My story of leadership training and peace-building in Aileu goes back to 2008, when I came to East Timor. This mission field had been plowed, sown and cultivated by previous Maryknoll Sisters. The soil was not only fertile, but scattered with seedlings. It was up to the Holy Spirit and me to help them grow and bear fruit. In particular, two young men were very eager to work with me. Both had received basic training in the art of dialogue and wanted to share their knowledge with other youth. From this impetus, we invited teenagers to workshops and introduced them to forms of dialogue, conflict transformation and peacemaking. After two fruitful years, the group disbanded and I focused more on teaching.
Yet in 2015, after graduating from college, João dos Santos asked me to continue this work. It was a joy to support him, witnessing to his maturity and growing passion for peace. From May to October, we co-facilitated nine workshops in various schools. João designed materials on leadership skills, dialogue and conflict transformation. He led the sessions and I took on a supportive, mentoring role. It became clearer that such skills are truly needed—and that our work is not done.
In many respects, the youth I’ve met long for peace in their families, communities and nation. Domestic violence is fairly common, while civil strife and political violence still hover like dark clouds in their collective consciousness. Fortunately, some youth have begun the critical work of looking within to see the roots of violence—and of peace—within their own lives.
May the Spirit help us to deepen & expand our work for peace!