Dot Walsh: South Africa Journal, Part 2

Day Five 10/2 St. George’s Cathedral

St. George’s Cathedral was the parish of Archbishop Desmond Tutu until his recent retirement. We attended the liturgy in this beautiful cathedral where Tutu would celebrate his 80th birthday two days later.

Rev. Michael Weeder, a priest from Ghana, gave the homily speaking about his negative feelings towards the United States after 9/11. He found that this was his own personal struggle and needed to ask for forgiveness for his first reaction. Andrea and I spoke to him after the service and found him to be quite an interesting person and from here we walked the labyrinth.

City Tour

Wanting to find out more about this city we took a bus that allows you to get on and off at different locations. The driver pointed out various places of interest. District Six was the heart of the city where 60, 000 people lived until the 1968 apartheid mandate bulldozers came and destroyed all the homes. Now it remains with 85% covered with grass and weeds. Nothing has been built up until recently and slowly houses are being built. A nearby museum tells the story. Cape Town is home to people who speak 12 different languages and worship many different religions. Woodstock is the neighborhood market place with the famous castle nearby that has a history as a place of torture. The middle balcony of City Hall was the site of Mandela’s first speech after he was freed February 11, 1990. 20,000 people turned out to walk in a parade and hear his famous words promising peace, freedom and democracy for all. Moving on to Table Mountain you could see the other peaks; Lion’s Head and Signal Hill that sounds the cannon every day at noon that’s is part of a long tradition as a time signal for ships in the bay. Table Mountains has been nominated as one of the seven wonders of nature in the world. We traveled along the waterfront with plush apartments and clubs in the Camps Bay area. Also pointed out the hospital where the first heart transplant was successfully performed by Dr. Christian Barnard.

Global Summit Days Five – Eight, 10/2 – 10/6

Opening ceremony for GA Summit

The opening message was give by Sonja Kruse who walked around South Africa with R100 note in her pocket and a digital camera. Her journey was to prove to herself that the spirit of ubuntu indeed existed even in the poorest communities. She depended on people offering food and a place to spend the night. She found pleasure in sharing each day with the people she met and ended her journey just short of a year. An amazing young woman just like Peace Pilgrim.

Andrea LeBlanc, Ela Gandhi, and Dot

The following statement was written by Sarah Ancus who wrote this blog on the Peace and Collaborative Development Network and I thought gave a good idea of the mission of the conference:

The 5th Annual Global Alliance for Ministries and Departments of Peace Summit under the theme ‘Ubuntu in Action’, took place at the University of the Western Cape in South Africa.

Ubuntu, an idea popularized by Archbishop Desmond Tutu through the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission, is based on a local Southern African conception of humanity, that we are only people through other people. This conceptualization makes it clear that a person does not exist in isolation, but rather forms part of an inter-connected community, which reciprocally impacts upon other communities for both good and bad. The philosophy encourages openness, generosity, compassion and mutual respect.

The summit proceedings certainly embodied this spirit, embracing a willingness to hold open and frank discussions in which all could take part, to learn lessons and grow in a spirit of sharing and sincerity. The Global Alliance for Ministries and Departments for Peace is an activist movement that originally aimed at lobbying for the establishment of Ministries or Departments of Peace within each country’s national government. Today, the Alliance still carries that aim, but has matured and realized the importance of local level infrastructures and participation in community peace-building, now taking a more holistic and multi-dimensional approach which fuses both aspects into their mission and work. It provides resources, information, encouragement, and support for existing and new national campaigns for Ministries and Departments of Peace as well as efforts to establish peace academies and other peace infrastructure elements in government and civil society.

The Summit was addressed on the morning of the 5th of October by Jean-Pierre Mfuni Mwanza. A native of DRC and student of peace at the University of Kwa-Zulu Natal, he pledged to return to the conflict-ridden Eastern DRC to carry out real peace-building work. Although he initially tried to lobby the national government for a national approach that incorporated a peace process from the centre, upon seeing the government’s reticence and disinterest, he went to work on the ground to establish local peace committees and peace trainings in conflict transformation in local villages affected by the conflict. Jean-Pierre told a moving story of one man who changed his mind about wanting to kill his wife who had been raped and was causing him shame. He said the man had come to see the futility of the violence he desired to inflict and Jean-Pierre said he felt all of his work was made worth-while by seeing the life which he helped save.

Another grassroots-level peacemaker from Virginia in the United States, Gerry Eitner, started her own grass-roots peace organization after becoming involved in the US-based movement for an American Department of Peace. Working along with supporters such as Congressman Kucinich, they made headway in the creation of a Peace Poll for the Pentagon Chapel, which was established in September 2002. Gerry came up with the idea of a Children’s Peace Quilt, through her organization Communities of Peace, which tied together pieces of cloth and materials from children from around the world, all envisioning a peaceful society in which they can grow and flourish. The quilt contains patches from the US, Gambia, Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda and Zimbabwe, among other countries. It was displayed, standing at over 1/3 mile long, at the US Capital, where over 100,000 people were in attendance. She continues to grow the quilt and work on other local projects to establish local Peace Forums and Inner Peace Programs in ten US communities as well as through international outreach in countries like Afghanistan, Costa Rica, Ethiopia and Kenya.

The conference spent time working on an understanding of the need for infrastructure and then working on getting to consensus with all conference participants. Before the closing event the group elected a Board and gave them the assignment of setting up an NGO from Switzerland. This is a very brief review of a most wonderful and informative conference. I was especially impressed with the number of young people who are connected to organizations working for peace in different places in the world. I will mention Oliver (Switzerland) and Luisa (a neurologist from Brazil) who met at Patch Adams’ Gezundheit. and now are committed to their work in peace education and the creation of a different kind of health care system.

Last Day

At the last day of the conference during the lunch break Andrea and I set up the statue and several pictures from the Peace Abbey for conference members to view. I checked with the people with the computers to make sure they had the power point ready and then went to meet Shaun Johnson and Tammy Lee. This was the closing ceremony for the conference.

(Read Dot’s remarks at the presentation ceremony here.)