World-leading everyday peacebuilding shines in crisis
In the midst of Myanmar’s present crisis, GraceWorks Myanmar (GWM) continues to empower world-leading everyday peacebuilding training that is proving to be more critical than ever.
Myanmar’s people have survived the lingering COVID-19 pandemic only to be faced with an unprecedented political and social setback on 1 February 2021 that continues to play out.
Daily press reports and briefings have highlighted the scope of the ongoing crisis – one that shows little signs of reaching a safe and fair result.
The fragile road to democracy has been derailed for the foreseeable future and the country is bracing itself in survival mode yet again.
With a long history of ethnic and religious conflict, the damaging impact of those tensions are heightened in the current crisis as communities face the added pressure of military intervention, attacks on innocent civilians, and the suppression of movement and freedom.
It is against this seemingly hopeless and fear-filled environment that GWM’s in-country team continues the exciting, slow and considered work to introduce our everyday peacebuilding training as a pathway to encourage grassroots harmony in communities that have traditionally and historically been in conflict.
With many non-government organisations (NGOs) unable to continue operating in the current conflict environment, the power of community-led development continues to demonstrate its power.
GWM’s work focuses on Rakhine State, on the western coast of Myanmar, which has been home to the Rohingya Muslims and the ongoing conflict with Rakhine Buddhists.
After years of our village-level community development education (CDE), and more recent work in everyday peacebuilding, which often uses the arts and sports as platforms for unifying experiences, GWM is now witnessing transformational change.
Over the 2020/2021 Christmas/New Year period, our CDE facilitators enabled the coming together of Rohingya Muslims and Rakhine Buddhists – connected as paired villages through our CDE work – over a series of fellowship dinners, sporting events and generous donations of food and resources from both groups.
Historical rivalry has been exchanged for experiences of harmony, goodwill and friendship.
These groups are now trading, sharing resources, and working on joint projects such as road building and well digging, alongside many other community activities based on participatory development.
New village relationships have been established on trust, goodwill and an openness to share differences and celebrate joint achievements.
Everyday peacebuilding is not only showing early positive signs, it is laying a foundation for sustainable, locally driven change.
GWM is particularly proud that gains have been made despite only remote training and coaching of our Myanmar-based facilitators by our Australian community development experts.
Myanmar’s people are extremely resilient, and GWM resolutely stands by our local team as they persevere and progress our community development work toward greater quality of life, wellbeing for all…and everyday peace.
GWM has been hosting a Chinlon competition (a combination of soccer and volleyball) among all our CDE communities, which has been hugely competitive and exciting for villagers. It has been a wonderful example of sport as a community development vehicle to bring communities together.
CDE training has supported the forming of village relationships and, for the first time, resulted in Rohingya Muslim and Rakhine Buddhist communities joining together over the Christmas season to celebrate a fellowship dinner.
Community fellowship dinners included the sharing of festive gifts with everyone from paired villages – both Rohingya Muslim and Rakhine Buddhist – as part of community harmony events for communities who have traditionally been in conflict.