Burundi Trauma Healing and Reconciliation Center (BTHARC)

To initiate and develop a Trauma Healing and Reconciliation Center in Burundi.

The Center will be sponsored by Burundi Yearly Meeting of Friends (BuYM) with the assistance of the African Great Lakes Initiative (AGLI) of the Friends Peace Team Project (FPTP). Burundi Yearly Meeting has approximately 70 churches and 10,000 adult members.

Burundi, a country the size of Maryland in Central Africa with an estimated population of 6.2 million, has been torn apart by socio-political "ethnic" conflict. In October 1993, the elected Hutu president, Melchoir Ndadaye, was assassinated by members of the Tutsi military. Since that time the country has been in turmoil. Many Burundians have fled into exile and others have been placed in internal displaced persons’ camps. Burundians have come to hate and kill one another. Estimates indicate that perhaps 3% of the population or 200,000 people have been killed since 1993. Moreover while Burundi was one of the poorest nations in the world before the 1993 unrest, the violence, destruction, and insecurity has made people even more desperate. In addition to the lack of a political settlement between the warring sides, another major handicap that prevents the country from embarking on the road to peace is the continuing trauma from the conflict.

During the crisis, many people have experienced a lot of unusual, shocking, painful, and unimaginable events. They are still wounded, broken and despairing. For many, restoring peace seems to be a dream that will never come true. They are suffering effects of post traumatic stress disorders which can cause many to nurture the spirit of vengeance and violence.

On an everyday basis, a lot of people in Burundi need healing from the traumatic experiences they have encountered. Both children and adults say that they experience sleep disturbances, inability to concentrate, angry outbursts, and startled responses. While many have kept bad memories about their neighbors, others have kept bad memories about themselves, especially when they think about what they should have done and did not do in past situations.

Adrian Bishop, a member of the AGLI Kamenge Reconciliation and Reconstruction Project in the summer of 1999, states, "The need for [the Center] requires little imagination. While we were in Burundi, several of our [Burundian] team spoke of recurring dreams in which they are being hunted down to be killed. There are many sleepless nights. No family is untouched by the violence."

Faced with this sad situation, Burundi Yearly Meeting of Friends with the help of the Friends Peace Teams Project’s African Great Lakes Initiative, proposes the Burundi Trauma Healing and Reconciliation Center. The Center will help mobilize people to join together to contribute to the national healing of Burundi. It is only through a long and difficult healing process that Burundi will be able to ask forgiveness in order to allow conflicting communities to reinstate good, peaceful relationships.

The Peace Team will consist of four members and one office assistant. BuYM will recruit two Burundians team members and AGLI will recruit two international team members.

After a brief orientation in the United States, the two international team members will have a three month training in Burundi with the two Burundian team members. The international team members will learn Kirundi and study the history, culture, political, economic, and social conditions in Burundi. The Burundian team members will improve their understanding of English, foster team-building with the international members, and help the international peace team members to understand the dynamics of the Burundian situation. All four team members will meet members of Burundi Yearly Meeting, contact NGO’s, and develop other beneficial relationships.

Subsequently for the next three month period, the four will travel to South Africa where the Centre for Study of Violence and Reconciliation and the Witgespruit Fellowship Centre will facilitate a training program in trauma healing and reconciliation. This will include one month of training followed by two months of practical work in South Africa. The trainers from CSVR plan to follow up with at least three visits to Burundi after Burundi Trauma Healing and Reconciliation Center (BTHARC) is started.

Location of Center
While the Center will have a fixed office, various sites will be used by the team in Bujumbura, Gitega, Kibimba, and perhaps elsewhere including the Congo and Rwanda as the Center develops and as way opens.

Center’s Objectives

While initially the focus of the Center will be with Burundian Friends, once the Center is established, outreach will occur both to Friends in surrounding countries and to other religious and NGO organizations within Burundi.

Responsibility for Center
The ultimate responsibility for the Center will be with Burundi Yearly Meeting of Friends. It will be supervised by the Executive Committee of Burundi Yearly Meeting which consists of the Clerk, the Legal Representative, the Yearly Meeting Project Coordinator, and one representative each from the four Quarterly Meetings. A Consultative Committee of individuals interested in and knowledgeable about trauma healing and reconciliation and conditions in Burundi will advise the Center’s staff on the day-to-day nature of their work.


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