Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 24 April 2014

Peace group helps combat gangs

A group of Irish peacemakers has helped resolve gang warfare in disaster-hit Haiti

A group of Irish peacemakers has helped resolve gang warfare in disaster-hit Haiti.

Members of Glencree Centre for Peace and Reconciliation travelled to the Caribbean nation, parts of which were destroyed in the devastating 2010 earthquake.

Former UVF paramilitary Martin Snodden was among those who encouraged gang lords in one of the country's poorest and most dangerous slums to decommission their weapons.

Irish charity Concern invited them to work with Haitian peace-building group 3PSM in St Martin, where 70,000 people live in severe poverty and children as young as 11 are initiated into gangs.

They used the Northern Ireland peace process as an example of how conflicting communities can live without violence.

Glencree international programme director Ian White, who first visited Haiti in 2004 and has returned numerous times, said methods for achieving peace are the same the world over.

"For a peace process to work you don't have to trust each other, you just have to trust in the process," said Mr White.

"We wanted to open up dialogue between these people who hate each other."

As the annual Haiti Week in Ireland begins tomorrow, when organisations try to raise awareness of the poverty-stricken country, Mr White said people should put themselves in the shoes of those living out there.

He said he understood why members of the community were forced to join gangs.

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