The Art of Living awarded for peace work during xenophobic attacks
The Masiphumelele community, Cape Town, South Africa was awarded the annual Reconciliation Award from the Institute of Justice and Reconciliation Commission (IJR) in recognition of its efforts to live in peace with foreigners on November 15, 2008. Masiphumelele was acknowledged as a model community, which resisted the wave of violence that swept across the entire Western Cape region.
Unrest in the community
The award was a result of peace efforts that curbed the xenophobic violence, occurring in May and October this year, which led to the displacement of about 20, 000 people from 100 regions. This had also given rise to vandalism and looting of shops owned by foreigners. The attacks were believed to have been triggered by a rumour that an immigrant was involved in the rape and murder of a local, three-year-old girl, Ayola Adonis.
Peace rally organized by The Art of Living
The Art of Living, South Africa played a significant role in bringing peace initiatives to this affected region. When refugees feared becoming victims of xenophobic attacks like the ones that had swept the country in May, an Art of Living volunteer, Yandiswa Mazwane organized a peace rally at the Masiphumelele Community Hall. One of the organizers, Candi Horgan of The Art of Living, who was in Masiphumelele when violence broke out said, “It is important to create platforms where locals and foreigners could interact to help them unite rather than turn on each other.”
Community unites for peace
At the peace rally, children played street cricket and performed dances. 600 indigenous and fruit trees were planted as a part of the Mission Green Earth ‘Stand Up Take Action’ global campaign, which was implemented in association with the United Nations Millennium Development Goals. Students of Masiphumelele signed a pledge to eliminate poverty as a part of the campaign.
A peace garden was also created at the Sosebenza Youth Centre. Artist Sidney Ryan, another enthusiastic volunteer, produced a wooden Madiba artwork, inspired by the famous Che Guevara image symbolising strength and justice, which is on display at the Masiphumelele library and will be installed in the peace garden shortly.
Many Church groups led by Church leaders walked through the township for three hours and sang at various points throughout the settlement in unified action against child abuse and xenophobia, in support of peace.
Previous instance of Xenophobic attack
A youth leader of The Art of Living, Yandiswa Mazwane, said: “All of us in the Masiphumelele community, both foreigners and locals, feel great grief at the terrible death of Ayola Adonis. More violence will only make the situation worse for our children. We must keep vigilant to ensure that our frustrations about crime are not taken out on innocent people.”
Yandiswa had previously organised a peace rally on May 24, 2008. This had resulted in calming xenophobic tension in the township and the local police services and the Masiphumelele community took a proactive stance, working together to avoid another Soetwater situation.