Follow-up with participants from the pilot of The Heart of the Matter

The pilot of The Heart of the Matter took place in Goma just over a year ago, so this was a wonderful opportunity to find out what had happened over that year. We went through a summary of each module of The Heart of the Matter. The participants remembered it clearly and in detail, recalling the individual activities and games, sometimes with a smile, sometimes with a real sense of urgency regarding the message behind them. It was evident, not only that Jean-Paul had done an exceptional job of training them during the pilot, but that they had been using it since.

The participants began to share wonderful stories, both of what they had done, and of what had happened as a result. They spoke animatedly of sustained teaching of a group of ‘prophets’ in the material, with a total change in attitude from people who had once been major drivers of accusations; of congregations taught and changed thinking as a result; of families transformed and restored as participants patiently explained the teaching they had received and discovered the real reasons for the problems that had led to the accusations; and of children running to tell them that since the teaching had been passed on in the churches, their parents’ behaviour towards them and treatment of them had completely changed, and that their homes were now happy places to be.

I handed round some feedback forms to capture these stories and experiences. Reading them through later, I was struck again by the need to reach families, as so many accusations seem to begin there, but they are clearly receptive to teaching, and willing to change completely as a result.

The participants then split into groups to consider how to take things forward. They looked at three questions:

  • How can we spread this teaching?
  • How can we help to raise awareness of the law on child protection and ensure that it is upheld?
  • What can we do to help the children who are accused of being witches?

They made detailed suggestions for the next steps. There was a real sense of momentum at the end of the meeting. It goes without saying that what these people are doing is counter-cultural and extremely challenging. Addressing deeply held beliefs and standing firmly on the side of children can place them at odds with their families and churches. They meet with resistance and incomprehension at times, which is why the stories of change are so important.

Following a very positive meeting with the Bishop of Goma a few days after this seminar, an opportunity has arisen for Jean-Paul to train the 55 Anglican church leaders in Goma, in both Creating Safe Environments for Children and The Heart of the Matter. This has huge potential to influence beliefs and practices towards children in this part of DR Congo.