By Achel Bayisenge; Katie Hackett
Communities in Burundi are still healing after decades of ethnic violence. In Rutegama, youth are taking the lead to create real unity through children's clubs called "Flame of Peace."
"We start with games," says Vianney, 14, president of the club at his school. "After games, we sit down and discuss, talking about things that can be the source of insecurity for children."
The club also teaches about conflict resolution and human rights, especially rights for children.
"People like games," Vianney explains. "Most of our messages of peace pass through songs, dance and other cultural performances."
As he talks, an elderly man sitting amongst the youth nods his head in approval.
Zacharie is 65 years old, and often joins Vianney and the club members when they meet. He recounts legends and cultural proverbs full of wisdom for the group to discuss.
"This is what our ancestors used to do every night. We grew up around the fire, listening to old people recounting fairy tales and other cultural elements full of life lessons, among them humility and love of the neighbour," Zacharie says. "This is the school we had, and it worked well."
The Flame of Peace clubs bring youth together from all ethnic backgrounds. By focusing on what they have in common, they break down barriers. Some of these barriers are prejudices inherited from their parents, but even adults are changing their behaviour as they see their children united.
Virginie, 15, says that her mom likes seeing her walk home with children from other groups. She doesn't want to see the kind of conflict they experienced in the past.
The more children come together in the clubs, the more they develop compassion towards others and are willing to support each other.
"Children themselves recently came up with an idea that touched me a lot," says Dieudonne Bukuru, World Vision Peace Building Coordinator. "They proposed to make bricks in order to construct a house for a vulnerable [elderly] woman."
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