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A16 S U P P L E M E N T T O T H E W I N N I P E G F R E E P R E S S | S A T U R D A Y , J U N E 2 6 , 2 0 2 1 When you look at a tapestry or a beautifully woven rug, the first things you are likely to notice are the intricate patterns, rich colours or plush fibers. But underneath lies an important structure. Tightly strung threads, called the weft, run throughout to provide structure during the weaving process and long after the finished piece is taken from the loom. L ike those strong threads, peace is a foundation to all that MCC does. On the surface you might see advocacy for Indigenous consultation on hydro projects. Under the surface are hours of community connections and building relationships to ensure that advocacy is directed by Indigenous voices. Or at first glance you might see trainings and supplies to help farmers increase their income. What you don't see is that in a region marked by armed groups and conflict, that project is only possible because of the non-violent witness of a local church partner. From reconciliation and local advocacy to agricultural development and training, that dedication to peacebuilding, rooted in the Anabaptist vision of MCC and Christ's way of peace, is woven throughout MCC's work. You can see that commitment to peace in an agriculture program in the Chocó region of Colombia. For many communities living along the banks of the San Juan River, the river is the only way in or out. Yet between the government and illegal armed groups, transportation on the rivers is heavily controlled. It's not always possible or safe for farmers to bring their harvests to market. Fifteen years ago, armed groups expanded into the region, along with illicit activities. As the Mennonite Brethren church saw their communities struggle, they imagined a future where people had a dignified way of making a living. For the church, this is a part of their work for peace - a peace that isn't just an absence of war and conflict, but a world where everyone has what they need for a good life. Church leaders founded Fundación Agropecuaria Tejiendo Esperanza (FAGROTES or Weaving Hope Agricultural Foundation) and set out to make that vision a reality. They taught farmers to grow cacao, the plant that produces the base for chocolate. And now, despite a pandemic that has cut off their region from the rest of Colombia and led to increased violence, they have taken the next step and opened their own chocolate factory so farmers like Luis Norberto Mosquera can grow the cacao and produce chocolate to sell. In a region with a long history of conflict, this work is only possible by partnering with the local church that has maintained a non-violent witness. Relying on close relationships with the communities they serve is key to weaving a strong structure of peace. Thread of peace continues throughout MCC's local work and advocacy In Manitoba, MCC works to promote positive political, social and economic change for Indigenous Peoples by supporting collaboration and relationship building between settlers and Indigenous people. In 2017, MCC responded to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's Calls to Action and publicly recognized with regret the part Mennonite settlers played in the assimilation practices that separated Indigenous Peoples from their culture. Today, you can see the thread of reconciliation and peace through MCC's partnerships with Indigenous-led and supported organizations like the Interchurch Council on Hydropower (ICH). ICH is supported by MCC and comprised of members from Mennonite and other churches and representatives from Indigenous communities. Two years ago, MCC supported a kokom's gathering at Grand Rapids Culture Camp facilitated by Cree Elder Ellen Cook, co-chair of ICH. Kokom means "grandmother" in Cree, and the gathering brought together kokoms from Split Lake, Easterville, Grand Rapids and Nelson House to foster conversation about healing solutions for hydro-impacted communities. Over the weekend, kokoms discussed ways to restore traditional and sustainable foods and livelihoods that hydropower developments have disrupted. "In the past, it's been challenging for people from these different communities to come together like this," says Kerry Saner-Harvey, coordinator for MCC Manitoba's Indigenous Neighbours program and member of ICH. "We have long watched how hydropower development has divided the communities, silo-ing and isolating them from each other. "The grandmothers spoke of a new sense of togetherness and unity from the healing circle— instilling hope for a different, more peaceful, future." Interchurch Council on Hydropower takes the lead from these Indigenous communities to work together to resolve harms caused by hydropower development and work together for peace. A key aspect of this work is advocating for consultation and informed consent with Indigenous communities before hydropower projects are planned - something that has historically been inadequate (more information is available at Consultation is a foundational right of Indigenous Peoples, an important step toward hydro justice for Indigenous communities. And it's an essential thread to ensuring a strong foundation of peace throughout MCC's work in Manitoba. Of course, sometimes peace is a more visible part of the tapestry of MCC's work, as in Zambia where MCC supported the formation of peace clubs, which brings students together to learn peacebuilding skills. The program has expanded around the world, and last year more than 21,500 people took part in MCC-supported peace clubs. Now a new project is establishing peace clubs in 65 correctional facilities throughout Zambia and working to restore relationships. Through the program, people like Luka Phiri, a mechanic who was caught with stolen car parts, have been able to reconcile with victims of their crimes. By teaching peacebuilding and restorative justice skills, the program hopes to reduce conflict inside the prisons and help people better integrate into their communities once they are released. The threads of MCC's commitment to peace may not always be as visible as clubs and workshops dedicated to the skills of peacebuilding. But the way that the core value of peace is woven into all MCC projects serves to make the whole of MCC's work stronger, whether in local or global contexts. Article written by Emily Loewen and Allison Zacharias, republished in part from Loewen's cover story "Peace: A thread woven through MCC's ministry" published in the spring/ summer 2021 issue of A Common Place magazine, a publication of Mennonite Central Committee. PEACE: A THREAD THROUGH MCC'S MINISTRY In Panabaj, Guatemala, in 2016, Concepción Morales Soloj weaves during a women's group meeting through New Dawn Association of Santiago Atitlán, an MCC partner known by its Spanish acronym, ANADESA. ANADESA is a community-run organization and MCC partner that is focused on strengthening and empowering children, youth and women. 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