April 2014 marks 20 years after the 1994 Rwandan genocide took place. This April I will be joining Bernie Glassman and a group of Peacemakers on a Bearing Witness Retreat in Rwanda and I am now working on ways to support my participation in this retreat.
The retreat will be multi-faith and multinational in character, based on the Zen Peacemakers’ Three Tenets: Not-Knowing, Bearing Witness, and Loving Action. It is designed to create a safe space for all the voices to be given the opportunity to be expressed and heard with equal respect and to honor those whose voices perished, never to be heard. Each international tuition will underwrite the participation of a Rwandan genocide survivor or perpetrator.
Please, support my trip to Rwanda.
In order to be able to embark on this journey I am raising a Mala – a style of fundraising, gleaned from ancient Buddhist tradition of begging. A Mala is a string of beads worn around the neck or wrist. Each bead I wear will represent a contribution from one of you and in a symbolic way stand for the unity and interdependence of all life.
I am requesting financial support for this spiritual sojourn in the form of a donation to help me cover the expenses associated with this trip. I need to raise about $2500. Therefore, I would like to ask you to make a contribution to my Mala, support my peace work and spiritual practice and become an intimate part of my journey.
A contribution of any amount is greatly appreciated – a $10 donation means just as much to me as the $500 donation.
Iyo Umenya If you knew who I am
Nawe ukimenya And if you knew who you are
Ntuba waranyishe You wouldn’t have killed me
In addition to the Bearing Witness Retreat, I will be staying in Rwanda for another two weeks. During that time I will be working on a series of articles touching on subjects of aggression, shame, loss and grief as well as love, forgiveness, kindness and community. I will also explore the question of how to work more passionately and compassionately for peace in the face of such brutality. My personal experience during the retreat will be essential for the clarification of these themes.
Part of my research project is to document and photograph the incredibly complex Rwandan culture and heritage. Music and dance play an important role in the lives and traditions of Rwanda's peoples. Living together in harmony has been part of the Rwandan society and traditional values supported a culture of peace. An example is Intore - the 'Dance of Heroes' - that illustrates the battles which traditionally involved Hutu, Tutsi and Twa fighting alongside each other against a common enemy. The performance of Intore therefore has always consisted of warriors of all groups dancing together.
In the future I hope this project will have a chance to grow into a bigger body of work including publications, designing a photographic album, organizing photographic exhibitions, panel discussions and presentations.
Please do not hesitate to call me at +1-929-382-8970 or email at if you have any questions.
You can send your donation of support using paypal to
If you prefer to send a check, offer cash or air miles, please call me at +1-929-382-8970 or email at for my mailing address.
I will be grateful if you would consider sharing this letter to any individual or organization you feel might be interested in supporting me in this endeavor.
Heartfelt greetings and peace to you,
Unless otherwise requested, funds not used for this retreat will be donated to support the humanitarian work of the Zen Peacemakers and MEMOS, our Rwandan partner and peace organization created by Rwandan youth volunteers/genocide survivors to promote human rights.