Children forgotten in peacebuilding activities

September 7, 2023 | Opinion | Volume 27 Issue 18D
Mekonnen Gemeda | Peacebuilding Director, Meserete Kristos Church
Bontu recovered from her trauma after participating in a series of healing sessions. (Supplied photo)

For the past two years, the Meserete Kristos Church (MKC)—the Anabaptist denominational body in Ethiopia—has been working with communities and local institutions to restore peace between warring ethnic groups in the Nono district of the West Shewa Zone of Oromia Regional State.

The targets of the peacebuilding projects are mainly youth and adults. MKC facilitated different types of training, trauma healing sessions and community conversations in conflict-hit villages.

The reconciliation process has been progressing well and is now at its final stage to settle the issues.

Earlier this summer, I was in the area to discuss the reconciliation process with the traditional elders and the local government authorities. I got an opportunity to meet with a woman who received the training and facilitated community conversations on peacebuilding in their villages.

Her name is Bontu. She lost her husband after two years of married life. She bore one child before her husband was killed during the ethnic violence three years ago.

Bontu was identified by the community as one of the survivors who needed trauma healing because of what she went through during the violence. She participated in a series of trauma healing sessions, and she recovered from the trauma.

Now, she is one of the active volunteers who is helping other women who were affected by the ethnic violence in the community. She told me how the training and trauma-healing sessions helped her recover.

However, during our conversations, she shared with me something I did not expect. Her three-year-old son asks her to buy him a gun. He presents his request every evening when they are alone in the house.

She thought he wanted a toy gun. Recently, he told her that he wanted a real gun to kill the person who killed his father. She said that she almost fainted. She did not imagine that her son was preparing himself for revenge at this age.

Bontu’s son was told by other children in the village that his father was killed by someone from the other ethnic group and that he should seek revenge when he grows up.

Bontu asked me if MKC could help children affected by ethnic violence. It was a question that I was not prepared to answer.

I have recognized that this is one of the needs of the community that we should address.

The sustainability of the peace we are trying to restore now depends on the type of children we are nurturing.

This article originally appeared in the July 2023 issue of MKC News, the newsletter of Meserete Kristos Church. Reprinted with permission.

Bontu recovered from her trauma after participating in a series of healing sessions. (Supplied photo)

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