Every day the world wakes up to more devastating headlines of wars and conflicts. Currently there are ongoing conflicts reported in parts of the Middle East, Africa, Asia, Latin America, and Europe. While the severity and duration of these conflicts differ, they have all resulted in profound and lasting impacts to families and communities. Stories like that of M’s family are far too common in areas ridden by conflict. Children have been robbed of parents, women have been widowed, young girls have been defiled, people have lost limbs, lives, and livelihoods. The unending wars, conflicts, and divisions that engulf our world have plunged millions of families into devastating depths of pain and despair. Many have been left with deep emotional scars. Entire families, communities and nations have been permanently damaged.
Can anything be done to end to these cycles of violence? Efforts by the UN and governments to stop wars or reverse the negative effects have largely failed. This is perhaps because many of the conflicts in the world today are highly complex. They are deeply rooted in historical, political, religious, or ethnic grievances. Often multiple parties with differing interests are involved. Simple negotiations or similar interventions often employed by UN agencies and governments are not enough to bring effective, lasting resolution to such conflicts. Other interventions such as dialogue, mediation, justice, and policy changes have worked in some areas and failed in others.
This calls for a deeper look into the issue. Is there another approach that can be deployed to address these conflicts and the underlying causes?
The East Africa School of Reconciliation (EASOR) has emerged as a transformative force, employing the “Healing Hearts, Transforming Nations” (HHTN) approach to help combat the global issue of wars and conflicts. EASOR 2023 took place in June in the city of Nakuru, nestled in the picturesque Rift Valley of Kenya. EASOR is hosted by Way of Peace Kenya, a Christian NGO dealing with peace, reconciliation, and community empowerment. The school is an extension of the International School of Reconciliation (ISOR) which takes place in Kigali, Rwanda. EASOR 2023 was conducted in partnership with HHTN Global, Rabagirana Ministries, Le Rucher Ministries, Resonate Global Mission and World Renew.
The school brought together Christian leaders and influential community members from diverse backgrounds and cultures in pursuit of a common goal – reconciliation and transformation. Participants and facilitators were drawn from Kenya, Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, South Sudan, Burkina Faso, Liberia, Hungary, and the USA. This rich tapestry of cultures, languages and backgrounds helped weave a unique and vibrant atmosphere enriching the learning experience for all.
The HHTN philosophy and approach was born and bred in Rwanda. Rwanda is the nation that has emerged as a beacon of hope by overcoming the wounds of one of the worst genocides in history. HHTN is conducted in the form of an immersive, participatory retreat. HHTN is unique in that it offers an experiential learning environment in which theoretical knowledge blends seamlessly with practical engagement. Its power lies in its simplicity. It is founded on the principles of Christian faith and helps people to overcome deep-seated prejudices while developing a deeper appreciation of the uniqueness and value in different tribes, races, communities, and individuals. HHTN embraces the centrality of the cross of Jesus in fostering healing, forgiveness, and reconciliation. It helps individuals find strength and wisdom to navigate the complexities of their own brokenness. Through embracing the work at Calvary, individuals experience personal transformation, allowing them to be agents of healing and reconciliation in their own relationships and communities.
Through EASOR, HHTN changed the life of M. Before the violent attack on his family, he had been a pillar of strength to his family, the church, and the community. He was respected among peers and held in high regard. The tragedy cast a long shadow over his once bright spirit. He had watched helplessly as three strong men violently abused his daughter. As a father his greatest pain was the inability to defend and protect his child. This left a deep wound and chipped away at the mosaic of his self-worth. “Since that day, I have not been able to sleep through the night,” he said. Experiencing HHTN at EASOR helped him delve into the recesses of his soul and confront his pain and wounds. He took the opportunity to put his faith into practice by symbolically nailing his pain to a cross and giving it all to Jesus. He realized Jesus had always wanted to redeem the things that had been robbed from him and his family on that fateful night. It was during this school that he was able to sleep through the night for the first time since those tragic events so many years ago.
Many other similar testimonies came from the school. Participants were offered a safe space to address both personal and communal wounds. The school served as a catalyst for healing hearts and transforming nations. It left an indelible mark on the hearts of many.
Additionally, to empower its learners EASOR partnered with the local community and churches to help offer its participants an opportunity to put in to practice what they had learned. The school organised HHTN events in four locations, two in the city of Nakuru and two in the town of Eldoret. The EASOR participants prepared the HHTN event under the coaching of experienced facilitators. Leading these workshops equipped the participants with practical skills to help them carry out the same workshops in their contexts.
In the modern world where walls have risen ever higher and bridges have grown more and more scarce, EASOR serves as a shining example of what can be achieved when the deepest pains of the heart are dealt with. M is one of the 39 whose lives were transformed at EASOR and who have graduated and been commissioned to be peacemakers. Each of these new HHTN facilitators have the potential to reshape the narrative of conflict and division that plague our world. Nations can be healed and transformed when individuals confront their prejudices, embrace the beauty of diversity, acknowledge the centrality of the work of the cross, and build lasting relationships based on forgiveness and reconciliation.
You also can be part of this community that is working to transform nations. You can attend HHTN events taking place near you – HHTN events are currently being conducted in the United States, Canada, Europe, and Africa. You can help spread the word by telling your family, friends, and fellow church members about HHTN. You can also help support the HHTN work so that more people from vulnerable communities can find healing and hope at the cross of Jesus.
Additionally, you can participate in the next school of reconciliation. Upcoming schools are planned for francophone Africa and for the international community:
- “Francophone School of Reconciliation” will be held in Abidjan, Cote D’Ivoire from August 1-14, 2023.
- “International School of Reconciliation” will be held in Kigali, Rwanda from March 4-17, 2024.
For more information, connect with the HHTN Global team via hhtnglobal.org.
Watch Video Highlights of the EASOR here