GCJ’s Initial Trip to Liberia
In January, 2010, Executive Director Susan Partnow, Liberia Project Director Harriett Nettles, and Volunteer Alexandra Valin traveled to Liberia to develop partnerships and assess whether this design is appropriate, needed and feasible. They met with numerous organizations, including The Carter Center, Liberia Democracy Watch, Angie Brooks Center for Women’s’ Leadership, The National Traditional Council of Elders (Ministry of Internal Affairs), Catholic Justice & and Peace Commission, WANEP, WIPNET, Cuttington University Institute for Peace and Conflict Resolution, Inter-Peace, Liberia Council of Churches, Inter-Religious Council, MARWOPNET (Mano River Women’s Peace Network), OSIWA (Open Society Initiative for West Africa), and the Peacebuilding Office at the Ministry of Internal Affairs. Each of these organizations were enthusiastic in welcoming this Initiative, found its design to be complementary to work they are doing, and validated its design and need. Their feedback has been incorporated. They are open and willing to serve as partners, especially in the recruitment of the Peacebuilder Teams.
A highlight of the trip: We were thrilled to have the chance to meet the President, Ellen Sirleaf Johnson, as special invited guests of the National Traditional Chief. And we got to end the celebration with hot, sweaty dancing with a wonderful group of women plus the mayor of Monrovia.
One of the main purposes of this trip as to test the model of the Summits. We hosted a very successful mini-summit in Gbarnga (central Liberia), gathering a diverse group of 27 participants for 2.5 days. The participants ranged from illiterate traditional leaders to skilled mediators and facilitators, including women, youth, locals, Muslims, Christians, and participants from Monrovia and Sapo in the South. The training in Compassionate Listening was welcomed with open hearts and transcended all language barriers: participants were deeply touched to listen with their hearts, not just the head.
Our lively role plays of restorative justice circles validated the compatibility of these skills with traditional practices. Dialogue around forgiveness and reconciliation was deep and inspiring, as the circle came to understand forgiveness is for oneself, not the ‘Other.’ The group also stepped right up to the empowering practices of the Town Hall, engaging in a World Café dialogue and Open Space, where many topics were raised and explored. All in all, the mini-summit gave great value to the participants and validated the design we are planning for the larger initiative. We were delighted to have participants from the Carter Center and Justice & Peace Commission, who have received extensive training in the past and who are building networks of community workers: they confirmed that LPI will add to the work of peacebuilding in Liberia in valuable ways.