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What a feeling! Witnessing the Power of Healing & Reconciliation

May 15, 2012
Cultural activity after mediation

Participants in a mediation session take part in a collaborative cultural performance after their training with Beinfait in the DRC.

The following blog comes to us from Mame N. Dieye. Mame (known as “Nini”) is from Dakar, Senegal and is currently interning with the Institutional Learning Team at SFCG while pursuing a Masters Degree in International Development Studies at Ohio University. Her research primarily focuses on the conflicts between market dominant minorities and the civilian population in Senegal.

“I am a witness to the power of healing and reconciliation.”

– Bienfait Muhigirwa, SFCG Program Assistant, South Kivu, DRC

Bienfait’s voice, energy and optimism are infectious even through a Skype conversation that dropped our connection at least 6 times during our afternoon chat. I couldn’t imagine any other person with whom I would have rather shared these technical difficulties. He dealt with them with grace, humor, and that oh-so-fleeting positive energy.

After one of the forums that SCFG and the center of Lokole organized, a chief in the town of Irangi said, “thanks to this training, we will now take over the reign so that peaceful coexistence will endure.”

Bienfait facilitates reconciliation activities between community leaders and local residents.

Bienfait facilitates reconciliation activities between community leaders and local residents.

These are the types of testimonies and feedback that keep Bienfait going, that give him so much satisfaction.  They give him confidence that his work makes a difference.

Filling the role of Program Assistant to the Program of Expanded Assistance to Returnees (PEAR), Bienfait has been with Search’s DRC office since August 2001. Financed by UNICEF, the project works towards stabilizing the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. SFCG’s work includes increasing sensitization about the situation of the refugees returning in the region and peacebuilding programs that help facilitate their reintegration into their communities.

Bienfait is quick to point out that it is not the mission or objectives but rather SFCG’s unique mix of tools and activities used to reach those objectives that set SFCG apart from countless other peacebuilding interventions in the DRC. According to Bienfait, this is, without a doubt, why SFCG has been so successful with its programs.

Participants sign an agreement after a community dialogue facilitated by Search for Common Ground

Participants sign an agreement after a community dialogue facilitated by Search for Common Ground in South Kivu Province in the DRC.

Illustrating his point, Bienfait thinks back to the countless testimonies of listeners who have conveyed the transformative effects of the radio programs designed to educate journalists on various reporting and interviewing techniques. As a result

of these trainings, one listener of the shows expressed that “Radio programs produced by SFCG educate us a lot about peaceful coexistence and conflict transformation. Based on these topics, I am already able to live in peace with my neighbors and local authorities.”

As a journalist by trade, it comes as no surprise that Bienfait has found this aspect of the project most rewarding. In addition,

Because he is based in the field, Beinfait acknowledges that he is more readily able to measure the success of programs through his daily contact with the people his work is impacting. In these situations he has the pleasure of witnessing the changes in attitudes and reflections of the people SFCG is serving.

“Most people want peace,” Bienfait explains, “They just don’t have the tools.”

Bienfait speaks during a community reconciliation event in South Kivu

Bienfait speaks during a community reconciliation event in South Kivu.

For instance, after activities established to increase solidarity and reconciliation between local authorities and the general population a community representative expressed that he was very excited that SFCG gave them the chance, framework and know-how to help unite and reconcile them with local authorities.

In fact, according to him and several other participants, they will now always be able to work closely with authorities in order to ensure that community activities go on without a hitch and that they yield a lot of positive outcomes.

“It is one thing to “talk the talk,” but it is another to “walk the walk,” Bienfait adds.

SFCG “walks the walk,” and we have an entire section of the population who can attest to that – whose daily lives have been positively transformed.”

As a result, Bienfait continues to be amazed at how thankful and grateful the communities in which our programs have been implemented are for the work that SFCG does.

“What a feeling! How many people do you know who can honestly say every night as they go to bed that on this day they have made a difference in the lives of people?”

Not very many, only a lucky few I quietly thought to myself. And I also thought of how lucky SFCG was to have someone like Bienfait Muhigirwa fighting every day to achieve our goal of transforming violent conflicts around the world.

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