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We Can’t Wait: How Women and Youth of Faith can Lead Peacebuilding

The Peace Agency One Minute Trailer from Spotted Frog Productions on Vimeo.

The first in our series of blogs coming from the Faith Coalition, sees award-winning peacemaker, Lian Gogali talk about how young people and women of faith can unite on Peace Day to build peace in their communities.

I come from an area of Indonesia called Poso that has been struggling to overcome communal conflict, terrorism, corruption, and governmental brutality. The murder of two police officers by Islamic militants in the jungles of Sulawesi, and the subsequent crackdown by the government against anyone they suspected to be involved reignited the cycle of conflict. For a community which has been working together for years to overcome violence, hatred, and distrust between religious groups these action threatened to open up old wounds.

While statements came from religious leaders, police, and politicians for the citizens to remain calm, calls that have been repeatedly issued for nearly 15 years, we the women of the grassroots movement Mosintuwu, a Chapter of World Faith decided we’ve had enough. In a dramatic scene, we demonstrated in streets while fighting between communities occurred not more than a hundred meters away.

These women are not religious, political, or cultural leaders. Until very recently, they were a vast untapped resource of interfaith peace building, busy cooking in their kitchens and raising their children. These women, many of them still housewives of various religions, ethnicities, and backgrounds, have banded together to say what the people of Poso have been wanting to say for years: “Stop making Poso a place of conflict between religious militants and police, then spreading false rumours in the media that the conflict is between Muslims and Christians.”

The world agrees now that investing in women and girls can make dramatic improvements in global development, but as of yet, they continue to be left out of religious and interfaith dialogue, which is still almost completely dominated by men. But these women realise that this is their moment in Poso to take control and make themselves part of the dialogue. Talk about peace and justice is meaningless without the involvement of women and children, and an interfaith stance is the key to uniting the community for peace and justice. Faith gives confidence in humanity; that every person, regardless of religion, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, is human. These women have realized this and have seen how violence continues to hamper society and faith in Poso.

I understand that we are not alone in this struggle. When I founded Mosintuwu, I reached out to collaborate with whoever I could find. As part of this journey, I connected with World Faith, which is focused on interfaith youth in action. Their vision is that young people of faith can counter violence through volunteering in development projects, such as education, public health, and women’s empowerment. We’re proud to be a part of this movement. But we know peace building is even bigger than just us alone. Peace One Day represent an opportunity to take this work outside of our communities and across boundaries, even if just for a single day.

The key to our work is not just to come and talk about how we can make peace. We emphasize working together and in that process, learning each other’s stories to come to a greater understanding of people from other faiths and backgrounds. It is important to expand the peace campaign that has been conducted by grassroots communities in post-conflict areas, to be heard by the outside world, strengthening this movement for peace and reconciliation. Joining together with Peace One Day is also intended as a demonstration of support to the international community from those in post-conflict Poso, showing them the importance of peace around the world, and the importance of involving all sectors of society including men, women and children in the peace process.