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We did it! Indonesians run AVP basic workshop in East Aceh

April 08, 2008

The Indonesia Initiative of Friends Peace Teams is overjoyed to announce that Indonesians have done the first Alternatives to Violence basic workshop on their own without any facilitators from the outside!

The team that conducted this latest workshop was comprised of facilitators from both sides of a life-long armed conflict. They conducted the workshop in East Aceh, an Acehnese nationalist strong-hold, where Javanese farmers were born, raised and run out of. The participants were from Peureulak, East Aceh, considered the “heart of the war” that has a very hard, fishermen’s culture in which people are easily suspicious and hateful of outsiders.

This was the first time perpetrators were brought together to participate equally with victims of the war. One of the Acehnese facilitators told a story about experiencing transforming power on a night he was certain he would be killed. It turned out that two perpetrators of the violence that night were in the workshop! He says it was really powerful to sit in the room and share what was going on for each of them that night. The Javanese were able to see that they were not the only ones who felt like they might die that night. The meditation at the end of the workshop was amazing.

Since August 2005, four adult and four young adult Friends from New York Yearly Meeting who are Alternatives to Violence facilitators—Nadine Hoover, Dean Hoover, Deb Wood, Pamela Hawkins, Sarah Rozard, Molly Tornow-Coffee, Karilyn Valesko and Steven Slining Haynes—have been going to Aceh and North Sumatra, Indonesia to conduct three-day Alternatives to Violence basic workshops and three-day training for facilitators.

The first workshop took place in East Aceh Indonesia one week after the Peace Accord was signed between the Free Aceh Movement and the Indonesian government in Helsinki, Finland. In 1965, the U.S. government orchestrated a coup de tat in Indonesia that “wiped out communism” in three days, but also was less known for attacking the Islamic power base in Indonesia—Aceh. Never fully recovering from having its own military turn against them, in 1976 the Acehnese initiated a war of independence from Indonesia, which has been in large part funded by U.S. military aid. After nearly thirty years of war and a massive tsunami, most of the people we work with are young, in their twenties and thirties,  who have suffered major traumas in their lives.

During the war, Javanese farmers who had been brought to Aceh under colonization to work on Dutch plantations were run off the lands they had worked all their lives and are now in camps in the mountains, unrecognized by any government. The fear and resentment between these people and the Acehnese is great.

As we have conducted AVP workshops, we have brought people from both sides of the conflict. At first they thought they could not be in the same workshop with each other. At times participants did not sleep for fear other participants might try to kill them in their sleep. But every time, they have become bosom buddies by the end of the workshop, learning they have mutual relatives and trading cell phone numbers.

This latest workshop that they conducted on their own brought tears to my eyes and touched me on so many levels when I heard this news. They felt so successful, not just as facilitators and as a team, but in bringing together people who may not have otherwise touched each others” hearts for generations if ever again. I am SO grateful that we could be part of this, that we could be part of bringing this about in the world, that we could give back to a people who have suffered so much in the wake of the coup of 1965, that our intolerance contributed so heavily to at that time.

What redemption for us and for them. Thank you to everyone who has so graciously supported our work over the last few years!

In peace,

Nadine Hoover, Coordinator

Friends Peace Teams Indonesia Initiative

To support this work, please: 1) travel with us to meet our friends in Indonesia (see www.friendspeaceteams.org for details), 2) send donations to Friends Peace Teams,1001 Park Ave., St. Louis, MO 63104 designate in the memo line: Indonesia Initiative, and 3) check to see that your monthly meeting makes an undesignated contribution to Friends Peace Teams to cover core administrative costs.