As we mark International Day of Living Together in Peace, Grese Sermaxhaj explores how Kenya's RNC are celebrating diversity in their nation.
May 16 marks the International Day of Living Together in Peace, and honouring it we at Youth Time spoke to Sahlim Charles, Founder and Executive Director of Re-Imagining New Communities (RNC), a social change organisation in Nairobi, Kenya focused on re-imagining and redesigning new approaches and tools to resolve society’s most underlying problem through peace-building.
At RNC they believe that lasting peace comes from addressing multiple sources of conflict at multiple levels of society.
To achieve this lasting peace, participatory actions and collaborative efforts are instrumental, especially in addressing conflict outbreaks in rural and urban settlement communities.
In this exclusive interview, Charles shares their key projects and the importance of united efforts toward creating a more peaceful world and understanding communities from which we all benefit immensely.
United in Diversity
As the United Nations states, living together in peace is all about accepting differences and having the ability to listen to, recognise, respect and appreciate others, as well as living in a peaceful and united way.
This day was declared as means of regularly mobilising the efforts of the international community to promote peace, tolerance, inclusion, understanding and solidarity.
The day aims to uphold the desire to live and act together, united in differences and diversity, in order to build a sustainable world of peace, solidarity and harmony.
Inviting all actors to help to ensure peace and sustainable development, we begin our conversation with Charles.
Living Together in Harmony
Initially, he demands on everyone to come together and promote reconciliation among countries, communities, families and individuals.
“Support the attainment of peace and sustainable development. Our individual actions will help shape the world into the better planet that we all desire.”
“When a child is born, they do not know which race, country, religious or cultural background they are born into.
“They are just beautiful human beings until their family and society explain to them who they are, family background and other differences,” he adds.
Hence, he believes, the child is conditioned in a certain way depending on where they are born.
“Therefore, it is possible to recondition ourselves on how to live together in peace and harmony.”
Need to Connect
RNC was founded on the idea of bringing together different communities to share, learn and curate sustainable collaborations.
“Over time, we have realised that despite the language, race, cultural and even ideological difference there is a need to connect, to learn, and to get to understand each other.
“Despite all our differences, we belong to one race – the human race.”
To achieve their mission, RNC has several active projects which include and are not limited to: CCP Labs.
Children-Community Led Peace Labs (CCP-Labs)- provides a safe space for children 7-13 years.
Living in the conflict-affected communities can learn and practice peace-building skills on a weekly basis.
The programme supports, mentors and equips children to be more resilient and aware of unpredictable chronic and political violence that erupts in these communities.
The weekly training incorporates the use of storytelling and art based approaches in the sharing experiences, learning and curating simple peace projects by the children.
The project is currently being implemented in the urban settlement of Nairobi, Kenya with targeted up-scaling in other communities across the country and East Africa.
Young Peacebuilders Residency
Collaboratively designed to provide support and growth of young peace-builders across the East African region.
The residency brings together youth and other practitioners who are in the forefront in addressing negative stereotypes, prejudice and polarisation within their communities and cross borders to build more inclusive and peaceful societies, tackling the drivers of divisions.
Participatory Action Research (PAR)- aims to effectively contribute to emerging issues affecting the communities we work with, we inclusively design participatory approaches that put the communities at the centre of identifying and resolving challenges affecting them.
They work with international, national and local organisations to carry out grassroots research projects that look into key issues affecting local communities; solutions and opportunities.
There’s no Peace-building Without the Power of People
According to him, peace-building requires all people to be aware of their power and create non-violent forms of power to meet their human needs in collaboration with others.
“To achieve sustainable peace, collaboration and willingness to address various sources is paramount. This process is interdependent as no institution, group or individual can be able to address this by working in silos.”
Also lasting peace requires a strong social infrastructure where people, their relationships and social spaces are the foundation of such a process.
“Their active involvement helps in transforming divisions and violence to respect and interdependence and responsibility for building peace. Therefore, ensuring all sources of conflict are dealt with.”
Young People and Peace
Since our audience is mainly young people, he shares his say on the youth’s role in building and achieving peace.
“Whenever there is violence in a community or county, it is the children and youth that are highly affected, therefore is it imperative that they be in the forefront in addressing conflict within their level of influence.”
Charles believes young people are very instrumental in playing an active role in peace-building.
RNC always strives to build a network of like-minded individuals, organisations and other stakeholders to inspire a new narrative in re-imagining new communities across the globe.
“We have opportunities for young people from across the world to contribute to our cause through volunteering, collaboration, participation in our peace projects and also helping with fundraising and alliance building.”
Peace and Tolerance go hand to hand, and observing International Day for Tolerance, Youth Time highlighted peace-building in Kyrgyzstan:
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