Britain Yearly Meeting 2016: Passport loss fails to derail Swarthmore Lecture

Esther Mombo delivered the Swarthmore Lecture on 28 May

This year’s Swarthmore Lecture, Mending broken hearts; rebuilding shattered lives: Quaker peacebuilding in Eastern Africa, was delivered in one voice, rather than two, as planned.

Cécile Nyiramana of Rwanda Yearly Meeting was to be one of the joint lecturers. Despite having her visa granted in good time, she was unable to travel to London because her passport disappeared between the United Kingdom secretariat in South Africa and her home in Kigali, Rwanda. She was devastated, Friends at Yearly Meeting heard.

Cécile’s fellow Swarthmore Lecturer, Esther Mombo of Highlands Yearly Meeting, Kenya, delivered the lecture alone on Saturday evening to a packed Large Meeting House. She stressed that the lecture was a collaborative effort and that the thoughts voiced were very much those of Cécile.

Esther described Quaker peacebuilding work in East and Central Africa, focusing primarily on Kenya, Rwanda, Burundi, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. She spoke of Friends Peace House in Rwanda and its work with the Alternatives to Violence Project (AVP) and talked about how it helped build trust, respect and inclusion.

There are many ways of peacebuilding, Esther explained. She stressed the need for forgiveness, and said: ‘Our work begins with dealing with the heart at all levels of society.’

Esther also cautioned against reliance on funding from donors, as this may not be feasible in the long term.

This year’s Swarthmore Lecture was the first to be live-streamed on the Woodbrooke Quaker Study Centre’s YouTube channel.

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