Peace forum celebrates third anniversary

Volunteers and members of the Bonteheuwel Joint Peace Forum celebrate their three-year milestone.

The Bonteheuwel Joint Peace Forum (JPF) celebrated its third anniversary with the announcement that it is launching a project, with 100 girls from the area, to continue its fight against violence.

On Sunday February 12, JPF members were joined by residents and other organisations at its birthday celebration, held at Bonteheuwel High Schoool.

Nadia de Grass told guests of a project the JPF had launched with an organisation called Action Aid SA, which is linked to an international organisation in the UK.

The project, Girls in Gangs, will work with 100 girls threatened by gang and gender violence and empower them to help their communities overcome the impact of gang culture.

By putting girls at the centre of the project, it’s hoped that they can challenge the normalisation of violence in gang-plagued neighbourhoods.

JPF chairwoman Judith Kennedy said Action Aid SA had asked the forum to run the project.

Some of the guest speakers at the anniversary bash said they had doubted the JPF’s sustainability at its inception. Among them was Brigadier Christopher Jones, station commander of Bishop Lavis SAPS.

“I told them they would only last three months, now I must eat my own words,” said Brigadier Jones, describing how he had seen the forum grow from strength to strength.

“I would like to encourage them to continue the good work, never mind the negative comments.”

Mariam McKrieling, a community police forum (CPF) member and Bonteheuwel trauma counsellor, had also had her doubts about the JPF.

“I have seen so many groups that were formed to fight social ills in our community, but many of these did not last. I didn’t think the JPF would be able to achieve so much in a short space of time, but you have stood the test of time, and I wish you well on your future endeavours,” she said.

Moulana Maghdie Abrahams had most in the hall in tears when he spoke of his appreciation for the JPF.

On Wednesday August 3, last year, Mr Abrahams and his family – his wife, Shireen, and their sons, Ebrahim, 22, Moeneer, 19, and Masood, 14 – had been returning home when a gunman shot at their vehicle. Ms Abrahams and Masood had ended up in hospital, fighting for their lives.

The following night, the JPF, and religious groups, had held a prayer vigil outside the family’s home.

“What we had to go through was very cruel. Since the incident, we live in constant fear. My wife is especially fearful. I want to thank the JPF, however, for showing us not to give in to people who want to spread fear,” said Mr Abrahams.

“When I heard of the JPF hosting a prayer evening outside our home, I wanted to know who they were, because nobody else did that for my family.”

Meanwhile, Paul du Plessis described how the Third Bonteheuwel Scout Troop had been formed thanks to a JPF meeting that had looked at crime-fighting ideas.

“One of the things identified when it comes to fighting crime was to create alternatives for young people, and, with that in mind, the Third Bonteheuwel Scouts was formed.

“We will be celebrating our first anniversary on Friday June 16,” Mr Du Plessis said proudly.