August 8, 2008  Gitega, Burundi (Friday evening)

A great day after feeling a bit down over the lowered number of mediation training participants from 20 down to 8. They did catch on to some of the things they were struggling with on Thursday, and we learned that Pastor Ely had been able to schedule two mediations for today. We chose or they self selected the mediators, two for each case, and the other four were observers along with myself and Pastor Ely.

We left at 8:30, Pastor Ely driving and hammering a minivan into the countryside for about ten miles. When you talk of countryside in Africa, you assume bad road in most places and this was no day for understatement. We passed through a lot of coffee shambas and also saw brick kilns everwhere. Fuel is eucalyptus wood which fortunately grows fast or the country would be denuded. After 45 minutes of driving and asking directions, did someone say road signs? African men are way ahead of American men in being able to ask directions. We got to a primary school that actually had a playground. This was a first for me. It had a swing set, no swings however. and a hand over hand horizontal ladder and another game I can describe but it will make no sense to anyone except French Canadians. It has a horizontal bar about 4 feet off the ground to which is attached a speed bag aka small punching bag that can spin foward or backward. A kid stands on each side and tries to knock it forward or backward with a double fist and then do little tricks while the bag turns around the bar. They were also lacking the bag.

Anyway about 10 minutes after we showed up, people started arriving and shook our hands but it was clear that many were not shaking hands with each other. Some lines had apparently been drawn long before we got there. Both cases though different, involved individual families and conflict within each family. I watched one for an hour and ahalf and then went over to watch the other. It looked like they might be unsolvable, which is ok in transformative mediation as long as communication, empowerment and recognition take place. But I think the locals might not be so impressed if the first experiences didn't show some serious results. I'll explain more about the nature of the cases later.

I'm a little pressed for time right now, but I want to express my elation with the day. Both cases went down to wire. We had to leave by 12:45 to catch a bus back to Bujumbura and to have lunch. They both settled in the last fifteen minutes available. In one case the extended family had been allowed by the parties to sit and watch the process. It looked more like a trial than a mediation from outward appearances, and I wasn't sure what the effect of spectators would have on mediation. When they settled, everybody stood up and cheered. It was like Mr. Deeds Goes to Washington or some other Hollywood film.

The director of the local Peace Committee, made an impassioned speech afterward and told the children who were also in the mediation that they should never forget this day. The nation has had such a bloody history of civil war for over forty years that I think everyone was astonished. They asked to pray together and all made the sign of the cross. The White Father's effect rolls on. They sang one of the most moving songs I've ever heard and didn't understand a word. The Peace Committe director asked that a photo of the family be taken and that it be hung in that school classroom as a reminder to the community. On the way home the mediators were overjoyed and laughing and singing, and I felt like I was on a coaching trip where the athletes had trained well and performed well and experienced the joy of doing what they had been practicing so hard to do. I can describe it in no other way.

Friday night. Amen.


August 21, 2008
August 19, 2008
August 15, 2008
August 14, 2008
August 13, 2008
August 10, 2008
August 9, 2008
August 8, 2008
August 7, 2008
August 4, 2008
August 3, 2008
August 2, 2008
July 30, 2008
July 29, 2008
July 28, 2008
July 27, 2008
July 26, 2008
July 23, 2008
July 22, 2008
July 21, 2008
July 18, 2008
July 16, 2008
July 14, 2008
July 11, 2008
July 10, 2008
June 19, 2008