By Séverine Autesserre
Life on the Congolese island of Idjwi would startle many Westerners who know little about that country outside the horror stories in the news. In that normal, peaceful place, it can be easy to forget that you are surrounded by the deadliest conflict since World War II. Idjwi’s inhabitants go about their daily lives without the fear that I saw and felt just a few miles away in neighboring provinces. When we talked, people did not focus on the latest massacre or bout of fighting, as they so often do in eastern Congo. Last year, when a resident tried to set up a militia, locals refused to follow him. Hunted by the Congolese army for crimes he and his few supporters had committed, he fled to the neighboring town of Goma and was subsequently arrested.
And here’s what the rest of the world can learn from Idjwi: The island is peaceful because of its many, very effective grass-roots organizations. When there is a conflict, instead of calling the police or the army or resorting to violence, people try to contact one of these local groups: religious networks, traditional institutions, youth groups, women’s groups and so on. Surrounded by such a strong network, each citizen also helps maintain the stability of his or her village by keeping tabs on potential troublemakers and working with local leaders to prevent minor issues from escalating into violence.
Strong beliefs also help support peace….
Read the entire story here: Here’s what Congo can teach the world about peace – The Washington Post