Playing for Peace August 11, 2017 by Krista Park Berry
“Sport has a unique and irreplaceable capacity to unite people, going far beyond ethnic, religious or social differences. I am convinced that sport can be at the long-term service of peace.” – H.S.H Prince Albert II of Monaco.
Kibera was declared by Kenya’s security agencies as a hot spot for potential violence going into the 2017 election season. In 2007, the community was overwhelmed by violence following the country’s highly contested general elections. Hundreds of people were killed, businesses were destroyed, and the local economy fell apart after residents who supported different political parties challenged, and even fought, one another largely along tribal lines.
Peace development is at the foundation of how we work as an organization – empowering the community by including people of diverse and different backgrounds – and is at the heart of our sports program. In advance of the election, our sports and peace development program increased our engagement in violence prevention with the community through matches and tournaments, community clean-up days, and numerous educational programs for youth and adults.
Our Kibera Champions League, which annually reaches more than 5,000 girls, boys and coaches, is truly training the next generation of peacemakers. Since its inception, the sports program has used sports to teach healthy life choices and promote peace across gender and ethnic divides in Kibera. Competing teams must reflect the ethnic diversity of Kibera, which creates rare opportunities for inter-ethnic teamwork and friendship.
Soccer also holds the power to start conversations for overcoming barriers and improving aspects of communities. In addition to regular team practices, training, and tournaments, youth learn leadership skills, the importance of solidarity, and engage in collaborative, community service projects with teammates and other program participants.
During the last 15 years, thousands of Kenyans have been killed in ethnic conflicts. And throughout these 15 years, our Champions League has held more than 20,000 soccer matches. All of them have ended without a fight, including our 2017 Peace Tournament we hosted in July with the election in close sight.
“Sport has the power to change the world,” Nelson Mandela once said. “It has the power to inspire. It has the power to unite people in a way that little else does. It speaks to youth in a language they understand. Sport can create hope where once there was only despair. It is more powerful than government in breaking down racial barriers.”
Sometimes the games we play are just the games we play. But as Mandela’s past reminds us, sometimes they are so much more. Jamii ya Kibera.
Did you know our documentary film Without a Fight tells a story of peace-building through sports, featuring players from Carolina for Kibera’s Champions League? Get your copy today… All proceeds go to support CFK’s Sports Association in Kenya!