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Rwanda Bearing Witness Retreat 2010: Pre-Retreat Preparations

Rwanda Bearing Witness Retreat Pre-Retreat Preparations in Rwanda April 9 & 10

We arrived in Rwanda on Thursday evening and just finished a whirlwind tour of meetings with a number of our Rwanda retreat partners, government agencies and NGO’s who are the major players in the healing, reconciliation and genocide prevention work here in Rwanda. It is amazing to see the progress the Rwanda people have made in reinventing themselves and their country as a unified people and nation. By their own admission, they have a long way to go in healing the deeply traumatized populace. The tragedy of the 1994 genocide in Rwanda has produced one of the most phenomenal social experiments in conflict transformation and healing, with victims, survivors and genocide perpetrators living side by side in villages and neighborhoods throughout Rwanda. On Friday, we met with Dr. Simon Grasibirege, a psychologist and retired professor doing amazing healing work with survivors and perpetrators, conducting deeply transformational healing workshops throughout Rwanda and trainers others to facilitate his unique process, which is very similar to our Peacemaker Institute integral peacemaker training work. We also met with Javier Forongo and other leaders of UBUKA, an NGO that serves as the umbrella network for survivors organizations and projects throughout Rwanda. UBUKU plays a large role in organizing the commemoration activities during the 100 day annual commemoration period throughout Rwanda, commemorating the 100 days of genocide, that began on April 6, 1994. The official government commemoration week began last Tuesday and ends this Tuesday. We will participate in the closing ceremonies as part of our retreat.

Friday morning we met with Rev. John Ngabo, director of the Evangelica Prison Fellowship organization. Rev. John, who was formally a prison chaplain in the Congo, has been doing restorative justice and victim offender reconciliation work with release prisoners and victims and survivors throughout Rwanda. His team of 15 volunteers visits prisoners in 10 of 16 Rwandan prisons. For many years most of the prisoners were convicted of genocide crimes. Now since many of those have been released, the prisoners they work with are a mix of those convicted of genocide crimes and other more common criminal offences. We then met with Mr. Jean de Dieu Mucyo, Executive Secretary of the National Commission for the Fight Against Genocide and later with Dr. Jean Baptiste Habyalimana, Executive Secretary of the Natonal Commission for Unity and Reconciliation, and his staff. Through these amazing encounters we have been receiving a crash course in the activities and progress of the reconciliation and genocide prevention work here in Rwanda.

We will begin our retreat tomorrow, Sunday, participating with UBUKA in the walk and memorial commemorating the refugees abandoned by the U.N. forces at the Technical School and drive to a garbage site where they were slaughtered. Today at the site there is a memorial and several mass graves with the remains of over 4000 victims. The names of those they have been able to identified are still being inscribed on walls facing the memorial and gravesite.

References: (National Commission for the Fight Against Genocide) (National Commission for Unity and Reconciliation) (IBUKA – Genocide Survivors Associaton)

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