BANGUI (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Blindfolds secured tightly, more than a dozen men and women are led by their partners around leafy plants and trees in the compound of an international charity in the Central African Republic’s capital, Bangui.
The occasional stumble sends nervous laughter around the group of Christians and Muslims who have been paired up at random for the experiment – an exercise in building trust between communities torn apart by conflict.
At the end of the session, those guiding the ‘blind’ along cracked concrete and pebble paths spoke of having to be patient, responsible and compassionate.
“We all have a need for each other,” community worker Nicaise Gounoumoundjou told the group.
For a long time, Hada Katidja Siba was skeptical.
One of the participants, Siba saw her house burned to the ground in 2013 when mainly Muslim Seleka rebels toppled the government in the majority Christian nation, sparking a backlash from Christian anti-balaka militias.
Thousands of people were killed in the ensuing ethnic cleansing and the country’s defacto partition between the Muslim northeast and Christian southwest.
For Siba, a Muslim, seeing her home disappear in flames caused her to anger ‘very easily’, and to distrust and fear Christians.
“I would see a Christian coming toward me and I would just think: ‘What is he coming to do to me? Is he coming to kill me or to do something to me?'” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.