AGLI focuses on promoting peace, reconciliation, community building, conflict management, and trauma-healing at the grassroots level in the Great Lakes Region of Africa. AGLI believes that the people who understand the needs of the community best are those who live there. Thus, AGLI partners with local religious or non-governmental organizations that focus one or more of these areas. To achieve these goals, many of AGLI’s partners utilize Alternatives to Violence (AVP) workshops, Healing and Rebuilding Our Communities (HROC) workshops, and Transformative mediation, among other approaches.
To learn more about these approaches, see below.
To read about our current partner organizations and their projects and methods, click here.
Alternatives to Violence (AVP)
The Alternatives to Violence Project (AVP) began in 1975, when a group of inmates near New York City asked a local Quaker group to provide them with non-violence training. Highly experiential in nature, the workshop encourages participants to recognize that they can best find their own answers to the conflicts they encounter.
AVP workshops focus on the following themes:
- Seeking that which is good in ourselves and others
- Community building skills: trust, respect, and inclusiveness
- Communication skills: deep listening, speaking with clarity, and responsibility
- Conflict Transformation
There are three levels of AVP training: Basic, Advanced, and Training for Facilitators. All workshops last for three days and emphasize building community among participants. The Basic workshop provides an initial introduction to the concepts outlined above. In the Advanced workshops, participants choose the thematic focus that they want to explore more fully. Examples of such themes include fear, anger, forgiveness, or discrimination. In the Training for Facilitators, participants learn the skills needed to lead workshops on their own.
Healing and Rebuilding Our Communities (HROC)
HROC is a program developed by several AGLI partners in partnership with AGLI. It is a three day experiential workshop modeled on AVP that deals with the personal and community trauma from the violent conflicts in the region. There is a basic workshop with a follow-up day and then a community celebration. An advanced workshop and a special workshop for HIV+ women have also been developed.
Philosophy and Approach:
The HROC program is based on a set of key principles and assumptions.
- First, HROC believes that in every person, there is something good. This is a radical notion in societies where most members have witnessed neighbors and even family members committing gruesome acts of violence.
- Secondly, the program is based on the belief that each person and society has the inner capacity to heal, and an inherent intuition of how to recover from trauma. Healing from trauma requires that a person’s inner good and wisdom is sought and shared with others. It is through this effort that trust can begin to be restored.
- Third, both victims and perpetrators of violence experience trauma and its after-effects.
- Fourth, the violence in Rwanda and Burundi was experienced at both a personal and community level. Therefore, efforts to heal and rebuild the country must also happen at both the individual and community level.
- Lastly, healing from trauma and building peace between groups are deeply connected; it is not possible to successfully do one without the other. Trauma healing and peace building efforts must happen simultaneously.
HROC slowly builds trust within the group. It is common for participants to be wary of attending workshops fearing they might be a trap where they will be attacked, sent back to prison, or killed. Through experiential activities and cooperative exercises, participants begin to relax. Ground rules are set to increase the “Sense of Safety,” the first stage.
The second stage is “Remembrance and Mourning.” There are two Rwandan proverbs that emphasize the importance of speaking out about one’s pain: “The family that does not talk, dies” and “The man who is sick must tell the whole world.” Traditionally Rwandans and Burundians talk about their losses and talk through their grief with family and neighbors. Broken trust and dismantled families have impeded that intuitive process of healing, but it is widely accepted in the cultures here as an important step in the journey toward healing.
In the workshops a forum is created for participants to pay tribute to their losses and to share their grief with others. This process helps to humanize the “other” thereby laying the foundation for the third and final stage, “Reconnection.” Many program participants report having felt very isolated in their grief and their reactions to the trauma they have experienced. The workshops become an important first step in realizing that they are not alone. Those who seek the second level of training to become healing companions begin to see how they can use their own painful experiences to help others.
Mediation skills greatly enhance facilitators’ abilities to bring peace, reconciliation, and solutions to conflict in their communities by bringing together the two parties or groups to build a cooperative relationship. Historically in the Great Lakes Region, conflicts were solved by methods more like arbitration—people in conflict went to a leader (frequently called a “wise man”) who ideally heard both sides and then pronounced a verdict. This is not compatible with the methods and philosophy of AVP or HROC where inner wisdom and strength of the participants is emphasized. From the time AGLI introduced AVP and HROC in the region, facilitators have been asked to resolve issues brought up by the participants in their workshops. They felt that they did not have the skills necessary for this type of conflict resolution. Experienced volunteer mediators from the USA worked with AGLI’s partner organizations to conduct initial mediation training sessions, and AGLI partners continue to train new mediators. Transformative mediation sessions bring together both sides of a conflict to empower them to work together to develop their own solutions.