Happy Easter, with love from Rwanda
Think change is impossible? Be inspired by these Change Poems written by courageous youth as part of activities at Peace Camp 2012.
I was… hopeless.
I remember… little children encouraged to kill.
I heard… people calling others animal names.
I saw… people mistreating their neighbours.
I worried… about the day after that.
I thought …it was the end of life.
But I want to change.
I am… built up with peace.
I think… of the world with love and peace.
I will try… to live in peace with myself.
I feel… so strong.
I forgive… all mistaken elders.
Now I can change.
I will… be a peace-builder.
I choose… to follow the bright side.
I dream… of making the world more peaceful.
I hope… to live in a wonderful place.
I know… I will make it in Jesus’ name.
I will change.
View Change Poems 2012 Presentation for more inspiring youth poems.
As we enter Holy Week, a time of intense sorrow but also incredible joy, we remember, reflect and celebrate the world’s greatest example of love and forgiveness – the death and resurrection of Jesus so that all can be reconciled to God and to each other. It’s a message of true peace. It starts with a personal choice to change.
The 1994 Genocide against the Tutsis occurred on the eve of the Easter season. Neighbour sat beside neighbour in church and then some went about brutally eliminating their neighbour. It’s a soul-wrenching reminder of the battle raging between good and evil in our world. Are we complicit? Complacent? Or are we committed to not being overcome by evil, but rather overcome evil by doing good? There are many youth in Rwanda who are committed to doing just that, to being peacemakers in whatever situation they find themselves in.
We believe it starts with treating each other with dignity, to listen, to show empathy, to help each other explore skills and talents. We encourage the use of the arts to stimulate creativity and sharing our stories, to discover common ground.
Photos: Johnny Lam Photography/A Peace of Life. All rights reserved.
Friday Fun Foto: Hello, BBA – welcome to the world! We’re pleased to announce the launch this Saturday, Mar. 12, of Basic Brilliant Africa (BBA) the very first student peace club at INATEK University, Kibungo, in eastern region of Rwanda. There’s going to be lots of singing and dancing!
If you’re in the area, don’t miss all the fun. Guest artists to perform include nationally known musicians as well as new artists from the grassroots, a new film, Maibobo (highlighting issue of street kids) by Almond Tree Films Rwanda and the gafotozi exhibit.
A peace of life is proud to be one of the participants and sponsors of this event.
Love 4 Life….youth at AEBR Kacyiru painted their own personal AIDS message of love and hope on t-shirts as part of World AIDS Day. Young women around the world continue to be among the most vulnerable. Youth shared their own challenges, from peer pressure to have sex to being coerced into prostitution when no other options seemed available to earn money for food or school. The day included frank discussion on how AIDS is transmitted, the ABCs of prevention, and the crucial issue of stigma that many still face.
Another highlight was the gafotozi display – pictures taken by orphans, two of whom did powerful photo essays on the personal impact of AIDS.
From fun and learning….our fun olypmpics (with sack races, water balloons, and other team challenges) and games on stigma (pictured below) reinforced unity, love and care for all people.
The day concluded with a song of hope, about God’s love for each person.
Meet the newest peace ambassadors in Rwanda…on our last day of peace camp we celebrated, danced, sang, prayed and said our good-byes…more photos and news about all of the events at camp will be posted shortly. It was a truly remarkable opportunity to bring 48 key youth representing 6 of the AEBR schools from across the country and we greatly thank all of our supporters for helping to make this happen.
Till our next posting, we leave you with one of the peace songs written and performed at camp.
p.s. Picture taken by one of the gafotozi, our “official camp photographers”
We had our first official showing of the gafotozi exhibit in Toronto the other night, along with the screening of Munyurangabo, an internationally acclaimed film which helped to launch the start of a young film-making company in Rwanda, Almond Tree Films Rwanda. We will be working with both our gafotozi (young/small photographer in kinyarwanda) and Almond Tree Films Rwanda, at our upcoming project, a youth peace camp, November in Nyange. Any donations, equipment or cash, greatly appreciated.
Like the photos? You can help send these talented young photographers to peace camp where we will be using the film, Munyurangabo, to create live, interactive dramas, to explore conflict and other issues presented in the film and create alternate endings and sequels to the story. Please consider making a donation today.
The gafotozi exhibit is on display all this week at Merchants of Green Coffee, 2 Matilda St., Toronto. Special thanks to Johnny Lam Photography and Merchants of Green Coffee for your interest and support of our film and photo night. Johnny, Morgan and Bria, you are fabulous.
We’d love to share the amazing work of these youth. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org for more info on booking your own showing.
“You have to see it to believe it.”
Perhaps that’s the best message a day like today offers, as people around the world celebrate International Day of Peace. A glimpse of what could be that captures the spirit and the imagination.
Maiden of Peace
It’s only fitting today to share the story of young *Chantal Mujawamahoro (maiden of peace in kinyarwanda) and her classmates at Nyange Secondary School in Rwanda. *not pictured
In 1997, three years after the official end of the genocide in Rwanda, militia rebels continued in their mission to wreak havoc. One night, they burst into a school classroom where students had just finished homework and evening prayers. They demanded that students separate into Hutu and Tutsi. Their intention was clear – to kill all the Tutsi students.
But Chantal refuses. “All of us are Rwandans here,” are her last words as she’s shot dead. Her courage and conviction inspire her fellow classmates, and they too refuse to separate. Rebels continue to fire and even use grenades. In another classroom, the same story, and the same brave response. All in all, 6 students lose their life, and 20 wounded, rather than betray their friends and classmates. I wonder what impact the selfless act of students had on the rebels, deep down inside?
Peace starts within
This incident highlights the deeply spiritual aspect to peace – for it involves the necessity to love and forgive at some point in order to break the spiraling cycle of evil, hate, revenge, guilt and shame.
The path to peace is not in what I do, but in what I believe; that affects what and how I do things. “The transformation that we should seek should not only be the transformation of our society, but also the transformation of our spirit because the inner transformation inspires the outer work…there is an intimate connection between our inner state and what we do in our outer spheres. This consistency is the foundation of being a fully integrated person.” (Peace Education: A Pathway to a Culture of Peace, by Centre for Peace Education)
“The fundamental principle of peace is a belief that each person is important,” notes Jean Vanier in his book, Living Gently in a Violent World. “The vision of Jesus was extraordinary… he entered into this world to love people as they are…saying to each one, “You are important. You are precious…There can be no peacemaking or social work or anything else to improve our world unless we are convinced that ‘the other’ is important.”
Nyange in November
When we stumbled across the story of Chantal and her classmates, we knew we had found the perfect location to hold our first youth peace camp this November. It will be in Nyange, at a school just a few miles away from the original site. We will also have one of the school survivors on hand to share their story. We will learn about conflict transformation, share personal stories, and even plant a peace garden for a lasting memorium.
Join us. Help encourage and inspire youth who are committed to working for peace in Rwanda. Make a donation today.
Upcoming Special Events in Toronto:
Oct. 2 – Bowl-a-thon
2 – 4 pm, Newton Brook Bowl A Rama, 5837 Yonge St., Toronto
Join New Faith Youth Ministry in their sweet quest to have fun and raise funds to help youth at risk in Rwanda, including those courageously dealing with HIV/AIDS, go to peace camp, an inititiave of a peace of life and AEBR Youth.
Oct. 5 – a peace of life photo exhibit and film night
7:00-9:30 pm., Merchants of Green Coffee, 2 Matilda St., Toronto
Join us for the screening of Munyurangabo, a beautiful film that was also the first feature film to be produced in kinyarwanda (with English subtitles). It presents some of the issues youth face today in peace and reconciliation. Also on hand: gafotozi – photo exhibit from our village workshop last November with youth at risk in Rwanda.
Admission: suggested donation of $5, or pay what you can. We are very grateful for the generous support of Merchants of Green Coffee for providing the space for this event. Our evening will include an opportunity to make a donation for the youth peace camp in Rwanda. For more info, please email email@example.com.
Note: Chantal Mujawamahoro (maiden of peace) truly lived up to her name. You can learn more about her story and what happened at her school in Catherine Larson’s book, As We Forgive: Stories of Reconciliation from Rwanda. Or check out the short film, “We are all Rwandans”.
Today is bitter sweet. Let’s start with sweet.
August 23 is the International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade and its Abolition, “an opportunity to pay tribute to the struggle led by the slaves themselves to recover their dignity and freedom,” reports UN News Service. “An uprising on the island of Santo Domingo on the night of 22-23 August 1791 led to Haiti’s independence – the first victory of slaves over their oppressors.”
But now for the bitter. August 23 , there are reports coming out of Democratic Republic of Congo of almost 200 women gang-raped by rebels, part of an ongoing campaign over the years to terrorize and intimidate thousands. It’s a tragic reminder that conflict in the region is far from over. It brings back haunting memories of the tens of thousands of women and young girls raped as a tactic in the Rwanda Genocide.
But sexual violence and exploitation is not just a tactic of warring rebels and genocidaires.
We hear stories of youth, male and female, who are being taken advantage of, often because they are orphans, living on their own, struggling to provide for their younger siblings. They lack a trusted adult presence, support and protection. When they do receive adult attention, it is often the wrong kind – offers of help or support in exchange for sexual favours. It’s such a common practice, there’s a name for it, shugar mami/shugar dadi, and it’s fueling the ongoing HIV crisis. Exploitation is one of the topics to be discussed at the peace camp. We will hear courageous stories from young women and young men who have somehow survived and risen above incredible challenges in their life.
That brings us back to the sweet.
Over 200 years ago, individual people acted, to stop slavery. It took a long time and included the efforts of those being oppressed and well as those benefitting in some way. It’s disturbing to know that somehow we support all kinds of injustice today in ways we can’t even imagine, through our global economy. But we can consider the actions of just a few of your average tea drinkers who started a simple act, to boycott sugar, as their small part to stop plantation owners and businesses and others who were participating in the inhumane practice of slavery. Their acts and commitment are inspiring. And eventually it helped bring change.
Today we have a very small, but similar opportunity. Take the One Sweet Challenge. Do one small thing or give up one small thing, and help us raise funds for a peace camp in Rwanda. Each act will make a difference because you will help to train, empower and encourage over 50 youth to be leaders among their peers in a region that struggles to rebuild not only from genocide, but also the silent devastation going on such as extreme poverty and AIDS. Learn more about the peace camp.
A little more about the featured photo and photographer: Claudine, one of our gafotozi, took this photo (see above) as part of her essay on sewing “because I wanted to show others that we can sew…we can do this and earn a good living.” The poster is near the sewing shop that she and several other youth have started by pooling their small savings together. They received skills and business training and support from Children of Hope, a remarkable program among child/youth-headed households, and one of their first contracts – to sew school uniforms for other orphans in the program.
It’s another Friday Fun Foto from Rwanda. Here’s looking at you, kid!
A little about the photographer: Olivier, one of our gafotozi, loves fixing things and wants to become a mechanic. He also loves his mom and baby niece who lives with them. Olivier’s mom says he has lots of courage. Perhaps that’s why he chose to explore the personal impact of HIV and AIDS on one family – his family – for his photo essay. Olivier lost his dad to this disease and now his mom is ill. He’s happy that she has access to antiretroviral treatment which can help her live a long time. Olivier says that his biggest hope is that life improves for his mom. Stigma is still difficult to deal with and that’s one reason why he wanted to focus on this issue.
You can also help his mom. Learn more about Guardians of Hope, a remarkable grassroots program among families most impacted by HIV and AIDS. Olivier’s mom attends one of these support groups and is greatly encouraged.
It’s Friday Fun Photo. Market day in Rwanda. Enjoy!
About the photographer: Anthony, another one of our gafotozi, explored his photo essay on “village life” with a trip to market. He is a top student at school and wants to become an architect. He is also deeply spiritual: “It is God who protects us in our bad conditions…is with us all the time…even though the problems are there, we pray.”
A little of Anthony’s story: Anthony fled with his mom and sister to Tanzania during the genocide. But in the refugee camp, he and his sister were abandoned by their mom. They eventually managed to return home and rejoin their dad who had remarried. They still don’t know what happened to their mom. Tragedy struck again, when their dad and step mom became sick and tested positive for HIV. His dad died a few months later but his step mom is alive today because of ARV treatment. Stigma was one of the hardest things to overcome: “At beginning, it was hard, people wondering, when they saw someone sick they would stay away. But now it is seen as a common problem.”
Hello Friday. Hello Fun Photo. Welcome to our new column. Each Friday we’ll feature a fun shot. Today’s photo was taken by Germaine, one of our gafotozi, as part of her essay, “the environment and our relationship”. It’s also one of the photos in our new postcard series, a peace of life in rwanda. If you’ve got business or travel contacts, we’d love to connect. Enjoy the photo – and have some fun today! It’s Friday!
A little more about our featured photographer today: Germaine (15 years old) loves nature and gardening and school. Her favourite subjects are biology and chemistry. On holidays, she likes to cultivate bananas to sell to help her mom. She says that she wants to become a doctor because “I see lots of sickness like malaria, AIDS, and parasites.” She lost her father and young brother (he was one year older than her) in the genocide and now lives alone with her mom.