Our Trustbuilding Program project teams are working to bridge divides in their respective communities. Current issues in these communities have been shaped by past events and will have to be addressed to reshape the future. How does the world today influence the work of these projects?
During the first training weekend of the trustbuilding project in Quebec, a deeper understanding arose regarding Canada as a colonial state, with many issues dating back to the first settlement and the political institutions that were built at that time. This issue also contributes to the French-English divide in Quebec; one of two major divides that have caused friction. Several participants of the training were newly arrived immigrants, who did not know about the situation of the indigenous peoples and were very moved by the discussion.
The language divide in Quebec is also closely tied to its history with the Catholic church. In the 1970’s the Catholic church was removed from civic planning and public education, which is a complex issue that hasn’t been addressed directly. Most people over 60 are extremely hostile towards the Catholic church because of the alleged abuses which occurred at this time. Those aged between 40-60 are not as hostile since they were not directly exposed to the church’s abuses, but because they inherited the beliefs from their parents. Many cling to the idea of secularism and reject religion in the public space. This is where the anti-Muslim rhetoric is also coming from.
In Kenya, the team is active in two regions that differ from each other in level of tensions and perceptiveness. In Garissa, among the challenges is the breakdown of trust between Muslims and Christians, leading to radicalization. There is a lot of tension between both groups, especially after three teachers were killed in January this year. However, last month’s trustbuilding workshop showed that participants are committed to doing something about the breakdown of trust, by reaching out to different communities in order to neutralize the fear and to work on reestablishing trust between Muslims and Christians.
In Mombasa, the tension is different, as it is not as visible as in Garissa. People are receptive and ready to go out and engage with youth to talk about the issues of radicalization. Mombasa is a predominantly Islamic region where most Christians are ignorant of Islam’s teachings, whereas Muslims understand Christianity to a greater extent. This program brings the opportunity to coexist and deepen understanding.
In the suburbs of Paris, communities are living in difficult economic and social conditions. The areas have been faced with several riots and confrontations over the years, where youth and police have clashed heavily. Tensions have heightened recently due to the coronavirus lockdown, with a low point on 20 May, when riot police were deployed in force as youths set cars ablaze.
OUI ACT is working in these troubled suburbs, called banlieues, with children from migrant communities who mostly come from sub-Saharan Africa. They are initiating conversations with young people in order to build bridges and to allow the young people a chance to have their voices heard. One of the most impactful sessions during these conversations is where young people get to speak with a police officer.
The Trustbuilding Program is aimed at addressing divisive issues at the international and national levels, on the premise that only those who have undergone the internal process of becoming trustworthy themselves can close gaps across the globe. The Program was launched by Initiatives of Change International in 2019 with projects in Kenya, Canada and France.