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Gavel Projects Funded: 2017

Within North America

AMEXTRA (Asociación Mexicana de Transformación Rural y Urbana A.C.) will be working to build a culture of nonviolence in marginalized communities in two areas of the State of Mexico (Lomas de San Isidro, Los Reyes and Sierra de Guadalupe, Tultitlan), through the training of 16 local promoters. Those leaders will then share tools with 600 youth and adults to develop their skills for peacebuilding as well as their psychological, social, spiritual and cognitive skills and potential. The project involves working with a model AMEXTRA has developed over 15 years. It has been systematized and proven to decrease violence in participating communities. The model includes adults and children as young as 8 and is taught within both schools and churches.

A project of Grandview Calvary Baptist Church in Vancouver relates to Canada’s seven-year Truth and Reconciliation Commission. The Commission covered a 150 year period from the 1870s to 1996, when the Canadian government mandated, and churches implemented, a residential school program through which Aboriginal children were removed from their homes and communities and placed in schools that were often deliberately far removed from the influence of their families. The Commission concluded that the government of Canada and the churches who ran residential schools for the First People's of the land had engaged in cultural genocide. The Gavel-supported project comes at the request of one of the former students of the Whitehorse Indian Residential School, one of the rare Baptist-run residential schools. This project will attempt to build a bridge for the purpose of healing, and reconciliation between former students and Baptist church communities in Whitehorse. Over the course of two weekends this project will bring together residential school survivors, church members and other interested neighbours from the community to engage in listening circles, sharing the history that happened in this place and connecting it to the larger legacy of residential schools in Canada and commitments to next steps of healing and right relationships.

The Mariposas Visitation Program was launched a year ago as a partnership between Mariposas Sin Fronteras and BorderLinks to grow and equip a base of people, locally and nationally, who understand and can take action against criminalization, militarization and mass incarceration as they intersect with immigration and LGBTQ issues. Mariposas Sin Fronteras is a Tucson-based, grassroots, LGBTQ, migrant-led group that envisions a society based on the principles of equality, justice, respect and collective liberation, and that no longer finds solutions in the system of immigration detention or the prison industrial complex.  BorderLinks is a popular education organization that seeks to educate people about border and immigration issues, connect divided communities and inspire action for social transformation.  When Mariposas Sin Fronteras began visiting and writing letters to people in immigration detention a little over a year ago, there were no paid coordinators, minimal volunteers, and they were meeting with about 15 people in immigration detention. Now, they have a team of 3 stipended visitation program coordinators, are supporting 50+ people in immigration detention, and have developed a network of volunteers to include out-of-state communities.  A 2016 Gavel contribution helped to make this possible. This year, they plan to carry out a series of trainings that will take those involved beyond visitation and towards organizing and action. They plan to develop workshops for local volunteers and for BorderLinks delegations that prepare them to take action to end the abuse and isolation of immigration detention. With new political education workshops and organizing trainings, they will equip and empower their growing network to take action to address the injustices they are witnessing as they continue to be in relationship with people in immigration detention. 

Outside North America

The Center for Peace and Conflict Resolution Studies of the Mennonite Brethren Centenary College will receive support for Summer School of Theologies of Life. In this annual program, young theologians, pastors and laity collectively learn theologies of life and seek ways in which local congregations can be communities that promote justice and peace. What is sought in these institutes is a commitment to transformative living, both in thinking and practice. The project emerged to promote peace and reconciliation at all levels of society, through seminars, workshops, publications, projects and particularly the training of professionals as peacebuilders.

Community Action for Development and Integration of Fizi (ACODIF) and the Union of the Baptist Churches in Burundi will be coming together to lead a Conflict Transformation training for church leaders. Burundi has seen 40 years of armed violence and civil war since gaining independence from Belgium in 1962. The conflicts, rooted in political and historical tensions between the ethnic Hutu majority and Tutsi minority populations, have killed more than 300,000 people. Although much of the violence has subsided in recent years, political instability and unresolved grievances continue to threaten inter-ethnic cooperation and security in the country. The leaders of the project express these goals: “The project will equip stakeholders in the restoration and healing of the people of Burundi. Church leaders and local leaders both government and non-governmental will be helped to deal with conflicts constructively so they can sustain their organizations and increase the effectiveness of their witness for peace and justice. The training will also open the eyes of the church leaders and engage them to take action themselves proactively as peacemakers to carry on the culture of peace education using biblical principles.”

Crossing Lines – Africa will receive funding for "The LGBTQ Investment Year Project.” The primary innovation of the Investment Year Program involves structuring an informal program for LGBTQ youth around Positive Youth Development principles, adapting those principles for unique LGBTQ youth developmental challenges and empowering the youth to actively participate in the LGBTQ transformation movement. The leaders write: “Despite Uganda being a predominantly homophobic society, The Investment Year Program will provide a real opportunity for LGBTQ youth to feel proud of who they are, secure in their sexual orientation and gender identities, safe from bullying and violence, and healthy and knowledgeable in the areas of leadership, conflict transformation, as well as the risks of unsafe sex and drug and alcohol use. Further, we want LGBTQ young people to experience the strength that comes with a strong, supportive community, where adults and older youth serve as mentors to young people, helping them envision a future where they will be productive, creative members of society who celebrate every part of who they are. Finally, we want LGBTQ youth to have full and easy access to all of the support services, which will allow them to thrive.”

The Kingdom of Peace and Development (KOPAD) will receive assistance for a project called "AMANI NA UNDUGU TUONGEE" which will mobilize politicians, voters and the general public to employ nonviolence and constructive tools as they do  political campaigns. KOPAD leaders share: “We intend to employ the spirit of Kenya National Anthem Hymn as the theme to mobilize political candidates with their supporters, both in the government and in the opposition side, along with youths, women, peace actors and religious people for a roundtable dialogue on nonviolence. It will address political diversity in a peaceful manner so as to embrace peace and nurture a culture of non-violence before, during and after general election. This project intend to sensitize all citizen of Kenya to rethink, remember and reflect the spirit of the covenant that gave independence for the past generation, the present generation and for the future generation.

The Pan African Peace Network (PAPNET) will receive a grant for two non-violent struggle workshops in Harare. The project will be an intensive program teaching conflict transformation, especially non-violent techniques for social change, using experiential learning techniques. This training is a follow-up to a previous introductory training. The impetus for the training is the fact that many youth who have legitimate grievances are too easily swayed to become violent – they need training in techniques of nonviolent protest and social change.

Scholarships funds were set aside for the 2018 Global Baptist Peace Conference to be held in Cali, Colombia. The conference is a continuation of a series of global peace conferences that began in 1988 in Sweden. The BPFNA has been a sponsor of all of them (Nicaragua, Thailand, Australia, Italy). This conference will be similar to the Rome conference providing 8-10 training seminars, 48 workshops, and a week-long gathering of Baptists and others from around the world. The purpose is for networking, training, education, spiritual support and renewal, and for enhancing the development of peacebuilding around the globe, particularly through regional groups.

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