Non-violence in practice : enhancing the churches' effectiveness in building a peaceful Zimbabwe through Alternatives to Violence Project (AVP).
Attaining political independence in Zimbabwe since 1980 has not translated to a peaceful country. There has been increased militarization of the state and state institutions resulting in endemic political violence and gross human rights violations at the behest of the state and the political elite while justice is denied to the politically unconnected and those with opposing political views. The militarization of the state is epitomised by the political role of veterans of the liberation struggle and youth militias during periods of elections. Between 2001 and 2007, over 80 000 youth militias graduated from the government established National Youth Service (NYS) programme. In Zimbabwe, churches are the largest civil society organizations (CSOs), and they have a moral authority as well as the theological basis to speak and act against injustice and gross human rights violations. Church congregations transcend ethnic barriers, geographical locations and political polarities. They can effectively build peaceful communities by promoting non-violent ways of resolving conflicts among youth militias as a way to bring them back to normal community life. The churches can use their social teaching programmes for youths to promote a more non-violent orientation using the Alternatives to Violence Project (AVP) model, with necessary modifications to suit the Zimbabwean context. From the experiments conducted in this study, there is reasonable ground to conclude that training in AVP has the potential to shift a person’s attitude from a violent to a non-violent inclination when in a conflict.