photo: One of the large billboards around Rwanda warning youth of the danger of adults, shuga dadi and shuga mami, who give gifts in return for sexual favours.
Can we talk about sex, money and power?
What are you prepared to do to earn some money or to make sure that you stay in school? For many youth in Rwanda, the decision seems to be out of their control. Consider this story.
“I live with my sister and brother-in-law. My sister died and now he wants to always sleep with me. I cannot leave him before I finish my studies because he is the one who pays my school fees. So how can I live with him without conflict and without sleeping with him?”
Or how about this one. “We live in a horrible situation. My sister is a prostitute. I feel pressure to do this…I don’t know what to do.”
These are true stories.
Unfortunately, it’s not surprising to hear that 500 teen pregnancies were reported by schools in 2012. The number is higher. Many more have gone unreported. Some of these may be due to misguided young emotions or lack of proper sex education, but many are also the result of intimidation – teachers and others in position of authority or respect in the community abusing their power. “Sleep with me or you will be sent home from school.”
Then there are stories of youth violence, like a girl raped by friends of her boyfriend simply because she refused to have sex with him. And stories of exploitation – shuga daddies and shuga mammies taking advantage of youth, offering gifts of money, clothes, food, good times, cars, in return for some “loving” – a little sex for a little attention and nice things. There is no real love behind the shuga! Too many youth are selling themselves short and are at an increased risk of catching STDs and AIDS. God desires so much more for each one of these precious, young lives so full of potential. It starts with a love for God that helps us to love ourselves for who we are and then love others around us in healthy, respectful ways.
Abuse was a prominent theme in our first short film, Tears of Hope, created and performed by youth at one of our peace camps. It’s a powerful glimpse into the life of a young orphan taken in by a family. We thank Almond Trees Film Rwanda for helping us share this story. We hope it sparks more conversation. And to help youth know that they are not alone and that they have value and true love in God’s eyes. We hope they are empowered to realize their self worth, have personal dignity and treat others with respect.
We will continue to explore these and other issues facing youth today at the next peace camp including peer counselling and health sessions for more learning on healthy bodies, healthy minds, healthy relationships and the use of drama and the arts to be able to open up difficult dialogue.
It’s time to talk and listen to each other.
Help support this youth peace media initiative. Send a youth to peace camp.
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.
Congratulations to the latest graduates of peace camp offered annually by A Peace of Life in partnership with AEBR Youth! The most poignant and meaningful activity of Peace Camp 2012 was the day we visited the Kigali Genocide Memorial Centre (pictured above). It was a time to renew our commitment to work together to be a source of peace, hope and love in our world. After this deeply emotional day youth were encouraged to write reflections on their visit. We look forward to sharing some of their thoughts and writings in future blog postings.
Peace Camp 2012 brought together over 60 youth and camp leaders from across Rwanda as well as a team of youth leaders from neighbouring DR Congo and volunteers from Canada and Kenya. We enjoyed a jam-packed six days of interactive learning on conflict and conflict transformation, peer to peer counselling basics in mental health and trauma, art therapy, character development for radio scripts, and self-help group basics.
Our training involved a variety of hands-on-learning and games - including our very own peace olympics which featured team relays and challenges as well as an arts category with spoken word (peace poems) and dance presentations. Pictured: Dydine, one of our volunteer directors in Rwanda, was our “filmmaker in residence” at camp, capturing activities such as this peace poem performed on the last day of camp. Dydine is one of Rwanda’s up-and-coming talents and has started an organization, Umbrella Cinema Promoters, to empower and encourage more female participation in the film industry. We look forward to seeing more of her work and will be uploading some short clips on our YouTube channel in the coming months.
Popular night activities (besides staying up late in the dorms to talk!) included campfire night. Pictured left to right: Michel, our camp co-director, teaches William, our Kenyan volunteer, some Rwandan dance moves to the delight of campers. William also led a workshop on starting a self help group and shared some of his personal peace-building experience which includes food security and development in one of the most violent-prone and drought-striken regions of Kenya.
Another special night was the screening, in our makeshift outdoor theatre, of the latest short film, “Behind the Word,” by Clementine Dusabejambo, one of Rwanda’s rising stars in the film industry. She was on hand with other filmmakers of Almond Tree Films to answer questions and encourage youth to pursue their dreams and potential in the arts.
Pictured: Anthony, a former peace camper, returns as a leader. We were thrilled to have Anthony lead a session and share his personal experience in starting a peace club in his village. Anthony also facilitated an outdoor game that he learned this past year as part of trauma counselling training with pyschologist Paulette Baraka. We were also pleased to have Paulette join us once again to facilitate a session on spiritual and mental health after our visit to the Memorial Centre to help youth process their feelings. Read more about Anthony’s story
There’s so much more to report on from peace camp 2012, but that will have to wait till next month’s posting. Thanks so much to all of our donors and volunteers for making this event possible. You are terrific!
Photo credit (for all photos in this blog posting): Johnny Lam Photography
“Youth are a national treasure,” says Dydine Umunyana Shami, one of the volunteer directors affiliated with A Peace of Life in Rwanda. She took this photo on a visit to western province over the holidays. We agree and are very happy to feature it today as our Friday fun photo.
School’s out…and many youth in Rwanda are now home for the holidays. But large numbers of youth continue to miss out on the opportunity to complete secondary education or even vocational skills training – it remains too big a financial burden for many families. At our last peace camp, several youth shared the burden of lacking fees and were in tears at the thought of not returning to school in the new term. Poverty is one of the big challenges that youth face and that causes conflict and hardship. Some resort to desperate measures to stay in school or to earn a living. Some become vulnerable to abuse by those in positions of authority. These are just some of the issues we discuss at peace camp and incorporate into dramas, songs and dances as part of peace-building. At our upcoming camp, to be held the last week of November, teams of youth will be working on scripts, do a pitch to a team of “celebrity” judges, with the winning script and/or script characters to form the basis of a new radio drama to be written and produced by youth. We will also be learning more about social enterprise with youth pitching their best ideas to start a small, youth-led business. Stay tuned for more exciting news as plans progress. We’re looking forward to another great camp! Learn more about peace camp
About today’s photographer: Dydine is dedicated to peace-building and to developing the potential of youth in her country, and Africa in general. She recently attended an international conference on forgiveness, “Healing the Wounds of History”, in Kigali. She has also just launched a non-profit organization, Umbrella Cinema Promoters, to “bring the light to Africa through cinema”, and empower more young African women to become invovled in filmmaking. We look forward to featuring her very first short film on AIDS at the next peace camp, and having her as one of our trainers and peer mentors. Dydine will help youth work on script-writing and share some of her personal experience as a young entrepreneur. More news shortly on other special guests to attend peace camp, including some possible young talent from Canada!
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“Home” is a powerful theme in Anthony’s work and life. Perhaps it’s because he’s experienced life as a refugee when he was a child. Anthony is one of the original Gafotozi and he took this shot of a family in his village while developing a photo essay on village life in Rwanda.
After attending his first peace camp, Anthony started a peace club back in his village. He was selected by A Peace of Life to attend a series of peer-to-peer training in trauma and counselling – an opportunity graciously offered by Paulette Baraka (of Gate of Hope Ministries) who led one of the workshops at our peace camp last year. See photos
Here is Anthony’s report from the most recent training (held earlier this month):
We each presented a report of the cases we had encountered after our first level of training. Then we learned about sadness, about shame and self condemning, and about violence – sexual-based violence and violence which takes place at home. One big thing which I learned about is the need to understand yourself. I hope it will help me to be a good counselor.
But even though I was trained to counsel others, I have been counseled too because we had sufficient time to share about our life with others at the training. I now understand how much my life had been destroyed (impacted). For instance, I met one young boy whose brother died and the boy had a problem of depression. It has been so difficult for me to know how to help him because I realized his background history was the same as mine.
I’ve just helped two other people in my village with their problems and I’m really looking forward to attending the next level of training which will take place the end of July.
We really thank you for how you care about the soul of Rwandans and looking for all possible ways to heal injuries (trauma) including those left by the Genocide Against the Tutsi in 1994.
May God bless A Peace of Life, and bless Baraka. She is a real counselor and trainer. Truly you may not have an idea of how peaceful my heart is after these workshops. I have made many steps towards my healing, and I’m ready to help others to reach the healing stage I’m at.
A Peace of Life is now helping Anthony to work on a book to share his life story. He will also be sharing his learning with youth at the next peace camp to be held in November 2012.
April is a time when painful memories surface in Rwanda. As part of the 18th Commemoration of the Genocide Against the Tutsi, we feature this very special guest post by a young Rwandan courageous enough to bare his soul, sharing his personal experience and hope for his homeland.
Through Forgiveness, Rebuild the Future
A reflection and poem by Timo
I remember that President Habyarimana kept referring to my country, Rwanda, like a glass full of water: “If the glass was already full, how could you pour more water inside? If you pour more water and the glass is full, water will flow over, everywhere.”
What he meant was that before Tutsis could return home, those that were in the country would have to go. Before we could return, more of us were supposed to die so we could fill the place where they were, because there was no place for us.
Following the genocide, the newly established government encouraged those who had killed others to ask for forgiveness, while asking those who had lost their families to extend their forgiveness and try to move forward. Those Hutus that fled into Zaire (currently Democratic Republic of Congo) and other surrounding countries were asked to come back and help rebuild the country, even though some of them had participated in destroying it.
At first, it was difficult for both sides to show understanding towards each other. But over time, people found that to be able to build the country, they needed to work together and live together in peace, even though others still harbored the same mindset to pull the country back into darkness.
Let us remember what happened in 1994; the destruction of the country, and the overpowering smell of death everywhere. When we compare that with our homeland today, merely 18 years after the genocide, the country has been rebuilt. How about we keep moving in this direction? Let us show them, those who have destroyed, and have in mind to destroy again, that we are conquerors.
The way I try to forgive is just to try to move on, to go to a new page in my life, to take another step forward. If I keep reminding myself, keep going through the pain, keep having conflict with the people that have killed my family, I will never take another step, never go to another stage of my life. I will never forget what happened, but try to understand the situation, to be able to move on with my life and not let the others’ actions in the past be the barrier for me to go to another place. I can do more. I can prove more. When you fail, and someone wishes you to fail, he will be happy, because he is successful. But if you succeed in what you were supposed to fail, he will be unhappy, because he or she didn’t find what was expected. This is what we are doing, not out of revenge. I do it for my future. I do it for the people who will come after me, like my children, so they will never face the same problem as I faced.
Return to the Homeland
Return to the homeland, site of destruction
Smell in the air, bodies stacked where once homes were
Families, histories, disposed of and drained with sewage
Memories lost, replaced with those that awaken our tenuous rest
Distinction of once-measured faces; us and them, them and us
Tension and fear that the tide will turn backwards
Over hatred and resentment that our presence made the glass flow over
But we are the same in belief and culture, home and hope
Fight not for revenge against them, but to turn the page for us
Look back to family lost while stepping forward for our children
When failure is to be defeated, resistance will be to succeed
Forgiveness because we choose never to understand hate
Assured that only God will ever know the purpose of this suffering
With strength, we will our hearts to change chapters
The dawn of spring brings with it the return of blood in our minds
But with the absence of hate in this eternal loss
And hope for our future when we accept and forgive.
About the photo: One of the rivers in Rwanda said to be the source of the Nile. During the 100-day killing spree of the Genocide, rivers became clogged with dead bodies. The river is a poignant reflection of the intense pain behind the intense beauty of the country.
Coming up: We’re getting ready to launch a national contest in Rwanda to pick participants for Peace Camp 2012. We hope to bring 50 youth together for 10 days of storytelling and peacebuilding through creative arts and the media. Learn more how you can help make this happen.
See what happened last year at camp.
Another Friday Fun Photo – Guess what happened split seconds after this photo was taken? Lots of fun – and soaking wet bodies – as camp leaders and youth splash the water around, enjoying some refreshment after an afternoon of planting trees and picking up garbage on the grounds of our host school. It was all part of a workshop on peace and the environment at last year’s peace camp.
Planting trees is an important part of helping to conserve the natural, beautiful environment of Rwanda as well as replace trees used as firewood for cooking. Every November, Rwanda launches a national tree-planting campaign to encourage environmental conservation and awareness.
Many youth peace clubs, including Club Unity in Mubago, are including the planting of trees in their peace-building activities. They are finding that it’s an easy and practical way to bring everyone in the village together to do a community activity as well as open a way to talk about other crucial issues they can work on together. Sometimes there is even a sharing of personal stories and an opportunity to offer forgiveness and build reconciliation among neighbours. It’s inspiring to see youth lead the way in this ground-breaking work.
The peace camp is an annual event offered by A Peace of Life with local partners such as AEBR Youth. Plans are underway for Peace Camp 2012. Help sponsor youth peace-building in Rwanda by making a donation today.
As part of celebrating World Water Day, we’re also pleased to present a multimedia presentation on water. It was created by youth who participated in a photography workshop at peace camp 2011. The workshop was facilitated by Johnny Lam, a professional documentary photographer who volunteers his time and expertise with A Peace of Life. Johnny has launched Gafotozi, to help empower vulnerable youth to use photography in peace-building and storytelling. Enjoy the show!
*Photos in today’s post taken by some of the youth from the photography workshop
Land is at the root of most of the conflict in our world - not only disputes in who has the land or who wants control of the land, but also environmental and connected social justice issues, such as how we care for, and share in, the earth and all its resources.
We post this photo today in tribute of Wangari Maathai, an inspiring Kenyan woman who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004 for her work on the environment, women’s rights and transparent government. She passed away yesterday, on September 25th, but leaves behind a remarkable legacy including the founding of the Green Belt Movement which has planted an estimated 20-30 million trees in Africa.
The photo was taken by Germaine, an inspiring young girl in Rwanda who shares Wangari’s love and concern for peace and a healthy environment. Germaine loves to garden and hopes to become a doctor. She took this photo as part of her essay on “our relationship with the environment.” Her essay was one of a series of village photo essays by the gafotozi – youth who participated in our first photography workshop in 2009. They live in a region where large numbers of children have been orphaned by the Tutsi Genocide as well as AIDS. Many of these children became heads of their household and today they continue to struggle not only with poverty but also family land and property ownership issues.
Land issues will be some of the case studies to be explored by youth in our upcoming peace camp, to be held Nov. 20-26, in Gisenyi, a border town (Rwanda and DR Congo). Youth will put into practice some of their critical thinking and creativity skills to develop innovative and engaging ways to open dialogue and build common ground on crucial issues within the community, for peace and development.
Youth will also plant trees near our host school and mini gardens (vegetables-in-a-sack) for orphans as a meaningful expression of love and care for the environment and those most in need in the community.
Thanks, once again, to all who have contributed time, money and support to this youth peace media initiative. Please keep checking this blog to see your wonderful support in action!
p.s. The gafotozi will have the opportunity to train, once again, with Johnny Lam, a volunteer documentary photographer from Canada who led the first photography workshop. In the coming months, we look forward to posting some of their new photos and having an on-line gallery for purchase.
Famine doesn’t happen overnight. And you really don’t have to look very hard to see it coming. The writing has been on the wall….on the table….signs everywhere, that something is wrong and getting worse. For some families in East Africa, it’s been coming a long, long while now, with a series of droughts, wars, conflicts and all sorts of injustices adding insult to injury.
The slide from one meal a day to no food a day happens more often than we’d like to think in our world. Tragically though, it’s not until the terminal phase, when we see the skeleton bodies - children on the verge of starving to death or already succumbed – that the story seems to finally get out, capture our attention, however briefly. And once the story is out there…what is our response going to be? How long before we change the channel?
Cry me food….cry me justice.
I was appalled reading some recent comments posted to articles and stories that did manage to meander their way into the news and onto the blogs. Many of us seem content to simply rationalize the problem and the response away…..”they should be taking care of their own people”….”we don’t want to help the terrorists”….”the money will just get wasted”….”there’s too much corruption”….”I can’t make much of a difference”….”it’s not my problem”….
Really? But what if that was your child starving to death in your arms? My child buried on the run? I think we would be a lot less lethargic, less apathatic, less judgemental about the how’s and why’s of the crisis, and simply beg for a response. Any response. Now, please!
Lots can be done. Lots is being done. Lots more needs to be done, both now and long term with community development and leadership development. The training and empowerment of youth who will lead differently, live differently, share resources, work for peace, intervene, respond, will make a big difference. You can support them.
At our next peace camp, coming up in November, we are focussing on the issue of food security and entrepreneurship (including skills development in a small business) as a crucial part of peace-building. We hope to have a special guest share some of his experience from Dadaab, one of the world’s largest refugee camps, which has recently been overwhelmed with families fleeing from the famine in their homeland. Stay tuned for more news.
Please keep the families impacted by famine in your prayers and make a donation today to an organization involved in the relief.
About today’s photo: Anthony, one of our gafotozi, took this photo as part of his photo essay on village life. He was also one of the young photographers to help document our first peace camp. One of the outcomes of the peace camp was the formation of several peace clubs across the country. Anthony helped to start a club in his village in Kibungo region. Another club, Solace Sowers for Peace, began in Kacyiru (Kigali). On Sunday, July 24, they will be holding their second peace concert and raising funds for famine relief. Learn more.
Today is International Day of the African Child. Sweet!
It’s an important day to commemorate the bravery of students who took to the streets in peaceful protest in Soweto, South Africa over the quality of their education and the injustice of apartheid. Their courage was costly as hundreds of students were massacred, June 16, 1976. But their legacy remains. The African Union has created this special day to remember – and to act – to improve life for all children in Africa. Some of the most vulnerable are those growing up as orphans and living on the streets. This year the International Day of the African Child brings urgent attention to the plight of street children, estimated to be over 30 million across Africa. Learn more
A recent film, Maibobo, poignantly presents life as a street child. It was created by a young Rwandan filmmaker, Yves Montand, who has a passion for using film to highlight pressing social issues. He and some of the other emerging talent at Almond Tree Films Rwanda have worked as volunteers with youth from our peace camp to create their own short film about the life of an orphan. We’re just days away from the release of Tears of Hope, the rough cut!
Photo credit: Anthony Munyaneza, one of the gafotozi, who participated in our first photography workshop in Rwanda. The photo was taken as part of his essay on village life. Last November, he was one of the participants in the peace camp and one of our official photographers. After camp, he went on to form a peace club in his community. He was recently featured in mosaic.
Friday Photo: A big awooo…Vuga awooo nini!
We celebrate the launch of Youth Catalysts for Peace newspaper in Rwanda this week, one of the outcomes from the first youth peace camp held last November in Nyange by A Peace of Life and AEBR Youth. Plans are now underway for Youth Peace Camp 2011, Nov. 20-26. Make a donation today.
And a big awooo to Gateway Youth Group, Victoria, BC, Canada for your prayers during last night’s event as part of our first Solidarity Tour to raise funds for more youth peace media initiatives in Rwanda including the next youth peace camp.
If you’re in the Vancouver Island area, join us for Solidarity Tea:
2-4 pm, Sat., May 14, Duncan United Church,
246 Ingram St., Duncan, BC
During April, Rwanda becomes the country of a thousand tears as the nation gathers to remember and mourn those tragic days when society failed – when over 800,000 (a conservative estimate) people were slaughtered in the Tutsi Genocide within a mere 100 days. The scale and intensity of this time remains unfathomable. And while today there’s an uneasy peace, so much remains unsaid. For some, it’s still too painful to put into words. For others, there’s a desire to try and forget and move on. And then there are those who still attempt to bury the truth, denying either their role or what happened. More truth-telling is needed for reconciliation.
It is not easy. There is no quick fix when trust has been broken. Reconciliation is often a slow and painful journey that differs for each person. Time and grace are the best gifts that can be offered - time and grace to allow each one to heal in his or her own way. Simply telling someone, “You must forgive,” is not helpful. Forgiveness emerges when one is ready and able to make peace with one’s own past. Once you have this inner peace, you are then able to reach out to others. It’s a journey that starts with love.
“Love is a catalyst for peace…it sets you free yourself,” commented one of the youth at peace camp. She and the other youth at camp were inspired by the story of a group of students who made a courageous stand for unity, at great personal cost, three years after the genocide. Love is at the root of their story. “We were training to love each other,” noted Phanuel, one of the survivors. Read more about the Nyange national heroes.
Memory is important to the peace process. Stories must be remembered and shared for more understanding and common ground. Commemoration, in spite of being so difficult, is an essential time to cry together, to remember together, but also to commit anew to working together. It’s a time to shed a thousand tears of hope for a better future where all may live together in true peace, recognizing the value and dignity of each person.
It’s the message behind Easter, where we encounter the source of true love, the God of all creation, who sent his only son, Jesus, to show us the way. Through his death and resurrection all may be reconciled to God and to each other. The 1994 Genocide against the Tutsis occurred on the eve of the Easter season. A soul-wrenching reminder of the battle raging between good and evil in our world. Are we complicit? Complacent? Or committed to not be overcome by evil, but rather overcome evil by doing good?
A group of youth have committed themselves to doing just that. They call themselves Youth Catalysts for Peace. Learn more
Help sponsor Peace Camp 2011 where we will be working with youth on skills development in conflict transformation including anger management and trauma counselling and sharing more stories through drama, song and dance.
Note: The photo in this posting is an outtake from a new short film, Tears of Hope, soon to be released by Almond Tree Films, Rwanda. It was produced from a script written by youth at our first peace camp (held last November) to highlight one of the issues they felt most strongly about: the plight of orphans who are taken into other people’s homes. Other short films from Almond Tree Films, Rwanda, such as the powerful Long Coat, are also available. Contact us to book your own special showing or peace camp presentation.
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.
Our Friday Fun Foto today: Creative use of water in a drought-prone region. It’s a fun photo but a serious issue, many denied access to safe, clean water in our world. Learn more at World Water Day.
Photo taken by Germaine, one of the gafotozi, as part of developing her photo essay on the environment.
Together with the other gafotozis, Germaine attended peace camp as our “official photographers”. See more photos.
We’re now fundraising for peace camp 2. Please help us today!
Uncle (Tonto in kinyarwanda) gives his advice to questions of love, conflict, and everything in between, in a new youth peace newspaper launching in March. It’s just one of the exciting things to burst out of peace camp and the partnership of a peace of life and AEBR Youth to empower and equip youth to be leaders in peace and development. See more about peace camp.
Special thanks (and a very BIG SHOUT OUT) to the talented illustrator, Colanthony, for volunteering his amazing skills. He’s one of the featured young talent in a new book, Toronto Graffiti. Love to have you at our next peace camp!
Happy Valentine’s Day! A little brotherly love, from Rwanda.
Today is a great day to celebrate the power of love and the power of human dignity. Both are crucial in the fight against racism, AIDS, corruption, greed, jealousy – against anything that causes suffering and conflict in our world. We pass along one of our favourite passages used in our personal reflection time at peace camp, last November:
Evil is only overcome in one way – by the power of sacrificial goodness. Evil is not overcome by more evil. Evil begets evil. Violence more violence. Hatred more hatred. Only sacrificial goodness stops evil in its tracks…we overcome evil by speaking the truth, by blessing the enemy, enduring the suffering instead of inflicting the suffering…goodness that is willing to go all way way…sacrificial love. – Discipleship on the Edge
This past weekend, from Egypt to South Africa, there was a celebration of freedom, but also a reminder of the personal cost. We commemorate those who died in the protests in Egypt at the same time as remembering the anniversary of the release of Mandela after a lifetime spent in prison. His story encourages us to persevere, to pursue peace and justice not through violence and retaliation, but rather through love and mercy. It’s a difficult, but beautiful path – and really the only way to truly forgive, reconcile, and live as brothers and sisters in our world.
Next month our blog will feature the remarkable story of heroes in Rwanda. Pictured above: Phanuel visiting the tomb of one of his classmates, Chantal, who made the ultimate sacrifice for peace. Photo taken by our gafotozi.
So, this Valentine’s Day, we send love to all youth working for peace. You are the true heroes today. We love you. Keep up the good fight!
Join us! Instead of chocolates or flowers, how about giving seeds? Help plant more peace and love in Rwanda. Donate today for our next youth peace camp, November 2011.
p.s. “brotherly love” photo taken at a youth World AIDS Day event in Kigali sponsored by a peace of life…umutuzo mu buzima.
I have a dream…
Continuing on in the tradition of Martin Luther King Jr., youth at peace camp dedicated themselves to the nonviolent pursuit of peace and justice. Pictured: Gerard, one of the 48 youth peace camp participants, delivers his dream, a poem about sustainable peace, as part of our World AIDS Day youth event, held shortly after the camp.
“Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood,” noted Martin Luther King Jr. some 48 years ago in his now infamous speech, I Have a Dream. His words set a revolution in motion, from America to around the world, a nonviolent war against racism, and any other injustice that destroys dignity, that divides and exploits.
The dream – and the fight – for peace, love and unity continues. Youth at peace camp reflected on the sayings and legacy of King and other heroes like Ghandi and Mandela, all of whom advocated the use of nonviolence to restore broken communities.
Some youth even created their own response. Watch Gerard’s performance and others.
At camp, youth shared some of the conflicts and injustice that they face today:
“I love a boy but we are from two different ethnic groups. I’m wondering how I can proceed to make my parents understand that I love him.”
“I live with my sister and brother-in-law. My sister died and now he wants to always sleep with me. I cannot leave him before I finish my studies because he is the one who pays my school fees. So how can I live with him without conflict and without sleeping with him?”
Youth discussed solutions and then worked on dramas to be able to help open up more dialogue on these and other pressing issues. They also learned about the power of film and worked on scripts, one of which is currently in the works, to be made into a short film by Almond Tree Films Rwanda. See more photos and actvities from peace camp.
On our last night at camp, we created and signed a group commitment to peace:
We who participated in the peace camp,
We swear in God’s and men’s eyes
That we will be catalysts for peace in both good and bad times,
valuing everybody, mediating, resolving conflict without favouritism
helping to make informed and wise solutions
striving for peace and restorative justice
fighting any type of violence
guided by the word of God,
may God help us to achieve this noble commitment.
Shortly before King’s assassination, he delivered yet another impassioned speech, *A Time to Break Silence, advocating for “a genuine revolution of values…this call for worldwide fellowship that lifts neighbourly concern beyond one’s tribe, race, class and nation…a call for an all-embracing and unconditional love for all men.”
That takes the highest, self-sacrificing kind of love, agape love, the love of God, at work in people’s hearts, noted King. He died for his beliefs.
But his dream continues…”a dream of a peace where all of our gifts and resources are held not for ourselves alone but as instruments of service for the rest of humanity; the dream of a country where every man will respect the dignity and worth of all human personality, and men will dare to live together as brothers – that is the dream.”
Share the dream. Help provide more peace-building activities for youth in Rwanda. Learn more.
*For these quotes and more on the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. see, I Have a Dream: Writings and Speeches that Changed the World.
It’s Friday Fun Foto….So You Think You Can Dance, Rwanda? Yego! (Yes!)
Just some of the song, dance and slam (poetry) that we had at our youth peace camp, held this past November in Nyange. Our photographer is Anthony, one of the gafotozi.
See more photos by the gafotozi at peace camp.
Gotta see this…clips of some of the song, dance and slam (poetry), live and unedited, from nyange youth peace camp.
Learn more about our first peace camp and how you can help sponsor another one.
Racing into a new year….Happy New Year everyone and welcome to our first friday fun foto of 2011…
One of the fun relays and activities at Love 4 Life, our special event for World AIDS Day 2010. We held it at IFBK school in Kigali. Several youth and youth leaders from the Nyange Peace Camp also participated. Both of these events were held by a peace of life, in partnership with AEBR Youth.
See more photos of the fun that day, from water challenges to painting t-shirts.
More about the photographer: Thanks so much to our official volunteer photographer of the day, Lene Amstrup-Jensen. Lene is one of the leaders of Tugende, a project by Danish Baptist Youth and AEBR Youth.
Peace and joy this Christmas, from Rwanda…
Pictured: Almond Tree Films, Rwanda, with Michel Nsengi (second from left, back row), one of our peace camp faciliators and our new volunteer consultant in Rwanda.
We were honoured to have some of these young filmmakers (Yves Montand, Musafili Kayambi, Clementime Dusabejambo, Jean Bosco Nshimiyimana and Richard Mugwaneza) at camp and have them talk about their passion for making social change through film. One of their most recent films, Maibobo, by Yves, powerfully portrays the life of street children, a very real, but often unpopular, issue in Rwanda.
We were able to show this film at camp and youth were very moved by the issue. Noted one youth in a survey on the first day of camp (before seeing the film): “people who dress poorly [those living on the street] are normally a thief or a crazy person.”
By the end of the camp, the same question got a different answer: “I realize that this person [poorly dressed] is the way he is and you can approach him and try to understand what he’s going through and maybe you can discover that he is traumatized or has other problems hurting him.”
Youth also strongly identified with Bamporiki’s film, Long Coat, which presents some of the issues faced in reconciliation today in Rwanda, as family and friends of both survivor and killer share the hillsides, attempt to live side by side.
During peace camp, filmmakers helped youth with scriptwriting and had them do a “creative pitch” to share their script with the group. A big surprise came when it was announced that one of their scripts will be made into a short film! We hope to have this film completed early in the new year. It deals with the crucial issue of orphans, more specifically, the kinds of mistreatment they suffer in homes/families that take them in.
See more of our photos from peace camp now on flickr.
A little bit of “glee” in Rwanda! Just uploaded: watch clips of youth performing their poems and songs including the popular amahoro song created at camp.
May you too have abundant peace and joy in your heart as we celebrate the birth of the one called the prince of peace!
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.
Friday fun foto…the wash cyle. Water is a precious commodity – whatever you manage to carry back to the house – and used sparingly. Little Miss Independent (below) does a great job with what she has.
A little more about today’s featured photo and photographer: Claudine, one of our gafotozi, took this photo as part of learning about the use of patterns, sequences, colors and shapes in photography. It was one of her favourite shots and selected to be included in the village art exhibit held on the final day of class.
Special event: If you’re in the Toronto area, there will be a special showing of the gafotozi art exhibit along with a surprise film screening as part of International Day of Peace activities. More details posted next week.
Like what you see? Claudine would love to go to peace camp. You can help her realize this dream.