This June, QUNO was pleased to host a visit from Adrien Niyongabo, Coordinator of Healing and Rebuilding our Communities (HROC) in Burundi. HROC emerged from Alternatives to Violence, a conflict resolution program developed by Quakers and prisoners in the United States and Canada. Quakers in Burundi, recognizing the need for reconciliation and healing between Hutu and Tutsi communities, have been conducting three-day HROC workshops to help participants cope with trauma and restore relationships.
QUNO facilitated an informal meeting for Adrien with UN staff, diplomats, and nongovernmental organizations, to share his work and some of HROC’s achievements. Over lunch, Adrien elaborated on the workshops, explaining that HROC aims to achieve reconciliation at the individual level as well as the family and community levels, teaching participants how to deal with trauma, process strong emotions and grief, and rebuild trust. Participants are partnered with healing companions, to provide sustained support after the conclusion of the workshop. HROC also conducts follow-up projects to continue the reconciliation process. These include activities such as raising goats, selling water filters, and establishing micro credit groups that not only give resources to struggling families, but also continue the regular participant interaction necessary for repairing damaged relationships between Hutus and Tutsis. Adrien shared success stories, such as one in which Tutsis, after participating in a HROC workshop, went to a prison to bring food to and meet with Hutus who had killed the Tutsis’ family members.
Through programmatic work on peacebuilding in Burundi, QUNO has been working to connect local initiatives such as HROC to larger UN policy discussions. Burundi is currently embarking on the formation of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and QUNO is endeavoring to make sure that the voices of local actors who have been working on issues of reconciliation are heard in the process. Adrien was able to give recommendations to the UN participants, stressing the need for the national reconciliation processes to connect to this kind of work at the community level.