Thea Rumere introduced Alternatives to Violence Project (AVP) in Jayapura after her second AVP-Cultures of Peace Training at Peace Place Pati, in January 2019. She especially shared with the Literacy Caring Coaches (Peduli Bina Aksara) Network for women and children. One of their members, Mira, loved the workshop. But before she would introduce AVP to others, she wanted to practice it with her close friends. Many of the children and their parents they worked with had many traumatic experiences from the long-term, armed conflict in Papua.
They were excited to share these new, useful tools with the women and children of their villages. But their plans fell apart last year when their dear friend, Thea, passed away suddenly from breast cancer. Before she died, however, Thea assured many friends that these tools for building a culture of peace and justice fit well with their culture and situation in Papua. This was very encouraging, and still motivates them to continue practicing the AVP-CCP tools.
Beginning on Saturday, 30 April 2021, Peace Place offered an Empowerment Workshop (AVP Basic) online in Indonesian. We welcomed five members of the Literacy Liberation Forum in Jayapura, Papua: Charni Ceria (Cheerful), Mira Mantab (Steady), Selly Syalom (Peace), Egha Energetic, and Fanny Focus, joined by four teachers from Jakenan on the outskirts of Pati, Central Java: Mar’ah Maju (Forward), Waroh Wibawa (Wise), Rilly Rajin (Diligent), and Sunhadi Senang (Happy). They both shared the goal of realizing peace in their villages through their children. Joyful Jati, an activist in Yogyakarta working with street children, joined them.
The first session, “Building Friendships,” began by stopping, in our bodies and minds, then covered a brief history, AVP Approach, and AVP Road Map, then we shared our names with one positive adjective. Mira said that in her neighborhood children and teens call each other by degrading names, including animals. They said it was okay, they didn’t mind. But when Mira heard the names with positive adjectives, she could feel the extreme difference. The derogatory names were uncomfortable and annoying, while the positive names were uplifting and joyful. Fanny felt the same. She realized that to get people to say names and positive adjectives would be a huge challenge in her community, but she wanted to try. Rilly also felt the same. When she was child, she had many friends. All the children in her neighborhood called her friends, not by their real names, but by using very mean words. The parents often got angry when they heard them. Decades later, this is still going on. Such minor things become major challenges for those of us who aspire to a peaceful cultural movement in society.
This training was also an opportunity for Selly Novi, who lives in Sentani, Jayapura, Papua, to apprentice as a facilitator. Previously, Selly Novi had practiced the AVP Basic Workshop with Thea and followed the online AVP Basic Training and Facilitator Training with Peace Place. This is an extraordinary experience, to have friends from Java and Papua working together. After decades, even generations, of brutal, racist violence against the Papuan people by the Indonesian and U.S. governments over natural resources, our small group of participants were very proud to make real, human and humane connections. In this pandemic, we could greet each other, and share our experiences with love and humility. This experience further strengthened our belief that Peace is Possible!