IMG_5163Rwanda, a small country in Africa faced one of the biggest human tragedies in the 20th century. A mass scale genocide took place in 1994 with over a million men, women and children perished. The victims were predominantly Tutsi; the perpetrators, predominantly Hutu. However, remarkably Rwanda has emerged from its dark past moving forward, together as a country and as one people.

Twenty years later, 2003 African Grammy award winner, musician and genocide survivor, Jean Paul Samputu, together with fellow Scottish peace activist and musician, Iain Stewart recorded a song called Rwandan Dream. They were both brought together around a shared vision of continued peace for Rwanda and peace for the world. They hope that their music can help inspire others to make a better Rwanda for our children and our children’s children. Their ‘Rwandan Dream’ is that Rwanda can be a ‘beacon of light’ to the rest of the world.

Working with CRAIC NI, the ‘Rwandan Dream beacon of light’ is shining in Northern Ireland to develop its own unique Rwandan Dream NI Project. The Rwandan Dream NI project aims to works with young people, youth leaders and leaders in communities to look at differences, embrace diversity and draw on comparisons of Rwanda and the Northern Ireland conflict.

The project develops initiatives for peace and reconciliation and address the dangers of prejudice and division in Northern Ireland and Rwanda to work towards a peaceful and positive future. It will brings people together to tackle the roots of prejudice, racism and sectarianism.

CRAIC NI’s Rwandan Dream NI project is currently working with youth groups and youth leaders from both sides of the community of Shankill and Ardoyne in Belfast, the Resurgam Trust, Lisburn, the local Rwandan members of the community, the Band of the 1st (NI) Battalion Army Cadet Force, Belfast School of Performing Arts, Tell it in Colour with support from Northern Ireland Community Relations Council, Lisburn and Castlereagh City Council and the Royal Cadets Forces NI. The Project has been launched on Monday 16 November 2015 at Parliament Buildings.

Brenda Hale MLA who supports this project said,’ ‘I was very happy to sponsor CRAIC NI’s event this evening in Parliament Buildings and meet the Rwandan Dream NI Project. I have been working closely with Eileen Chan-Hu and her team over the summer to help secure the funding required for tonight’s programme. Sadly this event takes on another level when we place it in the horrific and deadly context of the attacks that have happened in Paris, Kenya and Lebanon. Only by learning about world cultures and faith do we understand others; and this has to help us live and work together and give us the tools to counteract radicalism and marginalism to which we sadly know are life threatening. Tonight’s special guests have a life story none would want and so I acknowledge and applaud their courage in speaking out.”

Today we share with you how we have taken this project to Northern Ireland to develop our sharing and to draw on our experiences of conflict and peace in Northern Ireland. The programme for the evening will

  • Highlight what young people from Northern Ireland have learnt from their workshops held before the launch, 
  • Celebrate the special music and songs of Rwandan Dream
  • Include local groups to perform alongside the musicians of Rwandan Dream
  • Hear testimonies and stories from the survivors of the Rwanda genocide,
  • Participate in a Panel discussion from the speakers on the message of non-violence.

Eileen Chan-Hu, CRAIC Programme Manager, lead on this Project says, ‘I am delighted that CRAIC’s ‘dream’ of bringing the wonderful music and unique partnership in the excellent model captured between Scotland and Rwanda to commemorate 20 years after the Rwandan genocide could be brought to Northern Ireland to enable understanding to work against hate in our communities, to share what life is like in NI for young people, to hear the stories from the Rwandan genocide survivors, to develop new bonds and relationships between countries in order to work together for peace and as Jean Paul Samptutu’s says, the need to forgive and love.’ 

Jean Paul Samptutu through his music achieved the Africa Grammy Kora award in 2003 and outstanding achievement after the Genocide in 1994.  He teaches us a strong message that people fear love, to love your neighbour and in the current context of Northern Ireland a country in conflict this is important.  We have had an emotional but inspirational weekend of working with young people from different backgrounds, aspiring musicians, singers and ambassadors of peace. Young people talked about not believing in rumours to hate each other and to get to know people as they are.  I hope we learn from the Rwandan Genocide experience that 20 years on there is a life and to be one of the happiest nations in the world as Rwanda has enabled itself to do and that through dialogue, inclusion and understanding from our programmes we can be a small step to do this. We are grateful for support from Brenda Hale MLA, Community Relations Council, Reserves and Cadets NI, Belfast School of Performing Arts, Hammer and Shankill youth clubs and Lisburn and Castlereagh City Council in making the Rwandan Dream NI happen!’

“The scale and ferocity of the genocide in Rwanda is almost unimaginable to us.  In recent years the courage shown by people from all sides of the Rwandan community has been remarkable.  There are commonalities in building reconciliation in Rwanda and Northern Ireland including the need to support such courageous work; build a united community rather than a society based on communal difference; and build relationships because relationships dismantle prejudice and hatred.  The Community Relations Council is delighted to support this project on world tolerance day,” commented Peter Osborne, Chair of the Community Relations Council.

The Rwandan Dream NI launch marked the UN International Day of Tolerance which recognizes the universal human rights and fundamental freedoms of others.  Rwandan Dream NI is only beginning today, our dream is to work with young people to achieve through sharing and learning and education our vision across Northern Ireland. Our hope is to see young people exchange visits from Northern Ireland and Rwanda and to learn from each other that the only path to take is the path of peace, forgiveness and reconciliation. Only then can we truly build a ‘brighter tomorrow’ for our children and our children’s children.

AGAFUNI KABAGARA UBUSHUTI NI AKARENGE, KANDI ABISHYIZE HAMWE NTAKIBANANIRA

‘A hoe made small from loving work came to visit and together we cultivated our relationship. When united everything is possible.’

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