Peace and Development Seminars

The Center for Research and Action towards Sustainable Peace and Development (CRASPD) at PIASS invites scholars and practitioners for seminars that are open to the PIASS Community and to the interested public.

Peace and Development Seminar August 26, 2019 on “The Role of Commemoration Rituals in Restoring Relationships”.

On August 26, we invited the current Dean of the Faculty of Development Studies of PIASS, Rev. Celestin Nsengimana, to present his ongoing research as a PhD candidate at the Christian Theological University in Amsterdam on “The Role of Commemoration Rituals in Restoring Relationships”. More than 50 interested participants followed the presentation and actively took part in the ensuing discussion.
Rev. Nsengimana’s research primarily consisted of an analysis based on a case study of a Genocide commemoration at Kirinida parish of the Presbyterian Church in Rwanda. In this study, he attempts to answer the following question: “How is the liturgical ritual of genocide commemoration shaped and appropriated, and how does it contribute to the process of reconciliation in post-genocide Rwandan community?”
He approaches Genocide commemoration as a form of ritual, that is, a “ceremony consisting of a series of collective actions performed periodically and/or repetitively according to a prescribed order.” Rev. Nsengimana argues that ritual is a meaning-making process which we use to transform various aspects of our lives, such as creating order in our lives, changing our behavior and attitude, and transforming our relationship with “the transcendence” and fellow human beings.
One key notion he considers is memory, as commemoration is a ritual revolving around remembrance. Importantly, Rev. Nsengimana does not consider memory as merely a mirror image of the past, as memories often reshape and reinterpret actual events. Rather, he understands memory as “an expressive indication of the needs and interests of the person or the group doing remembrance in the present.” Through this approach, Rev. Nsengimana understands commemoration as meeting various social and individual needs.
Rev. Nsengimana analyzes Genocide commemoration within the context of transitional justice and reconciliation. He understands commemoration as a means to restorative justice by documenting the truth of what occurred during the genocide and restoring broken relationships through confessions and forgiveness.
After having considered various elements of Genocide commemorations, such as time, space, performers, and symbols, he offered insightful observations about the role of Genocide commemoration rituals in restoring relationships. According to Rev. Nsengimana, commemoration allows reconnection to the future, as the suffering and pains experienced during the Genocide are interpreted through a theological perspective—e.g., the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Commemoration also acts as an opportunity for Genocide survivors to reconnect and communicate with the “living dead,” i.e., those who died in the Genocide but are still a part of the community. There is also an effort and focus on identity change during commemoration. This new identity seeks to move past ethic identities and emphasizes a collective national identity (ndi umunyarwanda).
Perhaps most notably, Rev. Nsengimana argues that a significant role of commemoration is a call for material and symbolic reparation for Genocide victims. Physical reparations call for a restitution of looted and damaged physical properties. Symbolic reparations, on the other hand, include things such as confessions, the locating of the bodies of victims, construction and maintenance of memorial sites, and participation in genocide commemorations. Rev. Nsengimana observed that there was low participation of local citizens in the commemoration rituals but high participation of youth. According to respondents, the low attendance has various causes, such as survivors avoiding reminders of traumatic events, perpetrators avoiding survivors and being recognized, etc. These elements of the role of commemoration discussed above, such as confessions, focus on identity change, reparations, and reconnection to the future have contributed to restoring relationships.
The ensuing discussion started with Dr. Olivier, the Dean of Faculty of Theology and Religious Studies at PIASS, offering a few points of constructive criticism, such as the necessity for a detailed description of the background of Kirinda and discussion of compassion for Genocide victims as the prerequisite of effective Genocide commemoration. Following this, the audience asked a variety of questions concerning methodology, as well as more specific questions about the content of the presentation. For example, one audience member asked why there is high youth participation, considering the fact that many of them were not alive during the Genocide. The research seminar closed with Dr. Kazuyuki thanking Rev. Nsengimana for his rich and insightful research.

“Ready for Return? A panel on approaches to integrate released prisoners”

The Center for Research and Action for Sustainable Peace and Development (CRASPD) held a Seminar on June 21, 2019 on approaches to integrate prisoners who are released after their sentence is served.

As many prisoners who have been charged with Genocide crimes have now served their sentences and will be released soon, local communities need to prepare themselves for their return.  We therefore invited a panel of practitioners who are working with those communities and prisoners to

  • learn about each other’s approaches to deal with the situation of prisoners returning to communities
  • share experiences with the situation of returning prisoners
  • get an introduction to the Restorative Dialogue approach and hear participants’ feedback
  • Inform about a Restorative Dialogue training that CRASPD and a Conference on integrated mental health and peacebuilding approaches plans in October.

group_Prison_Release_Sem_6_2019

We had presentations about their approaches to support communities to deal with challenges connected to the release of prisoners from AMI Association Modeste et Innocent (AMI http://www.ami-ubuntu.net),  the Alternatives to Violence Program (AVP) based at Friends Peace House (FPH) / Evangelical Friends Church of Rwanda (EEAR, http://friendspeacehouse.org/alternatives-to-violence/), Healing and Rebuilding Our Communities (HROC) Center, Musanze (https://healingandrebuildingourcommunities.org/), Prison Fellowship Rwanda (www.pfrwanda.com),  on Restorative Dialogue (international program, started by trainers of Nonviolent Communication, www.restorativecircles.org) and Commission Diocésaine Justice & Paix – Justice and Peace Commission, Cyangugu (CDJP,  www.cdjpcyangugu.org).

An interesting discussion followed. Many questions circled around traumatization due to violence and its symptoms, the refusal of some of the prisoners to confess, different approaches to healing, forgiveness and reconciliation, the lack of reliable statistics on the numbers of prisoners who will be released, challenges of communities and families to receive released prisoners due to their long time away and changes that took place in families and communities during this time.

CRASPD also announced that we will organize a Restorative Dialogue Training at PIASS – Oct 20th-24th, 2019 and a Conference “Healing for Peace” on integrating psychosocial support into peacebuilding- Oct 27th-29th, 2019.

A summary report with of the seminar can be found here Ready_for_Return_Sum_Report_Seminar_6_2019

Research Seminar

Social Psychological Analysis of Intergroup Contact and Reconciliation in Skills Training for Ex-Combatants and Civilians with Disabilities in Rwanda

2:00 – 3:30 PM on February 21, 2019

Room 1.4, Main Educational Building, PIASS

On February 21, 2019, in a research seminar co-organized by the Center for Research and Action towards Sustainable Peace and Development (CRASPD) of the Protestant Institute of Art and Social Sciences (PIASS) and Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) Research Institute, Dr. Mayuko Onuki, a research fellow of the JICA Research Institute, presented research that was carried out as part of an impact assessment of “The Skills Training and Job Obtainment Support for Social Participation of Ex-Combatants and Other People with Disabilities” Project (2011-2014). This presentation was well received by 44 participants which comprised of PIASS staff, faculty, students, NGO staff and community members.

The overall aim of the research was to examine whether mixing former members of Rwanda Defence Force (RDF), ex-combatants of Rwandan Armed Forces (Ex-FAR), ex-combatants of Non-state Armed Groups and Civilians in a skill’s training classroom strengthen, rather than weaken, intergroup relationships. The research yielded the following key findings:

  • Despite the diverse backgrounds and nature of relationships among members of different groups, face-to-face dyadic/personalized contact had no negative impacts on social preferences with each other.
  • Not only such contact increased social preference toward people in the same group, some forms of personalization (business oriented and personal hardship oriented contacts) increased social preference toward people in different groups.
  • Contents of disclosure and impression formed depend on the types of groups involved in contact (e.g. sharing difficulties with disability and memories of genocide increased EX-FAR’s preference toward RDF, but not for that of Civilians.) 

After the presentation, many questions were raised about the context of social contacts, the way data was gathered in this research and whether the key findings are applicable to other locations. Collective reflection on the research in this seminar created a larger conversation on how and under which conditions the process of reconciliation can be facilitated through social contact.

 

Information Seminar  HROC_pic

OVERCOMING LEGACIES OF MASS VIOLENCE TOGETHER:

Healing and Rebuilding Our Communities (HROC) Program

 

 

HROC is a program designed to bu

HROC_centerGroup2017.JPG

ild community capacity to respond to wide-spread trauma and to strengthen interconnections, reduce isolation, and better accompany families, neighbors and community members on their journeys of healing.

Three HROC facilitators from Burundi, Rwanda and Germany presented the program, shared their experiences and invited for an exchange on how this program

can become useful for PIASS and the surrounding communities, on Sunday, June 24, 2018. More information on HROC can be found at: http://www.healingandrebuildingourcommunities.org

2019 HROC International Trainings: The 13th HROC International Training will occur from 3rd to 23rd February 2019 in Musanze, Rwa

nda. The 14th HROC International Training will occur from 7th to 27th July 20

19. For a flier and/or registration form please contact me at davidzarembka@gmail.com. Please circulate this to those who might be interesting in attending.

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Nuanced Memory:
Creating Memorial Culture after Genocide and Mass Atrocities in Rwanda

Samantha Lakin_AfficheA Research Seminar with Samantha Lakin on May 6, 2018

Samantha Lakin, M.A., PhD Candidate, Strassler Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies, Clark University and Fulbright Scholar doing research on memorialization in Rwanda, presented her pivotal research in our May 6, 2018 research seminar, with more than 50 students and lecturers from PIASS and other academic institutions, as well as interested local and international participants.

Samantha’s presentation was structured along seminal statements from different local and international actors on the role of memorialization and expressive pictures from memorial sites, both national ones and local ones, IMG_4245and their environments. It provided an overview of the findings from more than 60 interviews she had conducted in Rwanda, with actors on different levels, in different places, and from different backgrounds, and their experiences and views of the current policies and practices of memorialization.

The understanding of the justice Rwandan stakeholders want to see, she found, is extending far beyond the demand to punish perpetrators and encompasses the restoration of community values and spiritual dimensions of reconciliation. Processes of memorialization, according to her findings, constitute important aspects of transitional justice in Rwanda, providing acknowledgement and symbolic redress for violence suffered.

IMG_4254.JPGIn order to explore how the local context and tradition influences ways communities handle the need of memorialization, Samantha made a comparison with the way that communities in Northern Uganda deal with the legacy of mass atrocities and ‘extraordinary’ crimes committed by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) there. She found that, in Ugandan context and culture, the Rwandan practice of communal memorials or gravesites, arisen from the need to bury many at a time due to the sheer number of people killed, would be culturally inacceptable and individual burial rites in family plots are necessary to prevent the spirit of the deceased haunting their offspring.

She pointed out: “Practitioners and researchers must strive to understand symbolic justice efforts in Rwanda and Uganda through a cultural and context-specific lens. This can help ensure that justice policies created are attentive to the differing needs of each society.”

Nuances, though, she noted, are not only due to different cultural, historic, political and socio-economic contexts in which atrocities occur and memorialization is pursued; also individual memories and experiences of what happened can differ from the common narrative and need to be acknowledged, in order to build trust and facilitate healing. Samantha advocated for the establishment and sharing of common goals of what she calls “recovery process”  to include different local experiences and perspectives of memorialization: “The process to empower individuals to accept the mission of justice-seeking, rebuilding, and reconciliation as their own personal endeavor will lead to a more sustainable future,” she concluded.S_Lakin_SemAudience

The ensuing discussion, starting with contributions from PIASS discussants Dr. Kazuyuki Sasaki (Head of Peace & Conflict Studies) and Niyikiza Imanzi Vivien (first year student of Peace & Conflict Studies), raised diverse questions and comments on the contents and methodology of the research, as well as on questions pertaining to the differences between the two contexts and on reflections of the policies and practices of memorialization in Rwanda of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi on the societal healing processes.

Dr. Kazuyuki  pointed out  that the cultural practices by which memorialization is informed in Rwanda may not play as important a role as it is the case for the Acholi communities in Northern Uganda, as economic and political factors also need to be taken into account as decisively influencing the dominant practices.

Both participants and the organizers expressed heartfelt gratitude to Samantha for sharing her research with us, which she says is ‘work in progress’ and where she will be grateful to consider the integration of questions discussed in the seminar in the continuation, and for her energy and time to engage in a lively discussions with the audience.

More on Samantha Lakin and her work can be found at http://samanthalakin.com/

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“Transformation of Rural Societies in Rwanda’s Peace-building Process”
A Research Seminar on with Prof. Takeuchi Shinichi on February 23, 2018IMG_2483

On February 23rd, 2018, the Center for Research and Action towards Sustainable Peace and Development (CRAPSD) was honored to host a seminar with Professor Takeuchi Shinichi, the head of the African Studies Center at the Tokyo University of Foreign Studies (TUFS) who has been involved in field research in rural areas of Rwanda for the last 20 years. People from different professional backgrounds such as lecturers, students, NGO staffs attended the seminar; there were 25 men and 20 women from at least 7 countries (Rwanda, Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo/ DRC, Tanzania, South Sudan, Japan and Germany).

In the seminar, Professor Takeuchi first made a PowerPoint Presentation for one hour and a session of questions and answers followed for half an hour. Prof. Takeuchi remarked that rural zones in Rwanda host the majority of the population and, as he emphasized it, “any authority needs to establish order and legitimacy” in a post-conflict society; therefore, it is essential to aim for sustainable peace-building efforts in rural areas of Rwanda.

The main aspect that emerged in the seminar is that land conflicts often break out in post-conflict periods because land rights are connected to public order. In Rwanda, there have been various policies towards land regulation in rural areas after the 1994 Genocide. Some of those efforts are land sharing between Tutsi returnees and other residents, the new Family Law (1999) in which women are entitled by the law to inherit land, for example, land registration law (2005) which regulates that Rwandans receive land certificates for a better administrative control over land (and expropriation in case of failing to use the land ‘efficiently’), land marketization and the development of marshlands, among other strategies.

The seminar was an opportunity for participants to exchange on issues related to land, its management and implications of its control in the peace-building process of Rwanda. By the end of the seminar, it arose that enhancing development through the increase of agricultural yields and improvement of social conditions like health and education, establishing public order in terms of land access for all Rwandans, and reducing economic inequalities between rich and poor are effective strategies for sustainable peace-building in rural parts of Rwanda. The efforts in land management for peace-building were saluted in the seminar; for example, it was a good thing to know that the food production rate of Rwanda increases every year compared to other countries of the region (where it stagnates?). And suggestions were made by participants towards more determination in gender equality and fair distribution of resources such as land in order to increase the impact of the progress that the existing work already achieved. An important suggestion that came up is that there is a need of gathering data on how land marketization is linked to other systems of social development and to what extent the gap between rich and poor influences land access among Rwandans. This is particularly important because there might be a need for a measure of land protection so that the poor do not sell land without gaining from it in the medium and long term just because of pressing immediate needs due to poverty.

CRASPD was delighted to host this seminar for the benefit of PIASS community and Rwandan society. We are looking forward future similar events. Stay with us.

The seminar was an opportunity for participants to exchange on issues related to land, its management and implications of its control in the peace-building process of Rwanda. By the end of the seminar, it arose that enhancing development through the increase of agricultural yields and improvement of social conditions like health and education, establishing public order in terms of land access for all Rwandans, and reducing economic inequalities between rich and poor are effective strategies for sustainable peace-building in rural parts of Rwanda. The efforts in land management for peace-building were saluted in the seminar; for example, it was a good thing to know that the food production rate of Rwanda increases every year compared to other countries of the region (where it stagnates?). And suggestions were made by participants towards more determination in gender equality and fair distribution of resources such as land in order to increase the impact of the progress that the existing work already achieved. An important suggestion that came up is that there is a need of gathering data on how land marketization is linked to other systems of social development and to what extent the gap between rich and poor influences land access among Rwandans. This is particularly important because there might be a need for a measure of land protection so that the poor do not sell land without gaining from it in the medium and long term just because of pressing immediate needs due to poverty.

CRASPD was delighted to host this seminar for the benefit of PIASS community and Rwandan society. We are looking forward future similar events. Stay with us.

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Seminar on Psychosocial Reconciliation with
Dr. Masahiro Minami on February 16, 2018

CRASPD organized a seminar on February 16th, 2018; it started at 2:00 pm and ended at 4:30 pm. 47 people attended it (24 males and 23 females) and the group was made of PIASS students in majority and other people staff of organizations that work in the domain of counselling and psychological care like Mental Health Dignity Foundation and Family, Circle, Love Lab Organization (FCCLO). The seminar was presented by Dr. Masahiro Minami; he is registered clinical counsellor who works now at Simon Fraser University in Canada. He is specialized in Morita therapy (Japanese indigenous psychosocial therapy) and Zen therapy.

In the seminar, Dr. Minami presented results of a research he did in Mbyo, Bugesera District, Rwanda. The seminar was entitled “Ubwiyunge mu Bikorwa – Development and Field Piloting of Action-Based Psychosocial Reconciliation Approach in Post-Gacaca Rwanda: A Phenomenological Exploration”.

He emphasized that forgiveness should not be forced. He mentioned that forgiveness could be verbal or practical. The first type is when the offender requests forgiveness while the second is about the offender offering a service to his victim.

He explained how he practiced the Action-Based Psychosocial reconciliation Approach (ABPRA); it is basically an approach that focuses on actions’ healing and contact theory. In his research, he brought together pairs (people who are linked by offence during the genocide) and they were doing activities together. It starts with the perpetrator offering his services to the victim and the latter showing what they are going to do together.

He thematically analyzed the content. The results of the research were mainly shared joy for both perpetrators and survivors, healing (through cleansing and re-humanization for perpetrators and reduced fear for survivors) and psychosocial development with the witnessing by the community of the joint actions of the pairs.

In the session of questions and answers, it briefly became clear that both emotional and decisional forgiveness are as important, that sometimes survivors force themselves to forgive because of their cultural and/or religious values and that reconciliation is a continuous process and efforts should be kept up so that something is done in that domain. It emerged also that the National Unity and Reconciliation Commission (NURC) shifted to practical reconciliation, that ABPRA should be part of a comprehensive approach, not used alone. Dr. Minami acknowledged that there were prior experiences of the pairs that facilitated the good conduct of the research such as confession on where bodies of victims were buried, truth-telling, apology, Bible teaching and economic support.