In 2004, shortly after the end of Liberia’s catastrophic civil war, we began working in Lofa County, strategically located in the northwestern part of the country, near the borders of Guinea and Sierra Leone. We work primarily with traditional communities and former fighters in Voinjama and surrounding towns and villages.
The work of everyday gandhis coheres around the following understandings: that true peace does not come from treaties and government negotiations but is built by ordinary, everyday people; that stories and images of peace can awaken and sustain the peacemaker within each of us; that the healing of the natural world and the healing of humans are inextricably linked; that traditional culture and nature itself are the most reliable sources of guidance; and that former combatants, especially former child soldiers, are gifted and rightful peacemakers.
What makes us unique is that all our work is developed in consultation with local elders, diviners, healers and community members, including the community of the ancestors and Nature. Our intention is to mirror to the community their innate peacebuilding capacity and the wisdom of their traditional culture and the natural world. We seek to create a model of peacebuilding relationships that replicates natural systems, according to the ancient African traditions of ‘ubuntu’, meaning, “I am because you are, and you are because I am” and the Liberian understanding that “If I am healed, I can heal 20 people, who, in turn, can heal 20 people, and so on…”
Through dreaming, divination, ritual, story and council, Liberians are creating and implementing a vibrant vision of peace that is both highly reliable and essentially dialogic, replacing at last the outmoded ‘expert’ – driven, top-down models of post-conflict restoration. We also work on a 100+ year timeline. This means that the land, the water, the animals, the dead, the living and the unborn are actively taking part in shared leadership that holds itself fully accountable to all forms of life in all realms throughout time.
Those of us from the West understand that, while some aspects of modern Western culture are useful, many are so destructive that we must attend to healing ourselves and our Western mindset. We are grateful to our Liberian colleagues for being such generous and patient teachers.
Our Ongoing Work Centers on 4 Key Areas:
Traditional Community Reconciliation:
Helping bring divided communities together through traditional mourning and peacemaking ceremonies, rituals, and dream councils in ways that transcend recent Christian-Muslim-Ethnic enmity and revive precious ways of indigenous peacemaking among the people and between humans and the natural world. Since 2013, with the help of eg staff, the border communities in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone have self-organized to form Mobile Peace Teams consisting of elders, traditional healers, women and ex-combatants. The teams conduct cross-border Community Councils and Soccer Peace Games and are working to strengthen community-based Early-Warning Conflict Prevention Systems.
Exploring ways to heal, restore and protect the land, water, forests and animals by drawing on traditional wisdom and modern ecological know-how; creating and restoring forest and wildlife preserves; engaging former fighters in the physical labor of restoration; and offering legal and environmental policy advising as needed.
Offering training, consultation and demonstration sites for sustainable agriculture that replicates natural systems for food growing, compost toilets, rainwater catchment, drought protection, ground water recharging and recycling that draw on traditional wisdom, working with, rather than against, nature.
Future Guardians of Peace:
Working with ex-combatants, particularly former child soldiers, to become peacebuilders through a variety of means: the innovative use of photography; soccer peace-games; mentoring by traditional elders and culture artists; training in ecological restoration, permaculture, conflict transformation, awareness and prevention of HIV/AIDS/STD’s/TEEN PREGNANCY. Along with our non-combatant Scholarship Students, the FGP engage in community peacebuilding in exchange for school fees and support. All the students receive continuous mentoring, training, tutoring and medical care.
We work in active collaboration with members of the local and national government as well as an array of local peacebuilding and conflict transformation practitioners. everyday gandhis is proud to be an active part of the beautiful new reality unfolding in Liberia. We are eagerly looking forward to deepening and expanding our Liberian peacebuilding initiatives in 2014, 2015 and beyond. Our hope is that Liberia’s unfolding peace can be sustained and that it will spread throughout the sub-region and beyond. Here in the U.S. we continue to work with colleagues in Los Angeles, Northern California, New York and elsewhere.