Witnessing Reconciliation in Ethiopia
Thursday, November 1, 2018
The following post was written by Master of Arts in Peace and Justice student Leah Bethany Gage in July 2018, during her summer internship with Green String Network in Ethiopia.
Over the past 10 days I have had the opportunity to co-facilitate a training and a “training of trainers” on Trauma Informed Resiliency in Ethiopia for community leaders.
The beauty of Ethiopia, the only country in Africa to remain uncolonized, has brought me through a process of self-healing, even in my position as a facilitator. This process was possible through Green String Network’s (GSN) unique framework. This is what is so special in GSN’s process: combining education on the realities of trauma with skills to support affected communities, as well as modeling and engaging in trauma healing and communal sharing and connection. This framework, based on supporting the resiliency of communities and bringing to the forefront their cultures, becomes a healing and awakening process for the participants as well as the facilitators.
GSN developed this framework through noticing that much peacebuilding work was not tapping into the needs of communities, nor their gifts or resiliency. People have a need to not only be heard, but also to be uplifted and recognized. GSN’s mission is to amplify what communities are already doing to heal and thrive, bringing to the forefront cultural practices of healing and connection. These stories and practices act as a bridge for shared positive pasts with positive, thriving futures to be built together.
It was an incredibly humbling and inspiring time for us to be conducting the Trauma Informed Resiliency training, as we witnessed firsthand the steps to heal the impact of trauma and walk together towards positive peace. This provided an immeasurable example through which to acknowledge, honor, and witness healing in Ethiopia and the inherent beauty of this culture and its people.
Ethiopia and Eritrea have been deadlocked in conflict for over 20 years. However, Abiy Ahmed Ali, the newly elected prime minister of Ethiopia, who has been in office for barely four months, has displayed the true heart of Ethiopia in reconciling with their brothers and sisters in Eritrea. The first week of our training, we had the opportunity to witness history through the amazing act of leadership and peacebuilding as the prime minister traveled to Eritrea to restore relationship, open borders and channels of trade and communication.
The night I was celebrating my French countrymen win the World Cup, my Ethiopian hosts were joining me in celebration, as the Eritrean president was welcomed onto Ethiopian soil. Abiy, as one of my new friends shared, “truly embodies the heart of the people.” The people love him. It was immensely healing and awe-inspiring to witness citizens not only honor but be truly moved by the words and leadership of their elected representative. This is not only an incredible step for Ethiopia and Eritrea, but will serve as an example for other African countries throughout the region and the continent: “We are brothers and sisters, united we are strong.”
In our training session today, we focused on storytelling. One of our Sudanese friends from the Gambella region shared a story his father gifted him in his life: Take one stick and try to break it, it breaks easily; now take many sticks and try to break them, and they will not break. Tears came to my eyes as my Sudanese brother, working towards peace in the Gambella region, sat stoically, nodding his head, sharing this truth.
In Ethiopia, this is lived. In Ethiopia, you are cared for, and the strength and bond of community is present in every aspect of life: whether it be by sharing the same injera, or by feeding your loved ones from your very hand, or by not allowing your friend to sit alone in a café. In Ethiopia, no one is left alone.