Mission & Vision

Radio La Benevolencija Humanitarian Tools Foundation (La Benevolencija) is a Dutch NGO that empowers groups and individuals who are the target of hate speech and ensuing acts. It broadcasts radio soaps, discussions and educational programmes, in combination with grass roots activities that provide citizens in vulnerable societies with knowledge on how to recognise and resist manipulation to violence and how to heal trauma, encouraging them to be active bystanders against incitement and violence.

Mission statement:

To stimulate self empowerment of minorities and other social groups who are victims or in danger of becoming victims of ethnocentric or other forms of hate and/or group violence.

General objectives:

To give people (victims, bystanders and perpetrators) insight into how group violence evolves, how they can contribute to prevent this violence and how emotional support can be provided to victims and contribute to reconciliation

What we do

Radio La Benevolencija seeks to empower citizens in countries affected by mass violence to be critical consumers of media messages, to be aware of the effect of their own fears on their actions, to know how to resist those influences and keep a clear head and to act to prevent them from influencing their peers. This knowledge and behavioural change strengthens the psychological foundations for peaceful interaction between citizens and authorities. Knowledge of trauma, its effects and ways to heal it, is closely related to violence prevention. La Benevolencija therefore also trains the audience of its programs in a community-based trauma treatment method. We combine knowledge of behaviourist principles with recognition of traumatizing factors to attempt a kind of “mental inoculation” against incitement to violence.

Rwanda, Congo and Burundi all suffer from hate speech, trauma and violence created by a continuum of destruction well described in the psychological research of the last 50 years and synthesized in the work of Ervin Staub, head of La Benevolencija’s Academic Team. La Benevolencija’s programmes stimulate each individual listener to recognize and resist this continuum, thus engendering peace-building and self-empowerment.

Program formats are adjusted to each country’s specific circumstance, allowing La Benevolencija to thus help to educate three national populations in violence prevention and trauma healing. By showing authorities that citizens can be successfully educated to resist incitement, some country authority’s fears of opening the media landscape can also be reduced. In this way, Radio Benevolencija contributes to the institution of a democratic and hate-free media landscape in the region.

Besides running three country programs with the general aim of furthering the population’s psychological- and media literacy, the organisation’s national campaigns each carry also a different message focus, geared to their own situational context, the combination of which is designed to further a regional peacebuilding effect.

Rwanda

In Rwanda La Benevolencija’s programs will feature a focus on the distorting potential of traumatic fears (“survivor trauma”) involved in political decision-making processes that can lead to disproportionate violence towards its neighbours or its own population.

Burundi

In Burundi, La Benevolencija wants to contribute to coming to terms with the past. Burundi and Rwanda often served as a mirror image of each other, and the violent developments in one country strengthened the fears of its neighbour. For example, Burundi has a history of officially grouping the country’s ethnic groups into different political parties and the interethnic violence in the country continued years beyond the end of the Rwandan genocide. This experience reinforced Rwandan politicians’ view of the necessity of eradicating the notion of ethnic identity as a solution to this problem. On the other hand, Burundi has a history that is potentially conducive to interethnic reconciliation, since both Hutus and Tutsis there aknowledge in principle committing genocidal violence. La Benevolencija tries to use this ‘mirror’ effect positively, and make the success of alternative reconciliation strategies from Burundi public in Rwanda.

Congo

In the DRC, La Benevolencija wants to diminish the use of scapegoating and hate speech. Throughout its history the DRC and its citizens have never really had the experience of an empowered people in charge of their own affairs. Therefore Congolese citizens have, unlike many other nations, no past to refer to as a model of proud, self-determined nationhood. There was always someone else to blame for the country’s –and its citizen’s, misfortunes: a scapegoat. This historic experience continues to provide an excellent excuse for leaders not to act to repair the country. It is easy to excuse one’s failure in repairing a failed state, when there is always someone else – – outside forces and foreign powers –to blame. It seems a culturally ingrained tendency not limited to leaders: For example in social relations it is often witchcraft that carries the blame for any misfortune. Scapegoating is the base of hate speech. Targeting scapegoating has shown itself to be a particularly effective attitude change.

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