In 2008, The American Islamic Congress partnered with Cure Violence, formerly Ceasefire, to bring a groundbreaking form of conflict mediation and resolution to neighborhoods in Iraq. On December 31st, the program–which later morphed into Ambassadors for Peace (A4P)–came to a close.

Ambassadors for Peace, initially named The Basrah Anti-Violence Campaign, saw initial success mitigating violence in two neighborhoods in Basrah and then grew to incorporate other neighborhoods including two in the tumultuous Sadr City of Baghdad.

Ambassadors for Peace adapted Cure Violence’s conflict mediation model and utilized AIC’s networks in the Muslim world. The model, which approaches violence as a social disease, uses individuals from respected positions within the community to mediate conflicts, train members of the community in the art of conflict diffusion and intervene directly in conflicts before they escalate to violence.

The program originally found success in Chicago, using current and former gang members to reach parts of the community most prone to violence. In Iraq A4P had to rediscover what made a credible messenger within the largely tribal social structure in order to replicate such success. Persons who were well connected within tribal society and held no allegiances to one tribe in particular were found to be the best candidates.

The three main objectives of Ambassadors for Peace were to create awareness of civic roles, to create local networks of mediators; and to challenge the social norms that allow for violence. A4P conducted hundreds of workshops reaching over fourteen thousand members of the community, largely targeting youth who are the most susceptible to such violence. A4P has worked within the community, putting on numerous events aimed at addressing the causes of violence and opened a sports center, promoting positive youth community involvement. A4P cannot claim it has stamped out conflict from the communities in which it is based, and it doesn’t try to. Where the program found its success however, is in preventing conflicts from escalating to violence.

Now that Ambassadors for Peace has come to a close, the people affected have gained tools vital to peace and stability in their communities. The principles of conflict mediation are becoming embedded within these communities, showing that the methods used by A4P will prove sustainable. Hopefully, the effects of A4P will continue to spread throughout Iraq, and the program’s success will encourage the implementation of similar models in other areas prone to violent conflict.