Peacebuilding has become crucial in an age in which the nature of war and conflict has changed. In the past, most major conflicts were triggered by territorial ambitions and fought in contained theatres of war. Today it is more likely the enemy is not a far away, foreign army but a fellow citizen or neighbour.
The new reality of war means civilians become the primary targets and actors in armed conflicts. And it means traditional methods of high-level diplomatic talks, ceasefires and peace agreements are no longer sufficient for tackling the root causes of conflict and creating lasting peace.
In 2002, Caritas produced its “Peacebuilding Training Manual”. The book contained case studies, information and exercises regarding peace, reconciliation and conflict resolution to help train community peacebuilders. The trainers would then go out into communities and use the manual to tackle the root causes of conflict.
Jesse Agustin used the manual as a Caritas trainer in East Timor following the conflict there. “Young people were encouraged to trace their family tree. As a result they discovered the genetic lineages of East andWest Timor were inextricably linked, which lowered people’s suspicions towards each other,”he said.
Just as war has entered the 21st Century, so has peacebuilding. The manual has now been expanded and put online. Caritas launched the online “Peacebuilding:Web Toolkits for Trainers” in March 2009.With more than 200 pages, the web toolkit covers the best peacebuilding materials published.
Users can pick and choose from a large selection of activities, handouts, case studies and resources for teaching skills in nonviolence, negotiation and peaceful integration of people from diverse religious, ethnic or other backgrounds.
Cardinal Renato Raffaele Martino, serving at the time as the President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, praised the site. “The toolkit is a treasure house,”he said.
Caritas presented the toolkit to the African Synod of Bishops that met in the Vatican in October. The theme of the Synod was ‘The Church in Africa in Service to Reconciliation, Justice and Peace’.
Caritas Africa members had held meetings and seminars before the Synod on peacebuilding so they could feed into its conclusions. Caritas organised the first ever national peacebuilding conference in Uganda, inviting local religious and cultural, political and government leaders.
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