In September 2009 I attended a fundraising dinner for ALARM (African Leadership and Reconciliation Ministries), a non profit organization that operates in 8 African countries. ALARM focuses on leadership development and transformation of communities through forgiveness and reconciliation, and their work in regions racked by violent conflicts has been very successful.
We saw videos of people in Rwanda and Burundi whose lives have been completely transformed through the teachings on reconciliation. We also heard stories of people in Darfur, Sudan; Goma, the Democratic Republic of Congo; and northern Uganda, who benefit tremendously from the work of ALARM.
As I listened to those stories, I couldn’t help but realize that people displaced by violent conflict often live interrupted lives. For some, all their education and professional skills go down the drain while they are stuck in refugee camps. They lose years that can never be regained, and many children grow up without the opportunity of any formal education. ALARM goes into these communities and provides leadership training, peacebuilding education, as well as economic empowerment opportunities.
The most moving story I heard was that of Founder and President, Celestin Musekura. When violence broke out in Rwanda in 1994, Musekura was in Kenya for higher education and had his wife and children with him. The rest of his family members were in Rwanda, and most of them were murdered in the ensuing genocide.
Musekura realized that hate would not heal the wounds that had been inflicted, so he founded ALARM and went back into Rwanda with a message of reconciliation. In an authentic display of the message of reconciliation, both Musekura and his mother, who miraculously survived the genocide, forgave the man who had murdered her husband and his father. This same man now takes care of Musekura’s mother while Musekura is absent from the country. The founders of ALARM don’t merely teach reconciliation; they live it.
In addition to the countries already mentioned, ALARM also operates in Kenya, Tanzania and Zambia. Although the head office is currently based in the USA, plans are underway to relocate it to Nairobi, Kenya in the future. I appreciate the fact that ALARM is doing so much on the ground to better the lives of people. Find out more about their work on their website and how you can get involved.