Published: Feb. 5, 2021
Creating Cultures of Peace in Grozny, Chechnya
By Chris Hunter and Rustam Musaev (Friends Peace Teams Asia West Pacific)
Although Covid-19 rates are very high and increasing in Chechnya and the whole of Russia, the schools and universities are open again, so students are keen to attend face-to-face trainings such Creating Cultures of Peace is based upon the Alternatives to Violence Project (AVP).
Over the last quarter century, the people of Chechnya have experienced two devastating wars, years of sporadic fighting and violence, and the population today continues to experience violence and suppression. Acceptance and openness towards others are even more discouraged than in the past when Chechnya was multi-ethnic and much more open. Since the wars, most people in Chechnya (around 1 million) are now ethnic Chechens, predominantly Muslims. People of other nationalities and faiths were among the many victims of the wars or have fled to safety elsewhere.
In this environment, Creating Cultures of Peace trainings provide a welcome alternative worldview for young people in Chechnya. In 2021, we plan to hold an 8-day intensive training in the neighboring country of Georgia as soon as conditions allow, for young people from Chechnya, and two republics of the North Caucasus, Georgia and Ukraine. As well as learning new skills for creating peace within themselves and in their societies, the young people who train with us will meet peers from other neighboring countries and learn about their stories and societies, breaking down the isolation that most young people in the North Caucasus feel today.
In November 2020, Friends Peace Teams started a series of Creating Cultures of Peace trainings for students in Grozny. Here is feedback from two of those students, Markha and Magomed:
Markha, 21 years old: Our group of students was invited to a training on “creating a culture of peace.” In the first class, we met Rustam and he introduced us to the history of the program. I was very much affected by the fact that the training calls us to love and protect the world as it is. I can say that after these sessions my attitude to some things in life has changed drastically. I’ve become more sensitive to certain things.
Our class started with an exercise in which we shared our answers to the question, “Who would like to live in which country and why?” As each one explained in his or her words, I was interested not only to learn more about them, but also new things about other countries or cities. The task of creating a culture of peace means we have to understand how big our world is, to understand how many cultures and religions there are, and to realize that we should treat everyone the way we would like to be treated. I really liked the trainings and look forward to the next one! This program aims to help us learn to appreciate, understand, listen to, and respect each other. I would like all my family, my friends, and everyone to have the opportunity to participate in this seminar.
Magomed, 22 years old: For me this is the first time attending this kind of training. I really like the message and idea of this program because, if you really look within and at everything around you, you can come to understand that actually “peace is possible,” and this is the most important thing to all of us. For myself, I discovered a new, nonviolent world, and the trainings allowed me to rethink my attitude towards people of different nationalities and different religions.
As a participant in these trainings, after graduating from university I will use these practical methods in my work. I plan to encourage young people to use negotiations and peace processes in any domestic conflicts. I also plan to attend the 8-day Creating Cultures of Peace training, which will be held in Georgia with great pleasure.
fromTom Martin, IMYM Representative to Friends Peace Teams (1/28/2021)