Timor-Leste: Peace begins with a smile and a foundation stone
October 2, 2012
Our local partner in Timor-Leste, the Centre of Studies for Peace and Development (CEPAD), marked Peace Day on 21 September with the laying of the first stone of the country’s fourth peace house, in the Ermera district.
CEPAD also celebrated Peace Day nationwide by sending out a message of peace via SMS to all members of its network, including members of Government, Parliament and the opposition. Over 600 Timorese received the message, which raised awareness about the significance of Peace Day and the importance of working together to achieve a more peaceful society in Timor-Leste. The message concluded by stating that “peace begins with a smile,” and received a lot of positive feedback. “Peace for you too,” one citizen responded. “Let’s start with this beautiful greeting for everyone, without discrimination,” replied another.
A place for open dialogue
Embracing local tradition, peace houses provide communities with a safe meeting place for open dialogue and conflict resolution at the local level. In addition, they serve as platforms to bridge the gap between the district and national levels and make political processes more inclusive and participatory. CEPAD, with the help of The Charitable Foundation, already has three functioning peace houses in different districts throughout Timor-Leste, and plans to set up several more over the years to come.
“In a poverty-ridden, post-conflict society such as Timor-Leste, peace as a goal remains a perception until it is substantiated with tangible structures,” explains João Boavida, Executive Director of CEPAD. “Building a peace house in Ermera is like constructing a new environment to promote communication and social integration between community members.”
A focus on youth and local ownership
This new peace house will be centrally located, directly next to the Ermera Youth Center, with an eye on strengthening the involvement of youth in peacebuilding processes. The Regional Director for Sports and Youth acts as President of the Peace House Steering Committee, which is responsible for construction at the local level. CEPAD used the ceremony for the laying of the peace house’s first foundation stone to draw attention to the importance of resolving conflict through open dialogue. Involving community members at the very first stages of construction is also a way of encouraging local ownership and sustainability.
The event was attended by a large audience, including the Minister for Public Works Mr. Gastão Sousa, District Commanders of the National Police (PNTL) and of the Armed Forces (F-FDTL), the Coordinator of the Ermera Youth Center, as well as traditional authorities, community leaders and journalists. Showing strong support for the project, Mr. Sousa has committed 250 sacks of cement towards the construction.