"It's a step in a quest to building peace and explore deeper our rich cultural processes for peace, as well as the need to transform those that cause violence" says Vosita Lenesaurua the Director of the Oceania Peace Institute (OPI) a two week long learning institute for community based Peacebuilders from Fiji and Papua New Guinea including the Autonomous Region of Bougainville that got underway in Suva today.
Convened by the Fiji based Transcend Oceania (TO) organisation which is also the Fiji focal point of the Global Partnership for the Prevention of Armed Conflict (GPPAC) with the theme for the institute is "Peace, Justice and Leadership in the Pacific - The Challenge, The Promise" the OPI has been designrf to share peacebuilding practice and to deepen knowledge and skills for the participants.
But it is not passive learning, it is an opportunity to reanimate peacebuilding for a just'peace as participants were reminded in the opening remarks by Dr Tui Rakuita a founding Board member of TO who set the scene with the three "Cs" that connect Oceania - Christianity, Colonialism and Capitalism as a reminder of the complex political history as well as social and economic challenges to peacebuilding efforts including the impact of climate change and intensifying disasters:
"We need a common resolve digging deeply in our Oceanic history to redefine the journey ahead" said Rakuita.
A journey he said that will bring about meaningful transformation and employ a "G'local" application of peacebuilding practice.
Barbara Tanne a participant from Bougainville who was one of the few women candidates in the elections in Bougainville is actively leading dialogue and mediation actions as well as the Bougainville Women's Human Rights Defenders Network.
In an earlier (email) conversation with me she said women need capacity building support to take the lead in peace and reconciliation:
"I am currently a witness as I am associating my ward in mediation and dialogue. It's better they are given the skills to carry out this responsibility."
That is the hope she has brought to the institute.
At the same time she hopes that learning opportunities will also give greater visibility to the resources needed for women to promote and monitor peace at the community level.
The institute marks an exciting new chapter for the Transcend Oceania which collaborates with peacebuilders from the GPPAC Pacific network to advance gender inclusive conflict prevention through non violent activism including peace education. The institute is organised in collaboration with Conciliation Resources and Peaceworks Australia and continues until December 13th.