Some of the most powerful stories of peace and reconciliation are those written in the lives of the ordinary people doing the hard work of rebuilding communities devastated by conflict and war.
We look for, see and document stories of peace-in-process…
To tell a story is to share a vision of the world. And the stories we hear in turn shape the very way we see the world.
… and share them with the world.
At Catalyst for Peace, we don’t simply tell stories about peacebuilding. We see storytelling as an essential part of our peacebuilding practice itself. The stories we find, record and share help us see people we work with more clearly, learn from them more fully, and build on their experience and innate goodness, for the benefit of themselves, the work they’re leading, and also for the world.
Honest, appreciative, ongoing and effective storytelling, directed internally as well as externally, can:
- Create powerful openings for transformation in peace processes themselves by illuminating the human dimension even in the middle of conflict and upheaval, or of social and political forces that can render people invisible
- Instill and amplify community and personal pride by inviting, reflecting and reinforcing progress, capacities and achievements, and by illuminating the global significance of individual and local efforts
- Magnify and share the lessons courageous local peacebuilders can teach a global audience – creating a platform for local voices on the international stage, and also thereby supporting and inspiring a greater potential for strategic impact
- Illuminate rich new resources for peacebuilding through the active sharing of stories, customs and traditions
- Reflect back to program leaders the strengths, capacities and impact of their work, in ways that serve to refine and strengthen internal communication and the program itself
- Open eyes, minds and hearts, to the incredible resilience and powerful capacity of ordinary people and the interconnectedness of humanity, that in turn inspires anyone facing challenges with others’ examples of courage in the face of difficulty and despair.
Much of our storytelling (as well as our peacebuilding work more generally) work has been focused in Africa. For centuries, Africans have been cast in the same roles by the west: the poor, the sick, the corrupt, the victim, exploitable, in need of saving. Globally, we have told the wrong stories about Africa, and in doing so, we have cheated ourselves of the opportunity to learn from Africa. We believe this must change, and so we’re helping to change it.
Toward that end, we have produced and shared powerful stories of peace in an award-winning documentary film, in photographic exhibits, in public appearances, in a book, in short films, and in our blogs. We have developed educational programs to help people engage with the ideas from these stories in meaningful ways, and to think about the implications for their own lives and communities.
While we have created most of these storytelling pieces with a global audience in mind, we have committed to adapting them to be shared in the settings from which the stories emerged. When ordinary people see their own life stories as the extraordinary stories of peace they are, it inspires and strengthens program development on the ground in untold ways.
We have seen people challenged by, inspired by and transformed by the stories we have witnessed and shared. We have seen the potential for change, progress and peace these stories can spark. The powerful way we have linked our ongoing commitment to storytelling with on-the-ground program development and also our platform for advocacy and global action, means we are not just telling others’ stories of peace. We are also writing (and helping others write) the stories of peace⎯with our lives.
Are you also interested in how storytelling supports inside-out peacebuilding? We invite you to be in touch.
We have to re-discover Africa. The first discovery of Africa by Europe was the wrong one. It was not a discovery. It was an act of misperception. They saw, and bequeathed to future ages, an Africa based on what they thought of as important. They did not see Africa. And this wrong seeing of Africa is part of the problems of today. Africa was seen from a point of view of greed, of what could be got from it. And what you see is what you make. What you see in a people is what you eventually create in them. It is now time for a new seeing. It is now time to clear the darkness from the eyes of the Western world. The world should now begin to see the light in Africa, to see its sunlight, to see its brightness, its brilliance, its beauty. If we see it, it will be revealed… Only what we see anew, is revealed to us. Africa has been waiting, for centuries, to be discovered with eyes of love, the eyes of a lover. There is no true seeing without love.
-Nigerian author and Booker Prize winner, Ben Okri