People carrying psychological wounds are brought together in peace circles where their wounded memories are transformed through sharing and deep healing work. These peace circles include all people affected, i.e., orphans, executioners, and survivors.
For decades, politico-ethnic conflicts have torn communities apart, causing numerous deaths and leading to many people seeking refuge in neighbouring countries. The trustbuilding team in Burundi aims to build trust and heal historical wounds between the communities affected by the ethnopolitical divisions (Hutu, Tutsi and Twa ethnic groups).
Why is trust needed?
Since its independence in 1962, Burundi has experienced repeated violent conflicts. Large-scale interethnic massacres occurred in 1972, 1988 and 1993, and another wave of violence in 2015. Despite various attempts for national unity after each crisis, including peace deals, Burundian society remains polarised. Psychological wounds caused by all the violence, if not healed, have the risk of being passed down from generation to generation.
How is trust built?
Opposing community leaders learn to appreciate their shared history and view the story from the standpoint of the other side to create a new narrative.
Impact to date
The team has organised various trustbuilding dialogues and peace circles, which have profoundly impacted its participants.
'My mother taught me that Hutus are animals and criminals and that it was better for me not to approach them. A negative experience in secondary school reinforced my belief that what my mom told me was true. After attending trustbuilding workshops and the Circle of Peace, I learned that Hutus are not bad people. They also suffered, as I did. They lost relatives, as did we. Now, I feel the need to forgive the students who chased me away from school when I was young. Furthermore, I want to create relationships with Hutus to break the cycle of hatred and what our parents told us.'
'I came out of the workshop with the understanding that I must overcome the feeling of being a victim. I will have to learn more about the aggressor's point of view because they also suffered. I realised that I must forgive and take the first step to meet the aggressor, which I did. At my university, I met a boy whose father harmed my family. It took some effort, but when he stopped to talk to me, I told him that I had forgiven his parents for what they did to my family. I told him that I would like to renew our relationship. He agreed, and now we are good friends, thanks to the trustbuilding project.'