Saturday, July 28, 2012

Alternatives to Violence Workshop

Violence plagues Honduras. 

The Catholic Bishops of the country have declared a campaign against violence

For the past few years Caritas Honduras has trained people from the Caritas diocesan offices in a process of Constructing Peace, Transforming Conflict. These workshops have been facilitated by Caritas Colombia staff, using materials from Caritas International, largely developed with the help of John Paul Lederach. (The manual in English, Peacebuilding: A Caritas Training, can be read or dowloaded here. Amazon has a page of the books of Lederach here.)

Thursday and Friday fifteen people – 13 from the parish and two from Santa Rosa’s Prison Ministry – participated in an Alternatives to Violence Project workshop in the parish of Dulce Nombre. 

I had attended a training in Gracias, Lempira, more than a year ago and had arranged another session in Santa Rosa.  I found the workshop very helpful, especially in terms of practices of nonviolence, since the workshop is very participatory.

The Alternatives to Violence Project started in the US when prisoners asked Quakers to help them develop ways to deal with the violence in prison as well as with youth beginning to come into conflict with the law.

What distinguishes AVP is its participative methodology, its commitment to nonviolence, and its ways of working on personal nonviolent responses to conflicts.
There is an emphasis on discovering and fostering the transformative power that each person has. I see this as based in the Quaker belief that “there is that of God in every person,” which the Catholics here in Honduras would probably better understand as based in our nature, “made in the image and likeness of God.”

A few months ago, thinking about the conflict in the parish and the violence in Honduras as a whole, I began to think about the possibility of a parish workshop. I asked Padre Efraín, the pastor, and he was enthusiastic.

There was some funding for workshops, provided for the workshops by the Dubuque Franciscans  to Sister Nancy in Gracias, Lempira. She agreed that this would be a good use of the funds.

Padre Efraín and I made a list of people who would be good for the workshop and to begin to have a team of parishioners who would help us develop a climate of nonviolent responses to conflict in the parish.

Though we had invited about 17 people I had no idea how many would come. I was hoping for at least ten, including the two women from the prison ministry. I was so glad when fifteen showed up.

The facilitators were women from San Pedro Sula and worked with a program of the Hermanas de la Misericordia there.

Though I was working on many details during the workshop, I was able to attend most of the sessions and I found this to be the best of the three workshops I had been in contact with.

What especially impressed me was the way the facilitators connected with the real life experiences of the people and also made connections to the national reality – the injustices, the structural violence, the poverty. 

It was refreshing to see that the workshop was reflective of a deep critique of the society and politics of Honduras.  This is not a way to avoid dealing with issues of justice, but a way of finding real alternatives to violence as steps on the way to build a society where all people can live a life of dignity.

At the end of the workshop, the facilitators asked if people might be interested in follow-up sessions. Almost all agreed and we set a date.

The facilitators also mentioned that there might be possibilities for advanced training for future facilitators. There were a number of people who were enthused about this option.

I am pleased that we will be able to advance in this process in the parish. I will probably also try to work with some of the people using some of the Caritas tools which are more oriented to analysis of conflict in order to transform situations that are prone to violence. Caritas methodology is participative but it is a little more “heady” than AVP’s approach. Both, I believe are needed, but the workshop we had today is an important first step.

Drawing their dreams for the future

May God use our efforts to help bring a bit more of peace with justice to Honduras, starting in the parish of Dulce Nombre.

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