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Editorial Comment

Why We Should “Love Thy Neighbor”
By Angela Forcier

Why I Do What I Do: Life in Bududa, Uganda
By Barbara Wybar

HROC and the Batwa Ethnic Group in Rwanda
By Theoneste Bizimana

Living Abundantly
By Deborah Dakin

A Bumpy Road to Mediation By George Brose

Applying These Teachings: Testimonies from Congo
By Zawadi Nikuze

By David Zarembka

Reaching a Common Reconciliation
By Adrien Niyongabo

Welcome Back
By Dorcas Nyambura



Reaching a Common Reconciliation
By Adrien Niyongabo

AGLI has been supporting Healing and Rebuilding Our Communities (HROC) workshops in Burundi since 2002. Mutaho is an up-country community where the HROC program has been very active since the beginning. This is a report about one recent three day workshop which illustrates the effects it can have on people and the community.

A HROC workshop took place on May 13-15, 2008 in Rurengera, Burundi. This workshop featured next door neighbors from the Hutu community mixed with Tutsi who had originally come from that same community but some of whom are now staying in Mutaho IDP camp. 21 participants – 10 men and 11 women – attended with five facilitators conducting the workshop – Joseph Ngendakumana, Sebastien Kambayeko, Dorcas Ndagijimana, Pascasie Nduwimana, and Eraste Ndikumana.

On day one, the participants did not want to express themselves so much and some could not even smile or laugh. As the workshop went on, they started not to fear each other any more and their faces became brighter.

When we entered in the “Loss, Grief and Mourning” session at the beginning of the second day, tough matters came to the surface. We need to remember that all these participants know each other because they belong to the same community even though some are now staying in the IDP camp. In fact, whatever was done or happened to one of them was almost known by everybody. That is why the sharing became so fluid and deep. They mentioned their relatives who got killed, their belongings which got stolen or destroyed in 1993. It was expected that a workshop of this kind would be emotional as folks are gathered close to where the horrible events took place. Consequently, the facilitators provided needed services for those who struggled with their emotions.

There were two participants, one from the IDP camp – a Tutsi woman – and another from the village – a Hutu man – who conjointly asked for more time to work on the issue that was between them since the 1993 war. Here is their story: When the war started, the Hutu man came to the Tutsi family. He had been sent by a group of other Hutu who were hunting Tutsi to check if there were Tutsi males hiding in the house, especially the brother-in-law of the Tutsi woman. If there were any males found, he was to capture them and take them to the group of Hutu who were killing the Tutsi. So, when he arrived in front of the house, he pushing roughly on the door, his eyes open like a monster. The woman and her kids got terribly frightened. Shocked by the act and trying to protect the kids, the woman took her hoe as a weapon and went to fight against the man. As he was too strong, he took away the hoe and started beating her. Letting her rolling on the ground, he checked in the rooms and nobody else was found. He went back furious!

These were now the two people meeting, after all these years, in the workshop. Well, these two folks asked for a special time and they were taken to another location for more privacy with one of the facilitators leading the dialogue. They finally succeeded in reaching a common reconciliation. It was with big smiles that they came back to join the group, sharing with the rest of the group that they are healed from carrying such a big burden for years. Then, there was another shivering that occurred in the room when it was revealed that it was Pastor Sebastien (a Tutsi and HROC facilitator) whom the man had been hunting that time and he now was among the facilitators of that workshop!

On the last day of the workshop, participants were more open, joyful, and interactive. They even expressed that they would feel happy to stay for one more day. Below are some of the many quotes from participants.

- These teachings have helped me so much for I had become careless because of what I lost. I could not undertake any activity that would inquire effort from me for I was saying that there was no need. Since the war took away my dear loved ones, I decided to get drunk every single day. It is painful, I tell you! It is now that I have been in this workshop that I stopped this bad behavior because I understood what was wrong with me. I promise you that I am going back to work instead.

- Every single night I came home, my wife and kids had to hide themselves. Breaking the pot on fire (before the food would be ready) had become my easy thing to do. You know, I deprived several meals to my family. I am ashamed! It is time for me to change and I am going to do it. I want to be a tree of trust for my family. More, I will tell those with whom I shared beer to stop and plant the tree of trust.

- The time I spent in this workshop will remain unforgettable for me. Those I used to fear have been the ones I talked to, shared food with and, at the end, we were good friends. It is possible to rebuild again our neighborhood as people who remained in the village and those who are in the IDP camp.

- The example from our two friends touched my soul so deeply that I feel I want to put forth my own story, too. When the war was hot and we were fleeing in the bushes, a Hutu woman told me: “Why are you still tying that evil child on your back?” Meaning that the child is evil because I am a Hutu and my husband is Tutsi and therefore the child is considered a Tutsi. “Take him down and throw him away!” Did she forget that he was my child? Did she mean that my loving husband was evil? Since that time, I decided not to be with that woman and had been holding such hatred and anger against her. But, this workshop taught me how to let it go. I want to meet with the woman and tell her how what she said wounded me and that I have been able to forgive.

We closed the workshop with a request from participants to be invited again. It was also asked that many workshops would be conducted for more people of Rurengera.

Next article: Welcome Back By Dorcas Nyambura