I worked with a Rwandan doctor in Liberia recently. Partners in Health (PIH) has sent trained Haitian doctors to Rwanda, and trained them to train health professionals in Liberia. It is a South-South capacity building attempt that is inspiring. I met a Rwandan doctor, who was around college age at the time of the genocide in Rwanda. He said he just kept having this thought in his mind “How is genocide possible? How is it possible?” He was suffering to wrap his mind around how his fellow country men could commit such heinous crimes. He searched everywhere for answers, he wanted existential answers and joined a seminary.
Then, he came across Gandhi’s book “All Men are Brothers” which became an epiphany and transformed him even more. As he grew in his spiritual practice he wanted to marry social and spiritual transformation with justice. He left the seminary one year before becoming a priest and joined medical school. When Paul Farmer went looking a few years ago for Rwandan doctors who understood social justice, he came across my new friend Dr. Bosco. Since then he has been working with Partners in Health in Rwanda and now Tiyatien Health in Liberia.
A couple years ago, when there was conflict between ethnic groups in his Rwandan hospital, he led a workshop on social healing and inner transformation. He said 10 of his fellow Rwandans joined him in fasting in order to mentally strengthen so they could transform their community. I asked him what his plans are for the future. He said he wants to start an institute in rural Rwanda where individuals and communities confront the legacy and trauma of the genocide. He wants to incorporate medicine, Gandhian philosophy, dialogue, martial arts and yoga among other things to heal on a physical, psychological, emotional and spiritual level; transforming individuals and in turn transforming the community. It is a Paulo Friere attempt at liberation through education and medicine.
Sri Shamasunder, MD, DTM&H
Photo by Tiyatien Health