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Friends Peace House Rwanda: Transforming Lives, Transforming Communities (With Our Help)
Nestled in the hills of the sprawling capital city of Kigali, Rwanda (“The Land of a Thousand Hills”) is Friends Peace House (FPH). Known locally as Urugo rw’Amahoro (“The Home of Peace”), FPH was founded by the Evangelical Friends Church of Rwanda in December 2000 with a mission to promote peace, unity, and reconciliation among the people of Rwanda and to holistically contribute to their development.
I visited FPH last February while accompanying my husband on a medical mission in Rwanda. Friends at Portland (ME) Friends Meeting had told me about Friends Peace House and the African Great Lakes Initiative (AGLI) with which it’s associated. I am not in the medical field; my background is in Restorative Justice, mediation, psychology, and the study of peace, conflict and genocide. While my purpose in going to Rwanda was to support the medical mission in any way I could, I was also on a mission of my own to learn how the country and its people had been rebuilding since the 1994 genocide.
I had only been attending Portland Friends Meeting for a few months, but I was raised in Mountain View Friends Meeting in Denver, Colorado, and I knew Friends were likely to know about and be able to connect me with social justice work happening in Rwanda.Friends not only connected me with Friends Peace House, they connected me with a woman from my home community here in Maine who has been working with the Transformative Mediation program at Friends Peace House since 2012.
Christine Curci, PhD, is a skilled mediation practitioner and trainer. She helped FPH develop its Transformative Mediation program, and she has continued to return to Rwanda every year since to providing ongoing trainings and support. Christine was already in Rwanda for her usual three-month stay by the time I contacted her in January, but by email with her and with the director of Friends Peace House, Antoine Samvura, we coordinated a day for me to visit FPH.
I brought books for the Childrens’ Library on the FPH campus and Antoine provided an overview of all the programs at FPH. I was interested in the Transformative Mediation program prior to my visit and it continued to be the program that resonated most deeply with me. Although I was only 13 in 1994, I felt how deeply the United States had failed Rwanda during the genocide. It was incredibly inspiring to hear how Rwandans were now moving forward—committed to resolving conflicts in peaceful ways, developing and applying nonviolent conflict resolution skills, and even volunteering their time after funding for the Transformative Mediation program dried up.
Christine expressed similar feelings to me: “I wish that I could help people see and feel the spirit of this work the Rwandans do. They arrive to be trained, clothes threadbare but clean and pressed, often having had only one meal the day before, bringing into the room the profound dignity of a quiet deep faith. They come because the work humanizes them, because it fills them with hope that they can contribute and humanize others from preventing any future tragedy in their country and they never once forget to praise God for the giving of one more day.”
During my visit we spent time in The Listening Room, a space on the FPH campus dedicated to Transformative Mediation to help people in conflict work through disputes and transform their relationship. The issues addressed in these mediations range from intimate partner conflicts, to conflicts among children and neighbors, and land and property disputes.
It surprised me that Transformative Mediation receives the least funding of any FPH program. Even more surprising was how little funding FPH receives from the international Quaker community for any of its programs. The power of the work and the need for funding inspired me to commit to raising both awareness and funds within the Quaker community, and other communities of which I am part, upon my return home.
Since my return, Christine and I have been volunteering our time to work on the issues of awareness and funding. We have worked with FPH to bring their idea of mediation training in Rwanda’s prisons from concept to comprehensive project proposal, which has the support of prison officials in the country. We helped them get started with GlobalGiving’s accelerator program. The GlobalGiving platform allows FPH to collect donations in a way that is safe, easy, and tax-deductible for donors and significantly improves their ability to raise funds. If FPH meets the requirements of the accelerator program, they will secure a permanent place on the GlobalGiving website.
I close with a further word from Christine: “It is so important to understand that all of the prisoners are both victims and perpetrators. Victims of poverty, illiteracy, and despair, they were at the mercy of others who did not hesitate to manipulate and exploit those weaknesses. How can we not have compassion even in the face of the terrible crimes they committed?”
Please join us in supporting this work.
For more information, please visit the project webpage.
Please also feel free to be in touch with me directly by email