Christians and Muslims in war-torn Central African Republic take blindfold trust test to heal trauma

Christians and Muslims in a war-torn Central African Republic have united for an experiment that aims to build trust between the two communities and to heal the trauma brought about by the conflicts in the region.

(REUTERS / Goran Tomasevic)Seleka fighters take a break as they sit on a pick-up truck in the town of Goya. June 11, 2014.

Last month, Christians and Muslims participated in a workshop conducted in the compound of an international charity in Bangui in CAR. The activity, which involved a blindfolded person being led by his or her partner around the compound, led them to learn the value of being patient and compassionate toward others, Reuters details.

"We all have a need for each other," community worker Nicaise Gounoumoundjou told the Christian and Muslim participants in the blindfold trust test.

Hada Katidja Siba, one of the Muslim participants, watched her house get consumed by flames when Muslim Seleka rebels overthrew the government in 2013. The incident caused Christian anti-Balaka militias to fight back, igniting a string of violence which left thousands of people dead in an ethnic cleansing. The traumatic events led Siba to feel anger and distrust when seeing Christians.

The clashes between the Muslim Seleka rebels and the mostly Christian anti-Balaka militia caused CAR to slide into civil conflict. The country has now been able to successfully conduct elections and to achieve significant progress since 2013, but the threat of instability and unrest is still not far away, the Global Times observes.

According to trauma healing specialist Florence Ntakarutimana, most of the victims of violence in CAR went through a period of depression and shame. There were also those who experienced loss of appetite, nightmares and insomnia. Some responded to the trauma by being aggressive and wanting revenge.

To help facilitate the process of healing after the trauma, Ntakarutimana conducted dozens of workshops across the African country. These activities included songs, prayers and forums in which the participants shared their stories of the violence they witnessed, the abuse they experienced, and the loss of their friends, family members, and homes.

"When someone is not healed, he's not ready for social cohesion," said Ntakarutimana. "He's not ready for reconciliation. He's not ready for livelihood activities."

At the end of the workshop, the Christian and Muslim participants were asked to share the positive characteristics they saw in each other. They also talked about ways to remove mistrust among the two communities including dialogue, sincere apologies and efforts to look for common ground.

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