In my role at Karuna Center, I have vividly seen that our work restores hope where it is lost. As the world again witnesses the horrors of war in Ukraine and other conflict areas worldwide, it can be easy to lose sight that peace is possible. But I believe in Karuna Center’s approach to conflict, especially where violence has destroyed the social fabric. We bring back trust in sharply divided communities and individuals, and establish ongoing structures for transparent communication that promotes sustainable peace.
As a Rwandan, I grew up as a refugee—segregated all my childhood along ethnic lines, then witnessing the tragedy of the genocide that befell my country in 1994. When I later pursued my graduate studies in peace and conflict resolution in the US, I was a victim of a violent attack by racist youth. After experiencing the impacts of dehumanization in two countries, I feel that at Karuna Center, I have landed in an institution that promotes sustainable peacebuilding values across the globe.
My heart felt at home when I started working as a Dialogue Coach for Karuna Center’s Healing Our Communities project in Rwanda in 2018. I felt honor and gratitude in my work to re-humanize and reconnect the survivors and former perpetrators of the 1994 genocide. I facilitated community dialogues, trained and mentored new community dialogue facilitators, and worked with our local partners to connect communities with government officials at different levels.
Now, in Nigeria, Karuna’s dialogue work in the Protecting Our Communities Initiative is having a real impact on the farmer-herder conflict, which has claimed thousands of lives in the past few years. Due to the project’s peacebuilding and trauma healing interventions, crop farmers who used to stereotype Fulani cattle herders as merciless killers and intruders are now accepting them as fellow citizens. In our project’s focus communities, people from the two sides are collaborating to resolve problems nonviolently.
At a recent dialogue between Nigerian farmer and herder associations, I was deeply moved to hear a state farmers’ association leader stand and say, “talking with Fulani cattle herders has been a taboo for crop farmers, but we are talking with them now because of the dialogues.” Furthermore, the male-only group was inspired by our project’s focus on supporting women’s leadership. They encouraged women representatives to step up. I was amazed to witness 20 Fulani women joining in dialogue with 20 women representatives of farming communities to plan joint strategies for peace. This, along with so many other success stories, have attracted many government and community-supported organization officials to call for expansion of our peacebuilding approach to their respective states.
I am proud to be part of Karuna Center and my sincere appreciation goes to all of you who support this work. I hope that you can join me in making a gift this spring that is meaningful to you. Gifts of any size are important to us. This year, our goal is to raise $150,000 from our full community of donors to support our peacebuilding initiatives.
Thank you very much,
Board Member, Lead Consultant, and Dialogue Coach