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Maryknoll Update
Peace Team in Kenya

peace team
LEFT: Sia Temu, Giang Nguyen, Gladys Gonzalez and Teresa Hougnon

KENYA -- December 18, 2009 -- Sister Sia Temu recently in NY reported on the work of the Maryknoll Sisters Peace Team in Kenya. The Sisters on the Team come from Multicultural backgrounds themselves and are committed to engage in  effecting change in society through working with peoples from different ethnic and cultural backgrounds. Sr. Sia Temu is from Tanzania, Sr. Giang Nguyen from Viet Nam via the US and Sr. Teresa Hougnon from the U.S. This year Sr. Gladys Gonzalez from Colombia also joined the Team.

As they began in Kenya in 2006, they met with many different peace groups, networking with them and hoping to collaborate with them. By September 2007 they came up with the idea of conversations for social change. Then came the general election in December and the extreme violence that broke out in the country along ethnic lines that mirrored the election results. By January ’08 amid worsening violence, they were ready to begin with 3 groups for the conversations. The Team invited various persons they had met during their networking whom they felt would be open to change and could also commit to a 6 month process of monthly meetings of 3 hours each. The persons in each group came from various ethnic groups and different genders, ages and social economic backgrounds. The only thing they had in common was that each knew the PB Team.

 During the first meeting amid the post-election violence, the members expressed fear, mistrust of the others and a concern for the identity of their own group. As succeeding meetings progressed, fear began to break down as they got to know one another. The focus of the conversations was personal transformation which leads to social change,  through the lenses of spirituality, service and peace building,. Some of the main human values that surfaced from the groups were peace, belonging and community. The groups also read articles provided by the team to stimulate their thinking as they shared their beliefs and hopes for the future.

At the end of the 6 month conversations, a two day retreat was held in which the group reflected on three different movements: within the individuals on the personal level, with their experience within the country and in looking out at the world. Finally the three groups all came together for a social gathering. This helped the members know each other and realize that they were part of a larger group.
Encouraged by the impact and success of the conversation groups, the Peace Team has undertaken four more groups this year. In the first series of conversations, each group had two facilitators from the Team. For this succeeding year, the facilitators were one Team member and a co-facilitator from one of the previous groups.

Giang Nguyen, Sia Temu and Teresa Hougnon with group of Religious in Kenya in 2005.

In addition the Peace Team has worked specifically with Religious groups. They held a workshop on intercultural living for a small group of theology students for the St. Patrick Fathers who came from 4 different African countries and 2 European countries.

Since March 2007, the Peace Team has been traveling to Kisumu twice a year  to work with the Dominican Friar novices. Invited by the novice masters, they have given workshops on conflict transformation, intercultural living skills, and trauma awareness to four classes of novices so far.  Each time they have done so, the Friars have also invited the postulants and novices of the School Sisters of Notre Dame, the Franciscan Sisters of St. Ann of Luak, and the Brothers of Our Lady of Perpetual Help. The group often has included 20 participants coming from Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Angola, Malawi, Mozambique and Nigeria. As one novice director said recently, "we religious have a great witness to give to others in living interculturally."

 For more on the Maryknoll Sisters Peace Team in Kenya, see their Blog at http://peaceteam.blogspot.com/.