Zebron Mwale harbored a bitter grudge against his neighbor, Mary Mweemba. It was her fault he was stuck in prison. Mweemba had reported him to the police for growing cannabis, a crime in Zambia.
Mwale had plenty of time to ruminate on the conflict between them before he finally confronted her. That opportunity arrived one day when Mweemba accompanied Mwale’s family to visit him in prison.
Face-to-face with the person who sold him out to the authorities, Mwale could have said any number of venomous things. Instead, he seized the opportunity to seek reconciliation.
“I talked about the need to end the quarrels and live in harmony,” Mwale said.
What changed during Mwale’s time in prison? The answer lies with the people he spotted wearing small white pins with an image of a baobab tree at Choma Correctional Facility. They were members of the prison’s peace club. The idea intrigued Mwale, so he joined.
“After the message of peace club anchored well in my heart, I quickly learned about the need to break the chain of revenge,” Mwale said.
Peace club members learn how to identify conflicts and practice peaceful ways to resolve them. They meet to encourage each other as they work to change their patterns of behavior.
Club members see how conflict resolution benefits them and how they can use it to benefit others too.
Mennonite Central Committee has supported peace clubs like this one since 2006 when they were first implemented in three Zambian schools. The program has since grown to 436 peace clubs in more than a dozen countries.
The Zambian government noticed the program’s success and worked with MCC to adapt the peace club model for use throughout the country’s correctional system.
This program has proven life-changing for people like Mwale. Besides reconciling with his neighbor, he secured a pardon and was released from prison due to his improved behavior.
The transformative power of peace didn’t stop there.
“When I was released, I found out that I was missing something,” Mwale said. “That prompted me to think about a peace club in the community so that we can continue talking about restoring peace and justice.”
When he needed volunteers to run the community peace club, Mwale knew just who to ask. His neighbor, Mary Mweemba, the person who once turned him in to the police, now serves as the club’s vice chair alongside Mwale.