Fall 2002 Progress Report
An Exciting Possibility

Burundi - A Newborn

AVP Burundi

My Internship with THARS

News from AGLI workers

New THARS team members

THARS Staff changes


 By David Zarembka

    After the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, 120,000 people suspected of involvement in the genocide were imprisoned.  Eight years later, the vast majority remain.  The Rwandan judicial system was destroyed during the genocide and it was not capable of dealing with these large number of suspects.  Consequently after much discussion, the Rwandan Government decided to resurrect the traditional community court system called "gacaca" in Kiyarwandan (the language of Rwanda).  These courts were composed of a group of village elders who adjudicated minor cases such as boundary disputes.  The elders listened to the evidence, decided the guilt, and imposed restitution which restored justice to the community.

   The newly reconstituted Gacaca courts with nineteen judges elected by the community will determine the guilt and fair punishment for those prisoners who played only a minor part in the genocide.  These might include those who looted the property of those killed during the genocide or participated in killing someone at the command of government authorities.  There are 9,000 gacaca courts are the lowest level and 1500 courts on the higher level!  This is a bold experiment in trying to put Humpty-Dumpty back together again so that peaceful coexistence becomes possible between the perpetuators of the genocide and their families, the survivors of the genocide, and the many bystanders.  Revenge, intimidation, hostility, anger, and hurt must all be dealt with in a way that heals the society.

    The African Great Lakes Initiative had already trained fifteen AVP facilitators in Rwanda.  The Quakers in Rwanda were very concerned about the fact that many of those imprisoned for eight years would return to society perhaps still with violent, anti-social thoughts and behaviors.  Consequently AGLI and AVP-Rwanda had developed a proposal to hold five basic AVP workshops with the so-to-be-released prisoners, an evaluation, and then twenty-four more workshops in Kigali, Kigali Rurale, Ruhengeri, and Kibungo.  AVP-Rwanda is awaiting sufficient funding ($20,971) and Governmental approval to begin.

    On July 16, an AFSC delegation to Africa including myself met with Aloysie Cyanzayire, the head of the Supreme Court's Gacaca Department who would be implementing these 10,500 courts.   After she described the Gacaca system to us and we described the work of the AFSC around the world, David Bucura, General Secretary of Rwanda Yearly Meeting and the AVP-Rwanda coordinator, reported what the AVP facilitators were planning with the prisoners.  Her immediate reaction was that AVP should be holding workshops for the gacaca judges.  So AVP would be working with the judges in addition to the suspects!  What an exciting possibility

    Later I discussed the possibilities with David and other AVP facilitators and we recommended that we start with three basic workshops for the gacaca department staff and then twenty-four workshops.  We thought we would start by taking three or so members from six gacaca in order to do one AVP workshop with twenty participants.  But clearly some of these people would ask AVP to hold workshops for all their gacaca judges.

    In our discussions, it became clear that fifteen facilitators who were already trained were not near enough for the programs we envisioned.  AGLI would have to give additional training to their best facilitators so that they could lead advanced and training for facilitator workshops and mentor apprentice facilitators.  We proposed another international team to come for four weeks to do two advanced and two training for facilitator workshops, training the best four Rwandan facilitators to continue after the international team left.  We also realized that the basic AVP manual would have to be translated into Kinyarwandan.  David Bucura proposed that three of the facilitators who knew English well would translate the relevant parts of the manual and then all the facilitators would review the work to look for weak areas of translation.

    This all implies a budget of $54,000 to launch this exciting AVP program.  Please pray with AGLI and AVP-Rwanda that we can seek and find sufficient funding for this opportunity.


BURUNDI: AVP Has Got a New-born


    It is a very age-old tradition to announce to ones relatives and friends that one’s family has got a new-born. There is a difficult choice of the exact words to blaze abroad such a good and happy news. Imagine how many times parents have written to their friends and relations. Imagine again how difficult the choice of the words to encode such a small message has usually been.

    In short, the Drane Family Fund have done it. Through a kind dowry they paid, sorry, they donated to a "couple" of three facilitators: Peter Yeomans , AVP name, AMAHORO (Peace) Peter, Carolyn Keys, named CREATIVE Carolyn (American citizens) and George Walumoli named GREAT George (a Ugandan citizen), the Alternative to Violence Project (AVP) family is extending to Burundi and hopefully to the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

    In a 5-week period, the three above named facilitators trained about fifty participants in Bujumbura and Gitega, respectively the capital and the second town of Burundi. Fifteen new facilitators graduated and have voluntarily committed to join actively the AVP family. The last three-week workshops were held at the Guest House of Ministry for Peace and Reconciliation under the Cross (MIPAREC), in Gitega.

    The story of AVP in Burundi will actually sound nice, since it portrays a good meeting for peace in the Great Lakes region torn by strife and wars. Among the recently trained facilitators, whose majority is made of Burundians, there were three Congolese from DRC. In a friendly, lovely and atmosphere of brotherhood, the participants shared their life experiences and were pleasantly surprised to be aware that the Transforming Power is inside any person and may make any person pledge to peace building.

    Thanks to the different gatherings they coped with in the basic and the advanced workshops, participants got opportunities to reflect on the daily life of people in the Great Lakes region in general, and in Burundi and DR Congo in particular. In these two countries, the daily ‘blowing wind’ is violence. Many suggestions and lessons were drawn from all the topics discussed during the training and many attempts to contextualise the applying of ‘I messages’ have been risen. The mandala and the guides to Transforming Power have been ‘sacred’ as important tools for an AVP facilitator on one hand, and for any peace builder on the other hand.

    The knowledge bestowed to participants and mainly to the new facilitators are expected to be used as consciousness weapons to face the strong and terrifying guns of hatred, injustice, fear, corruption, contemptuousness, covetousness war, in brief, of violence.

    The expectations of the AVP above named ‘parents in Burundi’ as well as those who contributed to the programme running have clearly been felt by the participants: to have the Burundi as well as the DRC teams, probably likewise twins, root AVP in their countries, grow and join the great AVP family all over the world for peace building. This will provide more happiness and satisfaction to friends who are involved in peace and those who devoted to funding this programme.

    The new born will be proud of making these teachings well-known and handy to all people, victims, and agents of violence so as a common ground may be set to build a peaceful world. This is the fruit that a 5-week programme is expected to afford to communities for a behaviour change and the well being of and for all.

    This announcement to all, we hope, demonstrates a search for identity and awareness of this new AVP family member; and is an expression of gratefulness to the voluntary commitment of our elders in America and Uganda. It is also a thankful motion to all of you who remain unknown and are reading this issue. Pray for the new born, for his upbringing and spread this message. We wish to hear from you.


AVP-Burundi:  Comments by Peter Yeomans, Facilitator

    After the second day of a workshop, a participant approached me and asked to speak with me after dinner.  We met alone later than evening.  He told me how excited he was about what he was learning and that even after the first day he had begun to apply it at home.  He was recently married, and his wife had lost many family members during the conflict.  When he married her, he knew she had been affected by these events, but he realizes now that he had no idea just how much she was still struggling with it.  In just the first day of the workshops, he had heard so many ideas and practiced certain activities that he felt would be very helpful for this wife.  He wanted to talk about how he could adapt some of what we were doing in the workshop into his interactions with her at home.  He was so excited and completely charged up with optimism and enthusiasm that he was discovering new tools that he could really use to help her to heal and to deepen their relationship.  In particular, he wanted to focus on affirmations and active listening.  The next night, I asked him how it was going, and he said that his wife had said she had noticed something different about him, but that she wasn’t yet sure what it was!! This man’s testimony was so genuine and profound, I told him how much he was making me a believer in the value and power of AVP.

    In Burundi people have suffered terrible violence and will continue to be confronted with moments when they must make difficult choices as to how to respond to future threats or aggression and/or the desire for revenge.  The wrong choice will only perpetuate the cycle of violence that has raged out of control in this country and that has been manipulated by political elites.  AVP puts a crack into the mind of someone who is at present unable to see what the alternative choices can be.  Similarly, many people in the workshops described situations when they wanted to intervene in a situation but feared that they would then become a victim - the risk and danger of intervention as a third party.  AVP helps people find new and creative ways to intervene and negotiate these dangerous moments.  In a society where status and hierarchy run deep, AVP plays a powerful role as it challenges that hierarchy and helps people to realize the power they already have that exits within themselves. 

    to something with which it is appropriate to be somewhat challenging of and irreverent to.  This came clear to me as I listened to participants many times simultaneously cautioning us to respect their culture and saying that they wanted to learn new and different ways because they feel that the causes of the violence they have suffered is rooted in some of their cultural norms.  This helped me see culture much more as dynamic, always in need of respect and understanding as it exists, but always changing slightly in response to that which it encounters.  This was a very valuable lesson for me.

    I continue to appreciate and value the role of Evangelical church.  Last year, in Rwanda much of the Evangelical practice was quite unfamiliar to me and incited minor judgments in my thoughts.  This year, I felt much more akin to some of the practices and rituals I see in this church.  As I continue to hear about the faith and power and hope that church affiliation has provided people during and after some of the most desperate times, I am increasingly appreciate of it.  Irregular prayer has entered my life where there was once no room for it, thanks to two months now of praying before eating and often before making a journey somewhere.

    Another high point was the workshop the new facilitators did in the prison in Gitega.  These participants had no idea what they were getting into, but it took them only minutes to realize how unusual it was, and to become very moved and excited by it.  Our first major activity was the Affirmation Exercise.  In the debrief, a few immediately shed tears, and many others commented that they had not felt such joy in all the time that they had been in prison.  Whenever we played a Light and Lively or activity involving particular extroversion, the windows of our little room filled with other inmates from the prison yard who wanted to find out what was going on.

    Lastly, a high point was watching the trainees in the evening as they worked so hard to prepare their half day of facilitation for the next day.  Late into the evening, people were planning, discussing, preparing posters, and reading over activity descriptions.  No one was taking it lightly; everyone wanted to do as competent a job as possible.  The fruits of their labor were evident the following week, as I watched the glow of satisfaction on their faces as they listened to the response of their participants to the first activities that they had just facilitated.


My Internship with THARS

By Crystal Waitekus

    At the Quaker Leaders Scholars Center at Guilford College I picked up one of the Friends Peace Teams “Progress Reports”.  It brought to my attention the work of Quakers in Africa.  Through several months of communication and consultations, I was able to arrange a volunteer internship at THARS for 2 ½ months this summer.  I have held other internships in the past and traveled to many other countries, but I certainly knew that this time in Africa would be like no other.  At the office, I was constantly challenged by a wide variety of duties.  For example, I assisted team members in writing a new international gift giving policy, a trainee medical bill policy, developed business cards, gave computer lessons, played hostess for many international visitors, and developed a new preparation and orientation sheet for all those visitors yet to come.  I was even able to attend several networking and business meetings with governmental organizations and NGO’s such as the UN, USAID and Search for Common Ground.  It was eye opening to see and participate first hand in how a fledging NGO such as THARS operates

   I think one of my most treasured memories during the internship was the day we opened our first “Listening Room” in Bujumbura.  Despite such short notice, there was wonderful attendance, we had the Friends choir sing and drum, a ribbon was cut, and I helped serve Fantas and food to all the guests.  I can’t even begin to tell you how much joy it gave me just to serve these people and to see their smiles as many of them looked up in bewilderment and saw an Mzungu (white person) asking them what they would like to eat and drink. When I think back on it, I realize it may possibly have been one of the few times they experienced a white person waiting on them.

    Even if I do not return to Burundi in the near future, it is my hope that through this initial internship at THARS the door may be opened for future interns.


News from AGLI workers

On July 21, THARS opened its first of five listening centers where trauma victims and others will be counseled in private.  David Zarembka, AGLI Coordinator, helped by cutting the ribbon at the public ceremony where David Niyonzima, David Zarembka, Charles Berahino, and Adrien Niyongabo described THARS’s work to those assembled.

Margaret White, a psychologist from Montclair Monthly Meeting, spent almost three weeks in Burundi helping with a workshop in Ruyigi (where she had to fly on a UN sponsored plane due to fighting that closed the roads) with the Search for Common Grounds Women’s Center.  Later she worked with children in Bujumbura and THARS’s Circle of Sisters.

In June Val Liveoak (Co-Clerk of Friends Peace Teams) and George Walumoli (Uganda) led an advanced AVP workshop in Bujumbura.  Seven participants were supposed to come from up-country, but the road to Gitega was closed due to fighting.  Nonetheless one participant went an extra 100 kilometers to travel around the area of fighting in order to get to Bujumbura to attend the workshop.

With a request from Fanuel and Dorcas Simidi from Bware Yearly Meeting in Kenya, Val Liveoak, George Walumoli, and Alyssa Erickson, a young AVP facilitator from Minnesota, led a basic AVP workshop with participants from various sometimes conflicting ethnic groups—Luhya, Luo, Massai, and Kuria.


New THARS Team Members:

Christian Stolz, 25, grew up in NJ. He currently lives in St. Louis, MO, where he has spent two years as theCoordinator of the St. Louis Economic Conversion Project, a small non-profit organization that conducts research and education on military and foreign policy issues. A graduate of St. Lawrence University, he has worked with Habitat for Humanity in Fiji and Nicaragua, and spent several months studying in Kenya in 1999.

Emily Brotherton, 24, has traveled throughout the United States & Europe, and spent 4 months studying in Kenya.  After graduating from Washington University in St. Louis, she has been the Office Manager of the National Farm Worker Ministry in St. Louis.

Christian & Emily met in Kenya.  They married in a barn in Nashville, TN on a 30 degree night in February 2001.


Changes in Staff of THARS

In May, David Niyonzima has completed his Master’s in Counseling from George Fox University in Oregon and has returned to Burundi to take over the coordination of THARS.  AGLI would like to thank Cassilde Ntamamiro for the twenty months she initiated and coordinated the work of THARS.   She will continue her ministry through The Solidarity Clinic Project which will combat HIV/AIDS in Burundi.

Carolyn Keys will be finishing her twenty-five months of assignment with the Burundi Peace Team on October 31, 2002.  After an extensive search, recruitment, and selection process, AGLI has chose two people, Christian Stolz and Emily Brotherton, to take her place (see short bios on left).  They will go to Burundi on September 23 in order to have more than a month of overlap with Carolyn Keys.  Carolyn plans on spending some time in Europe on her way home from Burundi, visit Friends in the New Jersey area, and then spend Christmas with her family in St. Croix, Virgin Islands.  She is still discerning her long range plans.


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