Peace Is A Process
July 10th, 2015. Peace does not come easy. For every person hoping for peace there always seems to be another who is causing conflict. This is what makes what Football for Hope, Peace, and Unity and the second year of our “Play For Hope: Rwanda20” partnership so special. FHPU has dedicated its mission to working for lasting peace in a country that has had numerous conflicts, the most notable and recent of which occurred 21 years ago in the form of a million-person genocide in just over three months time. Before our week in Rwamagana, the CAC team was able to visit the Gisozi Genocide Memorial which is just as humbling as the Holocaust Museum in Washington D.C. and the Killing Fields in Cambodia. All three memorials look to educate on the past while promoting the ideals of a peaceful future existence. To give you an idea of the scope and impact that the genocide had on Rwanda, a National Trauma Survey by UNICEF estimated that 80% of Rwandan children experienced a death in the family in 1994, with 70% of children witnessing someone being killed or injured. This was an event that completely transformed the nation and continues to form its identity moving forward.
How do you move on from such a catastrophic event? And how is FHPU through their soccer initiative PFH: Rwanda20 continuing to help this process? In the aftermath of the genocide, Rwanda implemented what was known as the Gacaca. It is a community-lead, grass-roots peace process. This allowed for victims and perpetrators to come forward and tell their stories. Punishments were then levied towards the genocidaires, but typically a 50% reduced sentenced that allowed them to work outside of a prison cell with their manual labor benefiting the community.
Even today, 21 years later, peace remains a process. On Thursday we concluded our training with the coaches and teachers of Rwamagana by playing a game from our Peace Day curriculum called “Understanding Stereotypes and Challenging Them.” It can also be easily used to discuss discrimination and segregation, both of which were factors in the build-up of the genocide. At the conclusion of the game we were hoping to openly discuss the historical issues between the Hutus and Tutsis, but we were told that it would be better to wait one day. Even today people struggle to speak openly about a difficult topic – they need time to put their thoughts together. The following morning during coach-backs, one group chose to replay this game. At the conclusion, a 30-minute group discussion was held in a seated circle on the grass. To someone who was just learning about the intricacies of Rwandan history, it felt very much like an extension of a Gacaca, where the community was able to come together to speak on difficult subjects.
The conclusion we heard from one coach after the discussion about the game is that when you segregate or discriminate, you are putting one group above another, and conflict is bound to follow. Dr. Holly Collison, who is studying and researching in the field of Sport for Peace and Development for Loughborough University, also joined the discussion. Her short participatory activity in the middle of the discussion showed that through communication you can learn about others, both your similarities and differences, but that communication is key. The more you communicate, the more you understand about each other and how similar we all are. And this is what the coaches and their fellow Rwandans are still doing today. Even after 21 years, peace remains a process.