British Quakers share stories of African peace builders

“Someone can’t forgive with a broken heart.  We need first to heal our wounds…Then start the work of peace and reconciliation.”

So says Cécile Nyiramana, a peacebuilder from Rwanda at the British Quakers’ engaging exhibition This Light that Pushes Me. Cécile brought together the wives of victims of the Rwandan genocide to meet with the wives of prisoners, to break down barriers between people who saw each other as enemies. “Without forgiving, it is not easy to love someone,” she says, and with love comes the opportunity to seek the good in others.

The exhibition, which opened in the same week that saw the 20th anniversary of the start of the Rwandan genocide, is at the Quaker centre in London, Friends House. It features testimonies including text and photographs of over 20 peacebuilders, all from sub-Saharan African countries and follows their journeys transforming suffering into social change. All of those involved are either Quakers or involved with Quaker work and all have experienced violence.

More than 40 peacebuilders in Africa offered their stories and conducted many of the interviews with one another. The stories were gathered and edited by Laura Shipler Chico, programme manager for Peacebuilding in East Africa for Quaker Peace and Social Witness, a department of Quakers in Britain.

Speaking about the inspiration for the project, Laura Shipler Chico said: “Weaving throughout these stories is the belief that somewhere within our imperfect selves, however hidden under layers of grief, loss, tragedy, hurt, and disillusion, there is something good, something wise, something knowing. And it is this divine kernel that pushes us to keep struggling to fix our broken world; to transform hurt and grief and the human lust for vengeance into something new, into a commitment to peace no matter the cost. This book invites us to do what the peacebuilders in this book have been striving to do for a long time: listen – with simplicity – for the truth. And when we hear it, let us walk side by side right into the heart of hurt, the deep and frightening darkness, and look for light.”

The exhibition in Friends House is on until 08/05/2014 and is accompanied by a series of film nights.

You can hear some of the peacebuilders’ stories at

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