African Great Lakes Initiative’s Burundi Trauma Healing and Reconciliation Center by David Zarembka
The Situation in Burundi Great optimism was generated in January, 2000, when, after Julius Nyerere died, Nelson Mandela agreed to chair the Burundi Peace talks in Arusha. To date, however, Mandela’s magic has not brought peace to Burundi. Ironically, the peace negotiations have increased the violence in Burundi. Various members of the seventeen factions taking part in the talks and the two major factions not taking part in the talks are trying to gain the upper hand in the negotiations by launching attacks against Burundian government soldiers or civilians caught in the middle. After strong international condemnation of the forced resettlement of 350,000 Burundians near Bujumbura in September, 1999, the fifty-plus camps are slowly being closed.
Nelson Mandela understands the urgency of bringing the peace process to a conclusion. A forum organized by the US Institute for Peace entitled “Burundi at the Brink” is an added reminder of just what is at stake and where the Burundi situation is at. On my van is my favorite bumper sticker: “War is Costly, Peace is Priceless.” Burundi illustrates the wisdom of this saying.
The Burundi Trauma Healing and Reconciliation Center Burundi Yearly Meeting is in the process of selecting their team members for this project. Cassilde Ntamamiro, a nurse and a Friend, who is currently a student at the recently opened Great Lakes School of Theology in Bujumbura, will help in the planning and development of the Burundi Trauma Healing and Reconciliation Center. She worked for eighteen years with Burundi’s Ministry of Health, setting up the country’s family planning program. She resigned from the Ministry of Health to attend the Theological School and is holding workshops to help people play a role in the slowing down of the spread of AIDS in Burundi. Together with David Niyonzima, the General Secretary of Burundi Yearly Meeting, she is developing plans for the Center.
Rachel Fretz, a member of the AGLI’s Working Group and Pacific Yearly Meeting’s representative to the Friends Peace Teams Project, has been given a grant by Santa Monica Friends Meeting to visit Burundi and the Congo, where she formerly did research. She will help develop the three-month in-country training in Burundi and a week’s inservice for the two international team members here in the United States. John Calvi, also a member of AGLI’s Working Group and a released Friend involved in healing, will give a two-day orientation on trauma work to the international team members.
After an inservice week in the United States, the international team members will go to Burundi about October 1 to join the two Burundian team members for three months of training there, followed by three months of training in trauma and reconciliation work in South Africa. In short, the Center, proposed when the January 1999 AGLI delegation visited Burundi Yearly Meeting, is progressing according to plan.
The Selection of the International Team Members Approximately thirty people inquired about the positions and seven completed applications. These were circulated to the twenty-three members of AGLI’s Working Group and Consultative Group and their advice led to the interview of four of the applicants. The following were quickly selected:
Carolyn Keys, 58, is a seasoned Friend from Montclair Monthly Meeting in New Jersey. She is clerk of her meeting’s Ministry and Oversight Committee and clerk of New York Yearly Meeting’s Friends Committee on Black Concerns. She has two adult children. She has been a social worker her whole life and is currently working in trauma/brain injury research. She lived in St. Croix in the Virgin Islands for 19 years. She states, “My career will not be complete without some service abroad and the Burundi Trauma Healing and Reconciliation Center is of particular interest because it is consistent with the work I have done up until now.”
Brad Allen, 25, is the son of Free Methodist missionaries who worked in Burundi and Bakavu, Congo. Thus he grew up in Burundi, the Congo, and Kenya, knows Swahili quite well, understands the culture of the area and has kept up on the political developments in the Great Lakes Region. He has been working at a residential treatment facility for out-of-control young people, most who have been traumatized by their upbringing. He presently lives in Grand Rapid, Michigan.
that such a balance of youth/wisdom, male/female, professional/African
Great Lakes experience, Quaker/non-Quaker makes for an especially strong
team from the United States. We bless them as they begin this exciting,
yet most challenging endeavor.
For related earlier articles see: