Valerie Joy, Queensland Regional meeting, and Jane Drexler, New South Wales Regional Meeting
Quite often Australian Friends working for Friends Peace Teams (FPT) are asked what the difference between us and the Alternatives to Violence Project (AVP) is. They are both wonderful organisations working for peace and there is a strong relationship between the two.
Friends Peace Teams is a Spirit-led organisation that develops long-term relationships with communities in conflict around the world to work for peace, healing and reconciliation and to create enduring cultures of peace. Friends Peace Teams is one of AVP-International’s primary supporters around the world, especially among activists working for peace, justice and reconciliation.
FPT uses the basic AVP workshop as the foundation of all workshops and activities when we work with peace and justice activists. FPT in Asia West Pacific (FPT-AWP) started with an AVP workshop in 2005 in East Aceh, Indonesia, after the thirty-year war there had ended, and the tsunami had devastated the region. For activists challenging human rights violations in the face of war, illegal logging, land grabs and other exploitations, the AVP Basic Workshop provides essential practice of skills, tools and insights to recognise and choose among the powers of violence, nonviolence and peace.
Following on from Aceh, FPT-AWP was asked to facilitate workshops throughout the region often in conjunction with AVP. From these we learnt that people still struggle with primary and secondary trauma as well as with the erosion of basic cognitive capabilities resulting from violence. So FPT-AWP created a trauma informed AVP Basic Workshop by integrating key trauma resiliency tools. We developed two special topic workshops: one on trauma resilience and one on developmental play. Peaceful individuals need a peaceful society in which to live, so we developed special topic workshops on conscience, liberation and discernment. We call these creating cultures of peace. Building on AVP foundations of listening, empathy and equality we include activities on self-care, good companions, and staying grounded in one’s core self and in life’s transforming power. We practice tools for discharging emotion, reprocessing memories, mourning losses and reintegrating life experiences over time. To spread the message of peace, we collect stories that describe how nonviolent action or reconciliation have worked in specific times and situations.
What draws Australian Quakers to work for FPT-AWP?
Valerie Joy tells her story of her involvement and how other Australian Quakers have become involved. Many Australians are trained AVP facilitators and this is the basis of their link into FPT- AWP.
When I was Secretary of FWCC/AWPS between 2004-2012, I kept noticing emails from Nadine Hoover, an American Friend, at Conscience Studio. She was posting quite a bit of information about Indonesia and her work there with FPT-AWP. I contacted her and included some of her news in the AWPS Newsletter.
The next opportunity was in 2009 when I registered for the Indonesian Yearly Meeting near Jogjakarta, while also visiting Singaporean Friends. I then contacted Nadine and asked if she could attend as well. Luckily, she was able to, and she acted as my interpreter. My Bahasa Indonesia is very weak. She quickly picked up the roots of the conflicts that were festering between the Friends Churches and offered significant listening time to them.
In 2011, I was responsible for arrangements for an AWPS Gathering in Manila and Nadine asked if she and two Indonesian Mennonites could attend. We had already offered reduced fees for two Indonesian programmed Friends and the five camped together in a single room. This was when I met Nanik, who was with her husband Petrus, on the point of turning her home into a centre for peace- now known as Peace Place in Pati, Central Java.
I then learnt that Nadine was invited to present a Trauma Healing Workshop after Yearly Meeting in Perth in 2012. This was at the AVP National Gathering. I invited Nadine to spend 5 days at AYM, which was when she made her first very useful contacts with significant peace workers in our Yearly Meeting. Many Friends also enrolled in the AVP Gathering, so became very familiar with her work. Amongst these were Helen Bayes, who invited Nadine to Silver Wattle as a Resident Friend – twice. Maxine Cooper had already experienced Friends Peace Teams in the African Great Lakes and was also present.
Friends Peace Teams was operating in Nepal at this time and John Michaelis was involved. But before him, Aletia Dundas had made the initial contact with Subhash Chandra to develop the AVP program there. John Michaelis, Maxine Cooper and Bev Polzin were facilitating workshops in Nepal in 2015 when the devastating earthquake struck. Australian Friends were quick to respond and donated generously. Through Subhash the money went to the most marginalised people in Nepal where other aid was minimal.
When Nadine was at Silver Wattle in 2013, I attended her workshops on Discernment. John Michaelis, Jasmine Payget and many Friends were present. She also met Jane Drexler who guided her through the NSW Incorporation of Associations legal structures, so that the Working Group for Asia West Pacific then became Incorporated in NSW. At the same time Jane was appointed Treasurer of the Australian section. This made it convenient for Australian individual Friends and Meetings to make donations to FPT AWP.
Vidya from Canberra Meeting and Judith Simpson from Victoria spent 2013 with FPT- AWP at Peace Place in Pati Indonesia and in Kathmandu, assisting with AVP training, and in practical ways to make buildings safer.
Paula and Ian Paananen (NSW RM) have recently visited and worked at Peace Place, Pati. They were leaders of a team integrating permaculture with peace work. Paula and Ian have drawn up a plan for the land at Pati as a practical permaculture training place and farmers in the region are now attending courses there. Also, permaculture is being incorporated into the Joglo pre-school program at Pati and school for children with special needs and their parents.
How do Australian Quakers feel the work enhances their Quaker beliefs?
A British Friend found his participation at the International Peace Training at Pati spiritually grounding. Claudia Barduhn from Victoria RM expresses similar feelings about her attendance at the Pati workshops. Working for FPT is an opportunity to experience peace and nonviolence as active forces in daily life. FPT-AWP provides the support for committed Quakers to be involved with communities struggling with violence.
I use my work in the Philippines as an example. By working over several visits in the Philippines (where English is spoken), I became much more capable in delivery of the AVP workshops. I saw how poverty impacted on people’s lives; the sadness of corruption in all levels of government; the Americanisation of the original culture; the way that faith sustains people through natural disasters (floods, earthquakes etc ); the terror of extra judicial killings especially of people working in the media or as lawyers – where to protest can be a death sentence.
In many of the countries that FPT AWP works in, groups are at war with one another or there is entrenched violence. We see it is possible to bring sworn enemies together in the same room and have many leave as life-long friends. As Dahlan in East Aceh says, “After we did the AVP Trauma Healing workshop there was so much change. It was like the world came to life again.”