In November 2022, Fellowship of Reconciliation members from around the world will assemble in Juba, South Sudan for a historic gathering of our 108-year-old movement.
Every four years, our global Fellowship comes together to share, learn, and strategize about nonviolence and peacebuilding in our diverse contexts. In recent decades, these quadrennial International Fellowship of Reconciliation (IFOR) meetings have been held in Europe, Asia, and both South and North America – but never Africa. This year, for the first time, the IFOR Council will convene on the African continent, where skilled, courageous peacemakers are employing revolutionary nonviolence techniques in the face of war, conflict, and neo-colonialism to achieve collective freedom.
South Sudan is the embodiment of so many ills that affect the world – colonialism, militarization, civil war, climate change, famine, and sexual violence. To learn more about the current geopolitical, economic, and environmental issues facing the world’s newest nation, read Ariel Gold’s recent article “What South Sudan Needs and Doesn’t Need.”
Almost three weeks of landmark activities will be offered in Juba this November, many hosted by allied African social movements. The African Peace Research Association will kick off the series of programs by convening Pan-African scholar-activists from university peace studies departments during the first week of the month.
IFOR representatives will mostly arrive the following week, when IFOR and the Organization for Nonviolence and Development (ONAD) – a locally-organized and led movement in South Sudan and Sudan – co-host a public conference, “Armed Conflicts and Peaceful Transition in Africa: Lessons Learned in South Sudan.” ONAD is one of the many IFOR branches, groups and affiliates that are active in 15+ countries across the continent (including West, East, Southern, Central, and North Africa), and the special conference will foreground important themes to be addressed at the IFOR Council meeting from Nov. 14-21.
The U.S. Fellowship of Reconciliation has convened an intergenerational and multi-faith delegation of peace and human rights activists to share space with our IFOR colleagues this November, as we do every four years. Dependent on the approval of visas, health restrictions, and security arrangements for South Sudan, FOR-USA national staff, National Council members, and other leaders will include the following participants (both in-person and virtual delegates):
- Ariel Gold, FOR-USA executive director (New York) — virtual
- Max Hess, Esq., IFOR Council Preparatory Committee chairperson & past FOR-USA interim executive director (Georgia) — in person
- Matt Meyer, FOR-USA National Council past member and co-chairperson; International Peace Research Association secretary general (New York) — in person
- Rev. Christopher Ney, FOR-USA National Council co-chairperson (Massachusetts) — in person
- Susan Smith, FOR-USA director of operations (New Jersey) — virtual
- Chrissy Stonebraker-Martinez, FOR-USA National Council member & past chairperson; IFOR Regional Consultative Committtee representative (Ohio) — in person
- Ethan Vesely-Flad, FOR-USA director of national organizing (North Carolina) — virtual
Since the mid-20th century, FOR-USA has participated in solidarity campaigns supporting African human rights and liberation movements. Rev. George M. Houser, who served on FOR-USA’s national staff in the 1940s and ‘50s, co-founded the American Committee on Africa while working at FOR, and he then left FOR’s employ in 1955 to lead the nascent ACOA as it organized international actions in support of indigenous anti-colonialist movements across Africa.
Today, applying revolutionary nonviolence practices through a decolonized framework is more essential than ever before. Although South Sudan has been “welcomed” by the international community as an independent nation-state, its ability to grow and thrive has been dramatically undermined by those same countries through the transfer of an abundance of guns (supplied by U.S. and western arms dealers) combined with devastating U.S. sanctions that are preventing the government from helping its people.
In the face of these significant forms of structural violence, FOR-USA is committed to learning and testing new forms of creative solidarity with our African sisters and brothers in the days ahead. A luta continua!