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It’s All About Local Action

September 17, 2009

This week, I participated in an international conference call between AFSC staff person Anna Crumley-Effinger in Nairobi, the two new program assistants at the Quaker United Nations Office (QUNO), and myself. Anna gave us a terrific overview of AFSC’s work in Africa generally and then spoke more specifically about Kenya.

I am particularly interested in Kenya because the Peaceful Prevention of Deadly Conflict Program is releasing a new brief on the 2007 violence there over a disputed presidential election. In 2007, there was an outpouring of international support for peaceful mediation and the violence subsided, leaving an unsteady peace. When I asked Anna how about the Kenyan Friends’ reaction to the violence and how they helped to mitigate violence at the individual level I was excited by her response. One way that Friends took action at the local level was by leading listening projects for the masses of angry youth who felt that their concerns were being ignored on the national stage and who often resorted to violence. They also conducted dozens of Alternatives to Violence Project (AVP) workshops and came up with other creative solutions like involving youth in sports in order to divert energy into more productive activity.

These stories of local action and conflict mitigation give me a lot of faith in the power of non-violent solutions. I sit here at FCNL advocating for huge structural changes in the way that the U.S. government approaches foreign policy, and I sometimes lose sight of the power that non-violence carries. These issues are complicated and weighty, not easily solved, and often intractable and yet focusing on the small moments of conflict mitigation helps me to approach my own work with extra positive energy.

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