Does the generation now in their 20s, born after the genocide, concern themselves with peace and justice? Peacebuilding is more than non-violence. Nor is it an individual endeavor. To work for peace (inside and out) is to work for your salvation. Rwanda Friends, like many churches around the world are loosing their young people. They move away from churches trying to get an education, to get a job, or to explore where they can most use their talents. Some stop coming to church at age 13 (sound familiar?) and more leave after high school at 18.
A few Rwandan Friends sought antidotes to the youth diaspora in the Quaker church. They saw young people who held little hope, many not having enough money to pay for school, 14 year olds dropping out of school. Some youth wonder what happened to uncles, or grandmothers or their cousins. At family reunions young people felt gaping holes, and few Rwandans explain why older cousins were killed, or why uncles were in prison.
When does hopelessness and despair morph into depression or vandalism? How does a loving community address despair in a 16 year old? The Rwandan Friends, including some youth leaders, decided to launch a program for young people called HIPP—Help Increase the Peace Program. We raised about $8,500 from American and Norwegian Friends to offer 8–12 workshops in Rwanda. Rwandans hope to reach 100 youth in their meetings (70+ local Friends Churches here). We have trained 10 youth (23-34 years old) to help lead these trainings. Now they will spread out, 2 by 2, into the countryside reaching as many Quaker youth as possible.
Three characteristics of HIPP. First, peacework is spiritual work. An Indian Jesuit, Anthony de Mello asks, “do you know where wars come from? They come from projecting outside of us the conflict that is inside. Show me an individual in whom there is no inner self-conflict and I’ll show you an individual in whom there is no violence.”
Here’s what the youth said about the HIPP workshop with 22 youth in Musanze:
- “I like the “I-message” so much where I focus on my side of the problem, without blaming.”
- “I like the games very much like ‘Jailbreak’, ‘Elephant and Skunk’ and ‘Crossing the River.’ I laughed hard when that small man had to jump on the back of the tall one, to be carried across the river. He almost fell in to be eaten by a crocodile.”
- “I like the methodology, looking at the Trees of Violence and the Tree of Peace. I like asking questions and the Deep Listening.”
- “I learned about my own Conflict Style, how to offer respect. I’m thinking of visiting others– what it means to be together and build community.”
- “I thought about simplicity—what I need is different that what I want.”
Peacebuilding is different than non-violence. Sometimes one works to eliminate violence, but building peace is so much more. It is to take a hammer, and a bell, and a song and create God’s reign on Earth. It includes grace. Resolving conflicts makes a pathway to liberation.
Thirdly, Gustavo Gutierrez asserts that liberation “gets to the very source of social injustice, forms of human oppression and reconciles us with God and our fellow human beings.” To sin is to break part of our beloved community. This community includes the land and living forms. And once we find this freedom, and leave sin behind, what can we do with such freedom? Gutierrez concludes, “Free to love,” adding that “to liberate mean to give life.”
Building peace is always spiritual, hopeful and liberating. Believe it or not, two f/Friends from Hartford, Connecticut, USA have been collaborating with the Rwanda Education Board to train Rwanda public school teachers in HIPP. Two years ago, Diane and Donn Weinholtz, members of the Hartford Friends Meeting, worked with 40 Rwandan teachers who came to the University of Hartford for a month to learn about teaching English as a second language, instructional design, and peace education (HIPP) in schools. Since then, they have traveled multiple times to Rwanda and given HIPP workshops to over 700 teachers. So by 2017 Rwandan Friends and schools will be immersed in HIPP. A shout-out to Hartford Friends, Diane and Donn, for their labor of love teaching HIPP in Rwanda.
Young Friends here say, “Yes I will come back because it is very important to me, and I want so much to train my friends.” “HIPP changed me and I hope I can get more training and knowledge to learn how to behave in our society.” Please email me if you want a fuller report or to give a donation to HIPP.
This article was first published on Minga Claggett-Borne’s blog, Pedals and Seeds