What is a PeaceBuilder?

Daniel and daughterEveryone wants peace, but not everybody works for peace. how does a person move from a passive bystander who favors a peaceful world, to someone who intentionally works actively for justice and peace? To find out I talked to a Rwandan Quaker who's an indisputable peacebuilder.

Daniel Nteziyaremye is a 34 year old father of two young daughters. He speaks three languages and, like all Rwandans born before 1994, he's a survivor. As I learned from Palestinian Quakers: Hope is not a feeling, it is an action. Daniel's life shows that peacework includes your mind, heart and hands. But this story starts with a dark part of his life.

Surviving Genocide

During the genocide Daniel was exposed to dying-- he watched people riveted with fear, and witnessed hysterical grief. His Mom was stopped 6 times in 1994 by the Interhawme—they considered killing her just by her looks. As a 13 year old, Daniel and his siblings surrounded their Mom crying and hugging her. With this swarm of protesting children, the militia let her go, saying they'd finish her off next time.Read more

Rwandan Photos, February–March 2016

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What Do You Tell our Children?

imageTragedy is impossible to measure. It's the same for beauty. I sit in my backyard and hear above the graceful soar of the olive ibis. This bird, with a curved pointed beak and rasping call, has a dark beauty. When it speaks it can be heard for miles, Cahaw, Cahaw, Cahaw. The memory of Rwanda's horror is in this call, just as it is soaked into the brick-like soil-- it is etched on the back of my throat. Machetes worse than swords. A baby's blood running down the mother's arms. Legs that run, that hide, that run, that collapse in the hush of tall grass. It was 23 years ago. It was just yesterday. It was genocide.
The genocide memorials in Rwanda have an momument with the place for an eternal flame. Ntidigasubire- Never again. Is that a hope: is it a promise?
imageThe memorials are many; in Bisesiro, Gisenyi, Nyarubuye,... They host mass graves—here 35,000, there 12,000, over there 300,000. The sites are, for the most part, desolate. The guides are survivors with subdued voices. Standing at the edge is a sentinel with a big cap, rubbing his boot on the soil, blotting out something unspoken. The heinous acts at these memorials hang in the acrid air. The birds fly overhead--who will remember?Read more

The Dark Night of Trauma: Finding Light

imageRwanda and the USA have one thing in common—violence at home has erupted wildly in the last 30 years. Both countries need immense healing from trauma. You may think of healing as a soft, fuzzy kind of work. Trauma healing can be tender, but even more, it's tough work. This healing has a real impact on whether within our countries we stop murdering each other. Killings usually lead to trauma, and unhealed trauma leads to insecurity and often more violence. It's a huge deal which deserves our attention.

A research scientist, John Gottman, found that when our pulse rises 10 beats above normal, the rational part of our brain begins slipping out of gear. We start reacting from our reptilian brain. We literally start to 'loose it.' This happens if we're arguing about who uses the shovel, who cleans the dishes, who wins the presidential candidacy, struggles around disputed territory or fear from a terrorist attack.Read more

Umuganda Sustains Life

imageOn Saturday I took the 15-cent bus (moomoogee) down to Kigali center. I wanted to buy African fabric, but to my dismay, I found many stores closed--those local stores with hand-made items. Do you want to know why? Soon after President Kagame came to power, he instituted community meetings on the last Saturday of the month. The monthly Umuganda meetings are obligatory for all Rwandan adults. These meetings start at 9, include announcements, and then all do public work project.

Umuganda can be for building schools, digging ditches, or rebuilding widows' houses from mud huts to cement hygienic abodes happened. Umuganda has helped in the physical rebuilding and also the knitting together socially differing groups. Rwandans never refer to former ethnic groups. In recent years Umuganda focuses often on environmental projects: protecting erosion or the planting trees.

imageIn 2014, President Kagame called upon all Rwandans to join hands in eliminating the root causes of stunted growth in children through a program, Kitchen Gardens, supported by Umugandas. The proliferation of kitchen gardens across the country could see steady gains against nutritional deficiencies and malnutrition.Read more

Rwanda—Stand Up and Walk

imageRwanda is amazing. It rains every other day, mostly the sun beams on the papaya and jacaranda trees. We have power outages many days sometimes for an hour but usually shorter. Birdsong loudly blooms overhead or whenever a clutch of trees clings to the hillside. Flowers bloom all year round‚ lavender, red, yellow and magenta.

By 6am it's dawn in Kigali and you see people on the move. Besides language and smells, the roads, and city transport are challenging. I get up, tie my mosquito netting overhead, take a shower (sometimes even a hot shower). I go onto the back terrace for 20 minutes of yoga. Some mornings I'm out for a brisk walk, accompanied by birds whistles. I can understand the Rwandan bird chatter about as well as I understand Rwandans speech.

imageOn Sundays, Jonathan and I hurry through breakfast. We plan what songs we can sing. This takes discernment since Jonathan and I have different tastes in music. We can't just sing our Cuban Quaker songs. Songs that we have success with have lots of Aleluja choruses. Rwandans like Give me Oil in my Lamp; Day by Day (Godspell); some songs for grace. Once we were asked to give the message, or to pray aloud. Maybe next Sunday I will share this favorite Jesus story.Read more

Here We Are in Rwanda

imageRwanda spilled its greeting on us when we arrived at dusk in Kigale. We watched the vibrant shades of green turn to undulating shadows. The sun bowed below one of the many hills with its checkerboard of houses, corn fields and thickets of papaya/avocado/banana groves. Kigali had a rapacious beauty, a touch of wildness on the roads.

I am traveling this year with Jonathan—my beloved helpmeet, my conspirator (laughing at our many mishaps), and my traveling in the ministry companion. Eden Grace, working from Richmond Indiana calls this ministry of ours, those who visit as 'living letters' (2 Cor. 3:2) bearing testimony of truth and divine news of G-d at work.Read more