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Search for Common Ground: Theatre building bridges to Peace

South Sudan / Freedom for Peace / 18 sep 2017

Differences are natural: without them, our society would not evolve, injustices would never be questioned, and relations would remain frozen. Too often differences become the source of violent conflict. Conflicts that escalate to ‘win or lose’ situations that frequently descend into violence. Conflicts are inevitable, violence is not. Conflicts can be opportunities to create progress, dialogue, understanding of others and a can be way to build trust.

South Sudan is the world’s youngest nation. It has been devastated by violence. Despite the 2015 peace agreement, violence between factions and ethnic groups has led to the deaths and displacement of 1.6 million people, with millions more suffering severe hunger and deep insecurity.

Since 2014, Search for Common Ground has been working in South Sudan to help communities transform the way they deal with conflict: moving away from adversarial approaches toward cooperative solutions. By partnering with local religious, political, and youth leaders, Search seeks to bridge the political and ethnic divide by helping people to identify and use non-violent solutions, offering a spark of hope in an otherwise bleak life.

Search uses participatory theatre to bring people together, getting people to discuss their experience of conflict from the point of view of the other, and empowering them to discover and pursue peaceful solutions that unite communities.

Search’s theatre troupes in South Sudan collect stories from the communities before they perform, shaping each play for the community and its residents. During the performances, the public is encouraged to interact with the actors and discuss non-violent solutions to the problems presented on stage. In this way, people learn non-violent responses, and understand that peaceful solutions to their real world problems can be the norm rather than the exception. More than thirty performances have reached thousands of people already.

In South Sudan and around the world, Search continues to work with people at the centre of conflict, empowering them to choose collaboration and empathy over violence.

Search for Common Ground has been nominated for the 2018 Nobel Peace Prize by the Quakers' Nobel Nominating Committee for their work with local partners on many of the world’s most intractable and intense conflicts, creating 'a space in which dialogue is possible' for peace.