Christian Cito, founder of Peacemaker 360,
a media platform dedicated to bringing ordinary people's peace stories to the world promoting peace building in the community level.
Diinsider: What problem is Peacemaker 360 aiming to address?
Christian: Peacemaker 360 is responding to the lack of positive stories in many social and mainstream media platforms when reporting on countries hit by conflicts around the world. Peacemaker 360 does not minimize the devastating effects of conflicts in many parts of the world but rather provides balanced peace narratives by amplifying voices of ordinary citizens who best know where their communities hurt and who are doing all they can to promote peace.
Diinsider: What do you do at Peacemaker 360?
Christian: Our campaign amplifies stories of resilience of ordinary citizens addressing conflicts in their respective communities. By doing so, we hope to contribute to the shaping of hopeful peace narratives on our media outlets and encourage the noble pursuit of peace at home and abroad.
Diinsider: How did Peacemaker 360 came to be?
Christian: My name is Christian Cito Cirhigiri. I am a youth advocate and peace journalist from the Democratic Republic of Congo. I am currently working with the Central Mennonite Committee in Colombia as a youth and peacebuilding advisor.
Growing up in eastern Congo, I have experienced first-hand the effects of violence and decided from a young age to be a positive influence for peace. My master’s degree in International Peace Studies at the University of Notre Dame in the United States deepened my understanding of the complexity in addressing modern conflicts. In the summer of 2015, I conducted a research on the role of student movements in promoting ethnic reconciliation in Burundi, eastern Congo, and Sri Lanka. In my research, I found out that firstly, no one modern conflict is an isolated case. All conflicts are part of a war industrial complex profiting world superpowers including but not limited to the US, China, and Russia. As a peace activist, I also came to realize that while advocating for peace in eastern Congo, I should concomitantly advocate for peace in Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, Papua New Guinea, Libya, Somalia, and South Sudan because all these conflicts mostly benefit the same superpowers at the expense of innocent civilian lives.
Secondly, because of most social and mainstream media outlets´ complicity with the current war industrial complex, they do not share positive stories by ordinary men and women in countries affected by conflicts who are working towards peace in their communities. Instead, these media outlets invest in fueling a propaganda machinery that further incentivize violence and polarize affected communities. My activist instincts became immediately preoccupied by this research finding and I felt the need to be involved. At that moment, I did not know what to do and how to go about it but I knew that I needed to do something to contribute to bridging this divide in social and mainstream media. However small my contribution would be, I was resolved to act.
In February 2016, I founded Peacemaker 360, a social media campaign that profiles and shares peace activists’ stories with three specific goals: inspire, connect, and amplify global peace activism efforts. With over 10,000 followers in almost two years, Peacemaker 360 has connected thousands of peace activists and continues to bridge the gap among peace professionals all around the world.
Source: Peacemaker 360
Diinsider: Peacemaking is a challenging and complicated task. You have conducted lots of interviews with young activists in the peacemaking field. Could you share a couple of ways that grassroots/young changemakers can effectively tackle this challenge?
Christian: Indeed peacemaking is a challenging and complex endeavor. It is even more complicated when young changemakers take up the challenge of promoting peace. This is because despite the passing of UNSCR 2250 in 2015, a UN framework recognizing young people as peace actors, there are still a lot of gaps in terms of the implementation of this framework in many countries. Nevertheless, young peacebuilders have remained resilient and are working hard in their own networks to creatively find spaces of engagement with decision makers in their respective contexts. I am convinced that the spirit of creativity and partnership among young peacebuilders can overcome challenges in the long run.
Diinsider: How do you compare the effectiveness of peacebuilding between a top-down approach (led by government and international organizations) and a bottom-up approach (in the community level)?
Christian: I think we need both approaches in sustaining peacebuilding efforts. What often makes these two models almost incompatible is the power imbalance in terms of who has the resources to implement peacebuilding efforts. Traditionally, there has been in both the humanitarian and the peacebuilding sector, a dependency syndrome to funding institutions. These institutions impose their conditions that may offset grassroots´ efforts in responding to the real needs of the people. I am convinced that this challenge can be overcome by restructuring power differences between donor bodies and grassroots organizations through putting in place of check and balance mechanisms that prioritize needs of affected communities.
Source: Peacemaker 360
Diinsider: What is the impact of peacemaker 360 to date? How will you describe its projected future impact for the coming years?
Christian: Peacemaker 360 has been operating for almost two years so I think it still early to talk about the tangible impacts of the campaign. However, there are three visible results that the campaign has achieved so far. One is that it has connected thousands of peace activists working on various peace building projects around the world. Another is that it has amplified amazing efforts of peace activists through various social media platforms Lastly, it has become one of the most engaging platforms where peace activists are celebrated and where a supportive peer community is built for them.
In the long run, we aspire to be an engine fostering strong partnerships among peacebuilding initiatives, the academia, donor institutions, and the private and public sectors through the power of storytelling. To achieve this, we are currently working on three projects. You can learn about each of these projects by following http://www.peacemaker360.com/upcoming-projects/
Diinsider: What is your plan to ensure financial sustainability?
Christian: Peacemaker 360 relies on individual donations to support its operations at the moment. As we quickly continue to expand, we are now building partnerships with like-minded organizations to both join efforts in amplifying voices of peace activists and put in place sustainable mechanisms to run our joint projects. The current 3 projects of Peacemaker 360 are also income generating and we are hoping that they will boost our financial capacity.
Diinsider: Who else is addressing the problem in a similar way?
Christian: UNOY, Peace Direct, Global Narratives are just some examples of actors Peacemaker 360 is having conversations with for joint efforts. We believe in partnership and are always looking for like-minded organizations and institutions that believe in the power of storytelling in moving global peacebuiding efforts forward.