Concordis international: A second year of peacemaking

Peter Dixon, September 2006

Children from Darfur make a new life in refugee camps but need to return home. [Peter Dixon]

Children from Darfur make a new life in refugee camps but need to return home. [Peter Dixon]

As I write, the situation in Darfur is steadily deteriorating, as an ironic consequence of a peace agreement signed by only some of the combatant parties. It would be easy to give up hope for peaceful outcomes in the Sudan, but we at Concordis International are reluctant to do anything of the sort. God is sovereign, even in that frustrating and sometimes discouraging conflict.

It is just about a year since we last informed Engage readers about the work of Concordis, a Jubilee Centre ‘spin-off’ applying biblically-derived principles of peacemaking in the complex and messy environment of violent conflict. We became an independent charity two years ago.

Fragile Peace: Sudan And Beyond

Darfur is by far the most difficult of all the situations in which we are engaged. Our strength has been in our focus on long-term causes of conflict, rather than on the ebb and flow of politics and negotiating positions. However, the trust we have engendered through our low-profile, non-partisan approach means that we are often well-placed to work on the more immediate problems too. This we have been trying to do in recent weeks, as the international community comes to terms with the inadequacies of the Darfur Peace Agreement.

Events are moving quickly, so things may have changed by the time this reaches you. However things develop, we will continue to work for sustainable peace in Darfur. To make this type of ‘short-horizon’ work feasible, we have established a ‘Rapid-Reaction Fund’ to give us a little flexibility. But our primary focus will still be the underlying long-term issues.

The other Sudanese region where we have made a significant contribution is the East, far from the international headlines. After working for several months to bring the Eastern rebels into dialogue with the government, we ran workshops for them in Asmara, with the aim of improving their ability to negotiate constructively. Negotiations are now in progress and an agreement is expected soon, but they continue to need our prayerful and practical support if that agreement is to make a real difference to the daily lives of the people of Eastern Sudan.

Meanwhile, the people of Southern Sudan are witnessing a very slowly developing ‘peace dividend’, following the signing of the ‘Comprehensive Peace Agreement’ in January 2005.

So, glimmers of hope shine alongside the suffering and enmity in Sudan. Progress remains halting and nobody could claim that it has been easy, but we are grateful to have been allowed to play a part.

Beyond our Sudanese engagement, we have remained open to wider application of our concepts. The possibility of facilitating national research-based dialogue in Afghanistan seems to have dried up, at least for the moment. Many senior Afghans wanted us to work with them, but we were not able to persuade international funders of the need. Similarly, resource limitations prevented us from developing dialogue between Nepalese rebel groups and the Palace in Kathmandu. However, our project for the Democratic Republic of Congo is making steady progress, as we prepare and seek funding for the first consultation.

Underlying Principles

The principles that underlie our work are founded on biblical values. While we always have in mind the establishment of peace with justice, we work with an open mind, not prejudging the issues. Indeed, the more we look into particular conflicts, the more complex a maze of issues, attitudes and broken societal relationships we find. Often inequity of access to resources lies behind the violence, but the way in which the competing claims, exclusion and resentment are manifested varies enormously; causes can be traced back for decades and beyond.

There are often ‘conflict entrepreneurs’ with an interest in continuing violence. We provide a non-threatening space for stakeholders from all corners of the society to come together and seek constructive solutions. Inclusiveness and an attitude of service are important elements. In the process, relationships of trust are progressively forged.

This is a slow process and patience is difficult to sustain. But we have the advantage over many, in that we can have confidence in God’s sovereignty. Our ‘methodology’ has been validated by a recent independent evaluation of our work by the respected Institute for Conflict Analysis and Resolution of George Mason University, Virginia. A few selected extracts: ‘The consultations sponsored by Concordis…offer a prototype for creating the conditions for sustainable peace… No other NGO can claim such a positive standing in their relations with central figures of the current Sudan conflict… In light of serious financial limitations, Concordis’ accomplishments are stunning.’

We were thrilled by this endorsement, of course, and especially the recognition that we make our limited funds go a long way. We genuinely believe that we can make a difference in many more conflict situations, given the resources. Thankful for the progress we have been allowed to make, we will continue our prudent expansion. If you would like to stay in touch with our progress and/or to support our work, do let us know at Jubilee House or at office@concordis-international.org.

Peter Dixon is Chief Executive of Concordis International

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Category: News and Reviews

September, 2006

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