In the early days of February, the Afrogiveness Movement organised a Fraternity Walk, which served as a peace-building initiative that brought together various faith communities and groups of people torn apart by conflict lines. It was meant to give them a neutral arena and activity where trust and peace could be sought and rekindled. The peacebuilding initiative hinged on the power of sports in bridging gaps and bringing people together, in ways that formal peacebuilding initiatives have failed to.
This year, the Afrogiveness Movement initiative was in its second edition, and it brought together refugees, Internally Displaced Persons, and other victims of conflict, to, in an environment of neutrality and through sports, commune together and start a healing and peacebuilding process.
In an interview with Afrogiveness Movement’s Franca Ma-ih Sulem Yong, she underscored the importance of the Fraternity Walk, as well as the importance of sporting activities in peacebuilding initiatives.
When we met, we first wanted to know what the Fraternity Walk was all about.
What was the Fraternity Walk all about?
Now in its second edition, the Fraternity Walk is an annual event organised by the Afrogiveness Movement (#Afrogiveness) in partnership with the African Initiative for Health and Research Promotion(AIHRP) under the patronage of Cameroon’s National Commission for UNESCO, to use the unifying power of sports to raise awareness about our common humanity. Organised within the context of the United Nations’ World Interfaith Harmony Week observed during the first week of February every year, it was marked in this 2023 edition by a non-violent sports walk, a race competition dubbed, The Fraternity Race, and a display of cultural dances dubbed, The Fraternity Dance on February 4, declared by the UN as the International Day of Human Fraternity. This year equally saw the convening of a workshop to train 50 young leaders on “Mediation and Interfaith Harmony ” so they can learn to resolve their interfaith/intercultural conflicts amicably. It was crowned by a community outreach programme to not only donate foodstuff and basic needs to female refugees and survivors of interfaith/intercultural conflicts but also to equip them with income-generating skills like soap and bleach-making so they may enrich themselves and rebuild their lives.
How will the Fraternity Walk project help address the problem of conflict and inclusion in society?
The Fraternity Walk reunited up to 200 refugees from 7 different African countries as well as 800 other Cameroonian forcibly displaced youths ( both Christians and Muslims who fled interfaith/intercultural conflicts) and host-community youths( many of whom have been born and bred in Yaounde) contributed to fostering social cohesion between people of different cultures and religion but also helped to combat xenophobia. By raising awareness about our shared rights and freedoms; by bringing together people of all backgrounds to recognise and celebrate the unity in diversity; by equipping the next generation of youths with knowledge of how to manage interfaith/intercultural conflicts and by socio-economically empowering female survivors of interfaith conflicts so they may shun the dragnets of violent extremism; the Fraternity Walk is contributing immensely to peace, inclusion and prosperity.
What new thing does the Fraternity Walk bring to the way peace is sought in society?
The Fraternity Walk builds peace from where it starts: “in the mind. Statistics show that 50% of peace-building processes do not last and that the proverbial shaking of hands and signing of peace deals between warlords do not sustain peace (Interpeace, 2020). This is a strong sign that we need to invest significant efforts in helping humanity connect to its conscience and to sensitise people of all religions, countries, cultures, and physical/mental disabilities on the oneness of our humanity. One way to do that is to use a tool that connects us all -sports. The Fraternity Walk is making peace-building simpler to understand.
As an organisation that has been seeking community-based and led initiatives to achieve peace, how have some of your initiatives fared?
Our initiatives have been remarkably successful. While we cannot compress these into words, we have been sometimes moved to tears by anonymous “thank you” notes and tokens of appreciation from people who tell us our works are helping them to embrace diversity. These notes make us fulfilled. It is thanks to several of these notes that we decided to do a second edition of the Fraternity Walk this year and we hope to make it an annual event.
What is the place of sports in a peace process?
Key to sport’s role in peacebuilding is the integrative process; bringing people together from
different nations, religions and races and abilities. At the grassroots level, sports can become a neutral platform where an individual’s background is irrelevant. During the Fraternity Walk
thus, participants sang songs that communicate the message of fraternity eg “The more
we are together,” “Main dans la main,” “Are we together.” We equally held placards and
banners that communicated our messages of tolerance, fraternity and forgiveness.
Interviewed by Andrew Nsoseka