Ron Kraybill ’76 can finally cross off meeting Archbishop Desmond Tutu from his bucket list. Kraybill, who is a peace and development adviser for the United Nations, has been working to negotiate peaceful elections in Lesotho since November 2009.
Last year, Kraybill assisted in a mediation process led by the Lesotho Heads of Churches, working with the gridlocked parliament to negotiate an electoral agreement among the political parties to pursue free and fair elections. “I worked directly with the Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Minister, and leaders of the opposition at points, all under the aegis of the Heads of Churches,” Kraybill said.
Since gaining independence from Britain in 1966, Lesotho has been politically volatile, experiencing guerilla warfare, coups, assassinations and rioting in several cities that sometimes required outside military intervention.
Enter Kraybill and the Lesotho Heads of Churches. Their mediation led to Lesotho’s first free, fair and peaceful election since independence in 1966. They even won the support of Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who visited to oversee the signing of the political pledge committing to respect the laws and accept the outcome of the election.
Archbishop Tutu’s visit and the pledge signing marked a turning point in the election process. “Followers of some of these leaders were throwing rocks at each other a few days earlier, but the atmosphere now was relaxed and jovial,” he said.
“My number one priority at the UN is advising and supporting the Heads of Churches, so this event was one of the most rewarding of my career,” Kraybill said. He now continues in a follow-up role, with a goal to support unity and stability under the new coalition government and to facilitate the establishment of National Peace Architecture.
His involvements abroad in the past 20 years have included: providing mediation training in several African countries; setting up a peace building program in Hyderabad, India; three two-week trips to Burma to assist an emerging peace building effort; consultation and training for peace builders involved in the Naga conflict in Northeast India; training political and civil society actors in the Sri Lankan conflict; and advising and training a group convened by the UNDP to assist peaceful elections in Guyana.
Kraybill credits his experience at Goshen College for the direction of his life. “My years at GC were formative in putting a career in peacemaking on the map for me,” he said. “We were nearing the end of the peace movement in the ’70s, but at GC a conviction came through to me that we believed in more than being ‘antiwar.’ We were called to live toward a new way of being in all of life, grounded not just in politics, but also in spirituality and community. That conviction gave me the next steps on a path I still pursue.”
– Brian Yoder Schlabach ’07