International peace-building group now in Guatemala

International peace-building group now in Guatemala (Saskia Schuitemaker)

written by Val Liveoak

An international gathering of facilitators for the Alternatives to Violence Project (AVP) will be held Oct. 2-8 in La Antigua Guatemala at Posada Belen. Approximately 100 attendees from 20 countries are expected, and the gathering will be fully bilingual (English and Spanish).

AVP began in 1975 in New York’s Green Haven prison, where inmates requested the assistance of Quakers (members of the Religious Society of Friends) in developing workshops to help them decrease prison violence. AVP developed as a series of experiential three-day workshops that are now offered in over 50 countries, in prisons, churches, schools, community groups, etc. Active in Guatemala since 2003, AVP is expanding its reach through partnerships with NGOs and other groups that want to promote peaceful resolution of conflict and improved human relationships.

There are around 15 Guatemalan facilitators and a coordinator, Saskia Schuitemaker, who is an international volunteer living in Antigua. An international NGO, Friends Peace Teams, supports much of the AVP work in El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua and Colombia in addition to Guatemala, Indonesia, Kenya, Burundi, Rwanda, Uganda and Congo. AVP’s African counterparts have developed workshops to reconcile communities after violence, and this program of community-based trauma healing has been translated and adapted to Latin America, starting in Colombia. Last year these workshops began in Central America.

“All that we learned, I can apply in my home because I have a very difficult living situation. But thanks to this workshop, I learned that things can be solved without violence, and with love,” said an AVP participant from San Lucas, Toliman, Guatemala.

The general public may attend the afternoon and evening sessions on Oct. 5. There will be a poster session/project fair (where AVP groups will be available to talk to individuals about the work in their countries) followed by a program for visitors that will include an international panel of speakers. In the evening there will be a panel, “Transforming Our Communities,” on peacemaking work with displaced people, civilian resistance and preventing violence related to elections.

There will also be an AVP presentation at 5 p.m. Oct. 4 at Rainbow Café in Antigua.

To attend the Oct. 5th public sessions, contact Val Liveoak at 4650-6800 or Saskia Schuitemaker at 4086-5314. RSVP is required by Oct. 3. For more information visit www.avpinternational.org.

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