Flora Bringi Francis: ‘My Breakdown Became a Breakthrough’

Flora Bringi Francis
Flora Bringi Francis says she was transformed by attending the 2013 session of the Africa Peacebuilding Institute. She now leads nonviolence training workshops and community trauma-healing workshops in South Sudan.

Flora Bringi Francis of South Sudan wrote these reflections after attending the 2013 session of the Africa Peacebuilding Institute (API). Her words have been slightly edited to fit the capitalization, punctuation, and grammar style of Peacebuilder.

My stories are usually immersed in feelings of hopelessness that are always initiated by a crisis. I have come to realize that only I have the answer to life that I have been looking for. No one else has it for me. As I looked back over the last 20 years of my life, I remembered that even then I was searching for “an answer.” The world around me was full of misery and suffering, [especially a] country like South Sudan. For example, good people were murdered, [and others] suffered the loss of loved ones, sickness and disease. No one was immune to the reality of suffering and the continuation of violence in different corners.

But after I attended API in June 2013, it became the beginning of a journey that, as it unfolded, answered many questions: Why is there so much suffering? What is the cause? Is there a way out? What is the answer? Why am I here? In addition, I began to make connections as modules built on each other, starting from the River of My Life [and continuing] during the modules on Trauma Healing, Peace Clubs, and Introduction to Conflict Transformation – African Perspective to Nonviolence. It was at this point that I started to feel like there was a way out; the lock on my mind came with a key. As all this new information began to sink in, I acknowledged that just as surely as the problems lay deep in my mind, so also did the solution. As I realized this, I began to feel deep feelings of gratitude to API.

After the training at API, I am able to facilitate four nonviolence training workshops and two community trauma healing and recovering workshops. Each of the activities hosted a minimum of 25 participants from different ethnic and religious backgrounds in South Sudan. Additionally, more than 15 outreach programs were carried out by participants who attended the trainings, and media talk shows were organized. All the above activities have impacted positively on the attitudes and behaviors of people at the grassroots, who have lived with conflicts for some years. They have now started living normal lives after traumatic events and addressing their daily conflicts in a nonviolent manner, rather than using violence as the means of solving problems as they used to. This is a good beginning for change.

In mid-2014, I started to educate the new generation about peace approaches. I was also able to raise funds for peace clubs, which I introduced in three schools as a new project in South Sudan. API has helped me to create a new foundation, and I make sure I spend time doing work I’m passionate about: coaching. One of the great benefits of the API program is the turning of a breakdown into a breakthrough. For that, I am a much better leader now. Besides changing others, I work continuously on my personal transformation.