Burundians helping Kenyans

So, you may have wondered How are our Friends in Central Africa responding to the news of violence in Kenya. Here is an e-mail from my Burundian friend David Niyonzima that I received a few days ago. I had not heard from him since Christmas, and I was not surprised to hear that he had been up to Nairobi. He and his wife Felicity and their children were refugees in Nairobi, leaving the violence in Burundi in 1993 after his name was put on a deathlist. They have many strong connections with the Kenyan Friends who harbored them during their time of need. I shared my traumatology training with David in 2002 and have been to Burundi to teach for him twice since then. He is one of my heroes. The news out of Kenya has not been great, even since he wrote this last week. Constant prayers for the cessation of violence are needed to undergird those who are doing the work of peace-making.

Dear Peggy,

Greetings. I hope you are doing fine.

I wanted to share with you how what I learned from you is being utilized to help even the situation in Kenya. I have been away in Kenya to help train people on how to do a quick therapeutic intervention for the displaced people.

I came back today Saturday Jan. 12.

Did you hear of the violence that followed the presidential election on December 27, 2007? How at least 400 have been killed and thousands of others got displaced? Even though the situation seems to be being brought under control, thousands of people are seriously traumatized and many, including church leaders have a feeling of shame for what Kenyans did to each other.

I was invited by the Agape Fellowship Center in Nairobi to train people who can help. I spoke to over 60 pastors, clergy people, counselors, representing 20 denominations. I spoke on the trauma healing issues and trained them on how to do a quick therapeutic intervention in time of crisis. I spoke from my experience in Burundi and shared with them the techniques of defusing and debriefing which were very helpful to them according to their comments. Two of the participants were professorial counselors with private practices.

During the group discussion where we applied the teaching to ourselves I realized most of my audience were traumatized because each of them shared their fears, nightmares and many other emotions as they experienced or witnessed violence in some suburbs of Nairobi.

We prayed for the talks which were going on in the state house as we did in Burundi when we prayed for the cease-fire to be agreed upon by the Burundi politicians.

You might have heard that so many diplomats and formal African presidents such as those of Mozambique, Zambia and Tanzania are now visiting the Kenyan politicians so that they may help in mediation. Koffi Annan was expected to come and kick start a formal dialogue after Presendent Kuffuor of Ghana failed to bring together Mwai Kibaki and Raila Odinga to an agreement on Thursday.

It was a little bit hard to condense the teaching of a week or three days to only one day but thank God it was possible and the participants were all happy and very much appreciated what they have learned. They will be helping the 700-1000 people who usually come at the center from the slums of Kibera and Mathare to get the flour, rice, greens, oil and other things to help them in their displaced camps. The participants will use the technique I shared with them to help stop an eventual vicious cycle of revenge that usually comes because of the unhealed trauma or the lack of a therapeutic intervention during a violent situation when blood has been shed.

On Friday I was taken to Nakuru, 150 Km from Nairobi where I met with 80 people representing 10 denominations. I had a brief awareness raising session with 8 bishop who have churches in the affected areas to sensitize them about the importance of responding to the trauma issues of the population in order to avert more violence and other disorders among the community. They appreciated the teaching but of course the time was so short and but since some of them had been exposed to counseling teachings what I shared was an added material to what whey are doing for their people.

Before returning to Nairobi on Friday evening I was able to visit the Nakuru Showground where an estimated 10,000 of mostly Kikuyu People displaced people are being helped by the Red Cross. Vehicles were still bringing more survivors of the violence. My host, Bishop Kabachia who is coordinating the church leaders's initiative to help the victims, told me that some of killed people were shot by poisoned arrows and others were burned. He said that some houses were still burned in remote areas where the military has not yet arrived. You might have heard of the 24 people among whom 34 were children who were burned in the Assemblies of God church where they had sought refuge.

We shall continue to pray that God may continue to restore order and bring peace in that nation.

With lots of appreciations,