By Felix BIGABO
Sociotherapy for a wounded nation like Rwanda is contributing to alleviate the shadows of heavy hearts and hidden memories. The sociotherapy program started in Muhanga district from January 2014, being implemented by Prison Fellowship Rwanda, member of Consortium Community Based Sociotherapy. The sociotherapy approach is creating an enabling environment for community members to meet in groups for interpersonal healing and reconciliation.
Talking about the usefulness of sociotherapy, the Mayor of Muhanga District said that the origin of different ethnic conflict and atrocities that undermined the Rwandan society actually lies in this region. The first Tutsi killed due to ethnic conflict was killed in Kiyumba sector, Muhanga district. The Hutu manifest of 1957 against Tutsi Kingdom was written in Muhanga district. Some of sectors of Muhanga district were much affected by infiltration war and violence of 1998. Because of these wounds, many people still not trust each other. Sociotherapy will try to help them to be healed, regain trust in one another and from there enhance unity.
In the past few weeks, the CBSP Muhanga team has recruited 72 sociotherapists/group facilitators. One group of sociotherapists have been trained from 24th to 28th February 2014, and another group from 10th to 14th March 2014. The CBSP Muhanga team witnessed that actually the training itself provided the participants with opportunities for interpersonal healing. Testimonies during the two training rounds showed that sociotherapists have experienced and started personal healing from different wounds of war, genocide and other social conflicts. This was an encouragement to CBSP team, because while the sociotherapists are in the process of healing from their wounds, they will be better prepared to facilitate the socio-sessions in their communities.
Currently 18 socio-group sessions have started in six out of twelve administrative sectors of Muhanga district. We met with a challenge of having a big number of people who wanted to participate in socio-group sessions. This indicates that community members are willing and have a positive expectation of sociotherapy sessions.
Among 18 socio-groups so far started, there is one group that consists of ‘ local leaders’ in Shyogwe sector who after hearing the purpose and objectives of sociotherapy have requested to form sociotherapy group of their own. They have expressed their willing of participating in sociotherapy session, as they were considering themselves as people who still have wounds. Their participation in a group will be helpful to enhance sociotherapy program in Muhanga.
Considering the high expectation of people in Muhanga towards the sociotherapy program, we believe that sociotherapy approach will continue to contribute to open up the hearts of the wounded people for the effective healing, reconciliation and social cohesion in Muhanga. This will be possible by establishing and maintaining socio-group boundaries and fostering an atmosphere of free and open communication, offering mutual understanding to individuals and to the group as a whole.