Asia West Pacific – January 2019 

Updates from Chechnya and Russia

Peacebuilding UK, together with Odessa Mediation Group and partners from Chechnya, brought together our Power of Goodness partners from all over Ukraine for the first time July, near Kiev. 

Over the last 25 years, Chechnya has experienced astonishingly high levels of violence, with two wars with Russia in the 1990s that led to the deaths of around 15% of the Republic’s one million population. Now led by an authoritarian, pro-Russian Chechen regime, warfare has ceased and an ambitious rebuilding plan has been implemented, financed by Russia. But this outward semblance of peace masks high levels of violence, human rights abuses and injustice.

Venera also works as a social worker in Peacebuilding UK’s Young Women’s Development Groups girl’s empowerment and women’s rights program. During the training in Pati, Indonesia, a second wave of persecution of LGBT people in Chechnya began, with 40 people detained, two people killed and many more experiencing harassment. While in Pati, Chris facilitated the evacuation of a colleague from Chechnya who was experiencing threats.

International Peace Training in Indonesia 

Chris Hunter and Venera Islamova were grateful to attend the International Peace Training in Indonesia this year, funded by donations to the Friends Peace Teams’ Power of Goodness program. Chris has been working in the North Caucasus region since the mid-1990s, initially as a UK Quaker representative and now running the charity Peacebuilding UK, established in 2006. Venera has participated in joint programs by Peacebuilding UK and local partners since 1999. She is a psychologist with the ‘Little Star’ psycho-social program that helps young people and children overcome stress and trauma caused by violence and instability. Venera currently works for the Power of Goodness peace and toleration education program in Chechen schools, which since 2009 has trained hundreds of teachers each year in using the stories to raise students’ awareness of peace and violence, with practical examples for them to use in their daily lives.

Peacebuilding UK and partners Odessa Mediation Group and CPCD (Chechnya) held the first international training conference “Peacebuilding and Psychosocial Assistance through the Power of Goodness project in Ukraine” from 29 June to 1 July.

Peacebuilding UK and partners also work with local communities to coordinate the prevention of radicalization among young people to help reduce the numbers being recruited by ISIS to fight in Syria. They have experienced very similar success to those experienced by Petrus and Nanik as they respond to the radicalization of youth in Java.

Power of Goodness

Our work with Power of Goodness inspires young people in Chechnya with stories of nonviolence as a way “to ensure they grow up not with aggression but with peace in their hearts and souls,” as Venera shared at Peace Place. The Culture of Peace training gives us new, much-needed tools, knowledge and inspiration to share with our teams working to create lasting peace and break cycles of violence in war-torn communities. Rustam, who attended the training in Indonesia last year, will work with Venera to start regular, short Creating Cultures of Peace trainings with colleagues and young adults in Chechnya beginning in February. Chris, and possibly Nadine, hope to facilitate with Rustam and Venera a Creating Cultures of Peace eight-day training in Georgia in the spring of 2019 for our colleagues from Chechnya, Ukraine and Georgia.