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Nurturing peace in poor communities can break the cycle of violence

Ilona Crouch and her daughter Beyoncé.

Ilona Crouch and her daughter Beyoncé.

Published Sep 22, 2020

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by Brian Williams

International Day of Peace, or “Peace Day” is celebrated globally each year on September 21.

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In 1981, by a unanimous UN resolution, Peace Day was born to provide a universal date for humanity to commit to peace. The focus is to celebrate peace action which contributes to building a culture of peace to challenge the narratives of violence.

On International Peace Day in Cape Town, peace ambassadors continue to remain active, especially in the Kensington Factreton community.

“Peace ambassadors are a blessing to our community and they showed the most vulnerable that the wider community cares and, in the process, brought hope to the hearts of people.”

This is what Leslie Swartz, chairperson of the Kensington-Factreton Residents and Ratepayers Association, said about the work of peace ambassadors in the community. His views were shared by Kevin Inglis, one of the community leaders who was central in helping the peace ambassadors to get food relief to the most destitute families. Inglis stated that the extensive work that was done by the peace ambassadors created a climate of peace in the area.

One area, known as “the Ghetto” or “Gat” – meaning “hole”, which is notorious for violence and killings, saw a surge in tranquillity.

Deacon Henry White from Saint Luke’s Catholic Church, who lives there, said that not a single person was killed there since the start of the Covid-19 crisis. Peace ambassadors there were able to collaborate with the Kenfac Can group that was established in response to the coronavirus pandemic and the need to provide food security to the most vulnerable.

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The multiplication of peace work and doing ordinary good deeds on an ongoing basis was a significant factor in changing the mood in the community. The young peace ambassadors brought a vitality to peace work. The show of love and respect was contagious. What was important is that the young peace ambassadors are the children of neighbours and they all know one another.

A buzz of excitement was generated and the peace work developed a popularity. New role models became possible. It is the visibility and consistency of peace activism that generates interest and attractiveness. Peace work allowed the invisible territories of gang structures to be crossed without any prejudicial consequences. There was a free flow of movement because of the need to deliver support to families.

Despite the embedded contradictions within the community and the rivalries of the different gangs, the visible activation of the peace ambassadors contributed towards a palpable sense of noisy harmony. There is something concrete and profound that this indicated to the community. There was a sense that people cared. This was amplified with the different peace actions, which included care and treatment of the animals in the area.

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This article focuses on a number of peace ambassadors to illustrate the transformative value of peace in promoting human dignity: Chanell Fontini and her son Ronaldo; Shanique and Nashè October, sisters; Ilona and Beyoncé, mother and daughter.

Chanell Fontini and her son, Ronaldo.

Chanell co-ordinated a group of peace ambassadors and helped to identify all the girls in the Ghetto to receive gifts. Her son, Ronaldo, and other boys cleaned the park. Chanell and her husband planted a flower and food garden on the field opposite her home.

Ilona and her daughter, Beyoncè, live in the informal settlement off 18th Avenue in Factreton. Ilona is the chairperson of the Informal Settlement Committee. The mother-and-daughter team have been involved in trying to create a sense of normality amid the chaos of poverty and desperation that pervades the area. With other ambassadors, they have been able to develop a network of relief support. A solidarity kitchen operates from their home.

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Shanique October and her sister Nashè focused on environmental peace action that involved children in keeping parks clean. They were also part of the blanket drive, which provided blankets to the elderly and children. They assisted in ensuring that vulnerable families had food and visited the homes of those who need other kinds of support.

All these peace ambassadors were visible in delivering food relief, helping with queries from families, assisting with information to access support from different groups and government departments. Peace ambassadors have continued to show love through small acts of compassion and kindness and in this way are creating role models for young children to follow.

* Professor Williams is Visiting Professor in fields of Peace, Mediation and Labour Relations. University of Sacred Heart, Uganda and Chief Executive: Williams Labour Law and Mediation. Thought Leader Award 2018: Issued Black Management Forum.

** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.

Cape Argus

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