Beginning December 15, 2010, the American Islamic Congress, in collaboration with CeaseFire, launched the Ambassadors for Peace (A4P) campaign in Basrah and Sadr City, Baghdad. CeaseFire is a Chicago-based organization specializing in violence prevention, viewing violence as a public health issue. The confluence of AIC’s personal relationships, presence in Iraq and cultural familiarity and CeaseFire’s innovative methods of reducing urban violence provided an ideal impetus from which to build an effective network of individuals dedicated to peace-building and non-violence in Iraq.
The approach to interceding in violence involves using “Credible Messengers,” i.e., individuals that are not representatives of the authorities but are respected in their neighborhoods and have clout with potentially violent elements, to physically step in between belligerents and use their influence, experience and A4P-taught skills to deescalate and settle conflicts. CeaseFire often uses reformed convicts to intercede in gang violence in the US. In Iraq, A4P employs people with the right connections in the religious, tribal and ethnic communities as the violence facing Iraqi communities is largely inter-tribal, inter-militial, sectarian or domestic.
A4P also has a robust public education campaign. Our objectives are: increase awareness among residents regarding their civic roles, empower them to create a safer Iraq through training in conflict mediation and violence reduction, create networks of local people to mediate and mitigate violence, and challenge the social norms that allow violence and raise awareness of peace.