Quakers in the World

Quakers in the World

HROC (Healing and Rebuilding Our Communities)

In the latter part of the 20th century, the neighbouring countries of Rwanda and Burundi both experienced devastating internal conflict between their Hutu and Tutsi communities. In Burundi there were many eruptions of communal violence, predominantly Tutsi on Hutu. In Rwanda there were also many conflicts, predominantly Hutu on Tutsi, but violence there came to a terrible peak in 1994, when hundreds of thousands of Rwandans were killed during an 8-week period, now known as the Rwandan genocide. In both countries, many people were left deeply traumatised and in great need of healing.

In 2003 Rwandan and Burundian Friends began to develop HROC (pronounced He-Rock) in response to this need, with considerable support from AGLI (African Great Lakes Initiative).

There had already been considerable Quaker work on trauma healing in Burundi.  Two people who later played formative roles in HROC were part of this. Burundian Friend Adrien Niyongabo spent three months in 1999 at the Quaker Peace Centre in Capetown, learning about trauma healing. US Friend Carolyn Keys, an expert in the field, worked in Burundi between 2000 and 2002 on a trauma-healing programme.

Rwandan Friend David Bucura could see the value of the work in Burundi, and its potential for Rwanda. In response to his request, AGLI held a month long workshop in Rwanda, in  2003. The facilitators were Adrien Niyongabo and Carolyn Keys. Participants created the essence of HROC during that month - a set of key principles, and a plan for a 3-day workshop for 10 Tutsi and 10 Hutu participants. Rwandan Friends were enthused, and immediately set up a committee to oversee 25 pilot workshops, all led by Adrien.

The six 6 HROC principles were, and still are:
  1. In every person, there is something that is good.
  2. Each person and society has the inner capacity to heal, and an inherent intuition of how to recover from trauma.
  3. Both victims and perpetrators of violence can experience trauma and its after effects.
  4. Healing from trauma requires that a person’s inner good and wisdom is sought and shared with others. It is through this effort that trust begins to be restored.
  5. When violence has been experienced at both a personal level and a community level, efforts to heal and rebuild the country must also happen at both the individual and community level.
  6. Individual healing from trauma, and building peace between groups, are deeply connected. It is not possible to do one without the other. Therefore, trauma recovery and peace building efforts must happen simultaneously.

The pilot HROC workshops had the following structure:
Day 1: learning about the nature of trauma, its causes and effects.
Day 2 (the heart of the workshop): each participant expressed their own trauma, and listened to everyone else: many tears were shed. It became evident that both victims and perpetrators were traumatised by the terrible killings: for both groups the act of bringing out their own trauma, and listening to those of others, was often a profound learning and healing experience that released some of the hurt.

Day 3 (building trust): participants constructed trust and mistrust ‘trees’, identifying their perception of the roots, branches and fruits of each.  Pairs of one Hutu and one Tutsi, engaged in activities that required trust, such as the ‘trust walk’, where one of each pair led their blindfolded partner safely around various obstacles and up and down steps.

This broad structure for the basic workshop has continued ever since, adapted for many different contexts. Adrien Niyongabo took HROC back to Burundi, and led an extensive programme there. AGLI has used HROC in North Kivu (DRC),  and Kenya, and with the Twa (a small minority group that is neither Hutu nor Tutsi). It has also been effectively used in contexts where traumas are more family/work/community based, and notably with HIV+ women.

As well as the basic workshop there are follow-up workshops in which participants tell each other about the effect on their lives.  Community celebrations often follow, in which participants explain what has happened to them, along with singing and dancing and, in Burundi, much drumming. AGLI has trained many facilitators (known as Healing Companions) both within the original countries, and now internationally. HROC-Burundi has extended its follow-up workshops into training some HROC beneficiaries to build and install bio-sand water filters to enable their communities to have clean water. This is an invaluable service in itself and it also helps returners to reintegrate.

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