which may result from such process, in respect of traditional values and relationships.

The Peace Always -project in Sierra Leone also follows the lead of FCA global vision on the role of traditional and religious leaders as crucial actors in fostering peace, embodied in the Network of Religious and Traditional Peacemakers of which FCA hosts the secretariat.

Building peace through the engagement with local communities and the respect of their traditions and values represents the new base for sustainable cooperation and FCA in Sierra Leone has fully accepted to take the challenge.

Peace is everybody’s business and FCA looking forward to see how the first trainees will adapt and use the tools learned through training to constructively handle their community conflict.

Next step: monthly peace and dialogue sessions with the NMJD animators and the second training in September!

Text: Caterina Becorpi, Right to Peace volunteer in Sierra Leone