Sports have a fundamental human appeal. They can connect people across cultures, religions, nationalities, languages, and other divides. When people participate in sporting events, they learn to respect the dignity of their opponents, the values of teamwork and tolerance, and the importance of fair play and regulations. Therefore, sports can be an important peacebuilding tool and a vector of reconciliation. With that in mind, WPDI created the Peace Through Sports program to serve as a vehicle with which young women and men could connect through their love of sports while also practicing the values of mutual respect, inclusion, and fair play.
Bringing Youths Together
The Peace Through Sports program originated in a visit of Forest Whitaker at a UN Protection of Civilians (PoC) site in Juba, South Sudan (PoC III). Many young people in the camp were growing restless and engaging in destructive behavior due to a lack of structure and purpose. Moreover, feelings of hate and revenge were festering. He came up with Peace Through Sports as a way to give camp residents a constructive outlet for their energy while also offering a safe space to address their traumas.
The program combines sports with peacebuilding activities. Teams established and supported by WPDI practice weekly and those sessions are followed by workshops, which focus on the values of peace and tolerance, trauma healing, or sexual and reproductive health. Further, through Peace Engagement Days – which are events that double as sporting competitions and opportunities for disseminating values conducive to peacebuilding to attending audiences – communities come together to view matches while also engaging in community dialogues and cultural celebratory activities. On some occasions, more than 10,000 people have attended such events, which make them an important community-building tool.