Thomas Awiapo on Peacebuilding in Cote d’Ivoire

Peace is another name for developmentPope John Paul II

A couple of days ago, I informed my dear and faithful audience about my trip to Cote d’Ivoire and participation in the Training of Trainers workshop in the peacebuilding and reconciliation process. This workshop formally launched a three-year national peacebuilding and reconciliation project of the Church in Cote d’Ivoire, with funding from Catholic Relief Service. The aim of the workshop was to train diocesan and national level peace building and reconciliation facilitators who would in turn carry out peace building and reconciliation facilitation and training at the community and diocesan levels. In addition, the training was intended to empower members of national Caritas and Justice and Peace Commission to engage national structures in the peacebuilding and reconciliation process which is so much needed in Cote d’Ivoire.

The training was a great success and I will like to share with you a few personal observations and transformative messages from some of the participants. Throughout the workshop, whether in plenary or group discussions, role plays, or side discussions during breaks, participants constantly manifested their heavy but healthy internal struggles of transformation into peacebuilders. While all participants showed a high interest in promoting reconciliation, it was evident that most of them were struggling with the concept of reconciliation at personal level, relating it to their life experience. They were still trapped in their respective corners they found themselves in during the conflict. Several openly expressed their challenges and difficulties of going beyond the past to embrace a new future. At the same time, they expressed more loudly, their vision and conviction that reconciliation is possible and it is they who must work towards it. The following are testimonies of some participants:

Sharing of Participant 1: “I am happy to be part of the training because it has opened my heart and spirit to live well with myself and my brothers and sisters near and far. This training is necessary for living in peace with one another. First of all, I have to be at peace with myself and thankfully the training in peace and reconciliation has gotten me to that point; I have integrated the knowledge and skills of the training into myself; to be a facilitator of peace in my own life and only then can I become a better peace advocate to my neighbor. This workshop is special because the facilitators linked peacebuilding and reconciliation to spirituality and relationship with God which is a strong element for success in peace building and reconciliation. If you love God, you will love peace”, said the participant.

Sharing of Participant No. 4: “I was naïve about peacebuilding…I never realized the intricacies and complexities of peacebuilding and reconciliation as I do now. The training has helped me to realize that war and conflict inflicts deep wounds, pain, losses and takes time to heal. It’s important to create a conducive atmosphere and bring people together to freely express their pain, wounds, and grieve their losses before the process of healing and reconciliation can begin. This process requires courage, patience, time, passion and compassion. This realization is the greatest gift I have received from the training which will make me a better instrument of peace and reconciliation”.

As a participant myself, I will dare to say, the results and impact of this training will yield abundant and lasting fruits of peace and reconciliation in Cote d’Ivoire. Catholic Relief Services expresses gratitude to all who continue to support its effort with prayers and resources to bring peace to the world and make true Pope John Paul II’s proclamation that peace is another name for development. Cote d’Ivoire holds an important key to peace in West Africa, especially in the Francophone parts of the sub region whose stability and economic prosperity are very much tied to events in Cote d’Ivoire. The work of reconciliation in Cote d’Ivoire has just started; but it is a piece of work whose benefits would extend beyond that country. Your continued support in prayers and whatever way you can will make sure peace and reconciliation returns to this nation.

–Thomas Awiapo
As a child in Ghana, Thomas Awiapo was a beneficiary of CRS school feeding programs. Now, as an adult, he works for CRS Ghana and travels to the United States annually to tell his inspiring story to American Catholics at schools, parishes and communities. Thomas will be a featured guest blogger and will be reporting from Ghana about the issues he witnesses firsthand. – See more here.

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