An eight-day training was conducted by the ‘Fundación Para La Reconciliación’ (based in Colombia) and coordinated by the Interreligious Council of Uganda and the Acholi Religious Leaders Peace Initiative. With support from Arigatou International and Goldin Institute, the training took place at the Alokolum National Major Seminary in Gulu, Uganda from 6th to – 13th June 2014.
The traning on forgiveness and reconciliation was attended by fifteen participants seleceted from different districts of nothern Uganda who belonged to various occupations including; teachers, NGO representatives, pastors, youth group leaders and former child soldiers.
Huge strides have been made to restore peace and stability in northern Uganda after a long period of civil war pitting the Lord’s Resistance Army and the government of Uganda. However, studies indicate the continued stigmatization and rejection of former child soldiers by community members who still view them as the cause of their suffering. Equally, localized violence is widespread within communities living in northern Uganda and so the need to scale up forgiveness and reconciliation activities.
For three days each participant was motivated to learn about forgiveness and reconciliation. The process was activity packed and entailed personal reflections about offenses and offenders leading to an understanding of motivations behind offenses and ultimately helping the offended to begin looking at the ‘other’ with ‘new eyes’ and perspectives.
Mrs. Lissette Mateus Dr. Dorcus Kiplagat Diane Goldin (left) and Travis Rejman
To begin the process of reconciliation, participants were also helped to understand that offenses damage long-held values. Participants discussed the concepts of Justice and punishment, types of reconciliation, and the different agreements that parties can enter into in a reconciliation process.
Some of the participants who took part in the training
The need to promote the conservation of individual and collective memory to avoid the repetition of past negative events that destroy human dignity was emphasized during the workshop. The ESPERE model, which was incorporated during the training, proposed ritualistic events and celebration for participants to achieve this.
In between the training, participants had the opportunity to pay visits to locations where former child soldiers were being reintegrated to listen and get a deeper understanding of their situation and needs. This was to help them in developing action plans since forgiveness and acceptance of former child soldiers by community was one of the needs that had earlier been identified. Plans of action were developed by the participants to promote ESPERE in their respective communities. The implementation of the planned actions is expected to run for a period of four months.