Ethiopia: JRS promotes peace among urban refugees
23 November 2009

Refugees during a workshop at the refugee community centre. JRS just trained 30 of them in peaceful conflict resolution. (Peter Balleis SJ/JRS)
Currently, refugees from 18 different countries come to the RCC and inter- as well as intra-group conflicts are a daily reality.
Addis Ababa, 27 November 2009  – From November 23-26, 2009, the JRS Refugee Community Centre (RCC) in Addis Ababa held a workshop on conflict resolution for thirty refugees from Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

The workshop aimed to strengthen community ties among refugees at the RCC and to enhance their peace-building skills. Training sessions focused on four main topics: self-awareness, communication, creative problem solving, and analysis of conflict. Theoretical inputs were kept to 30 minutes maximum to allow more time for structured learning activities related to each topic such as problem solving. A number of sensitivity exercises like introspection, story-telling, and active listening honed key skills pertinent to peace-building. Case studies based on refugee realities were used to reinforce knowledge and skills related to conflict analysis and resolution. Also, participants engaged in role-plays and group discussions that required reflection and analysis of conflict commonly encountered by refugees themselves.   

Currently, refugees from 18 different countries, most of them from DRC and Sudan, come to the RCC and inter- as well as intra-group conflicts are a daily reality. While refugee children tend to freely associate and play with each other regardless of race or tribe, adults have more difficulties in socialising. Often, parents intervene in defence of their own tribal or racial roots when their children play rough or even get hurt.

Each training day started with a 15-minute contemplative ecumenical prayer which was meant to help participants focus on the goals of the workshop. To help build a climate of mutual trust and respect participants were split into small inter-tribal groups of six, each accompanied by a JRS worker. During group sharing sessions, “kolo”, an Ethiopian snack, was served to help participants relax and feel at ease while sharing about their experiences. At the end of the workshop JRS Country Director, Mr. Seyoum Asfaw, handed out certificates of attendance to all participants.

Participants said the workshop renewed their sense of camaraderie remarkably. “Some even proposed forming an ‘arbitration committee’ among themselves to settle inter-group disputes within the RCC,” said RCC Project Director, Mr. Mulugeta W/Eyesus. “It was encouraging to hear them say how much they appreciated the workshop and that they recommend the same workshop be given to other refugees,” he added.         

The training was planned and coordinated by JRS Associate Country Director, Fr. Eric Velandria SJ, and facilitated by Mr. Mulugeta W/Eyesus, and three more JRS workers.

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