The contribution of Acholi Religious leaders’ peace initiative towards restoration of peace in Gulu District in the light of Pacem in Terris
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Waliggo (1998, p.2), hailed peace as: “Harmony, stability, joy and happiness. Peace is development, because where it is absent, development cannot be conceived. Peace is prosperity, proper relationships among peoples. Peace is a way of life, wisdom, a philosophy which guides out lives. Peace is the most civilized way of living and helping others to live. Peace is the gift we have missed for so many years in our country or parts of it. War, instability, armed conflicts, violence, intolerance, prejudice, discriminations and so on are the factors which have militated against peace”. Pope John XXIII (1963, no. 167), in Pacem in Terris added a voice when he taught that : “… peace will be but an empty-sounding word unless it is founded on the order which this present document has outlined in confident hope: an order founded on truth, built according to justice, verified and integrated by charity, and put into practice in freedom”. Similarly Pope Benedict XVI (2011, no.19), in Africae Munus pointed out that unless the power of reconciliation is created in people’s hearts, political commitment to peace lacks its inner premise”. In Gaudium et spes (7th December, 1965 Art. 78), Vatican Council II, rightly observes like Waliggo that: “Peace is more than the absence of war: it cannot be reduced to the maintenance of a balance of power between opposing forces nor does it arise out of despotic dominion, but it is appropriately called ‘the effect of righteousness’” (Is. 32:15). Maloney (1995, p.9), stated that: “Efforts to strengthen the democratic system contribute to building a more dynamic, just and peaceful society in so far as such a system enables all citizens to express their political choices, affords them the possibility of electing and holding to account those who govern, and then replacing them by peaceful means when appropriate”. Gulu district has experienced war for over twenty (20) years inflicted upon the people by the LRA under the leadership of Joseph Kony. This has caused numerous physical, psychological, economic, moral and social problems, for instance, Gynecological and orthopedic complications as well as psychiatric problems including suicidal ideation and even feelings of homicide, among others. ARLPI have an inherent bearing on the restoration of peace in Gulu district. Their efforts in talking peace, peace week etc, has led to peace award, thinking peace, resettlement, analyzing a situation in view of peace, praying for peace, among others. However, there are some obstacles to this struggle of restoring peace for instance, continuous rebel activity, corruption, government political egoistic interests, and so on. In reviewing the literature, the researcher dealt more on the teaching of Pacem in Terris (On peace on Earth) in comparison to other authors, researches conducted and teaching of the Church on peace. In this entire endeavor, the researcher employs questionnaires so as to come up with concrete evidences having taken a sample size of 150 people. In the presentation and analysis of the data, it was seen that 17% of the total population studied lamented that ARLPI did not restore peace in Gulu district, while 83% of the same population joyfully said that the peace we have now in Gulu district is the tireless efforts of ARLPI. In discussing the findings, having seen that corruption, government political egoistic interests, illiteracy, religious misunderstanding have disrupted the struggle to peace restoration in Gulu district, but ARLPI’s insistence on peace talks paved way for peace. Having seen all that, the researcher has come up with practical recommendations to reduction of violence in Gulu district, that is, Chaplains of the army and the police who will emphasis on the role of the police and army as national forces not instruments of fear and oppression or shoots and kill policy. Peace group or clubs which are tasked with the responsibility of counteracting any form of violence that may arise in the community. We need to develop/Inculcate a culture of peace, peace method and examine our traditional cultures. Waliggo (1996, p.3), commends on the above as follows: “We need to inculcate a culture of peace among the youth and children, through school syllabi and religious education. The ministry of education has already completed the syllabus on peace-education in all schools. We need to have devoted attention on the study of the peace-method as exposed by Christianity and lived by Ghandi and Martin Luther King Jr. and developed by Professionals. Peace-method convert the oppressor, its results are more lasting. We need to examine our traditional cultures and learn from the traditional ways of conflict resolutions and use them effectively”. I add to the above that we need to emphasize on the catechetical programs which makes it possible to counteract any form of violence that may arise in our communities, like peace associations and clubs. The researcher concludes with a prayer through the intercession of St. Francis of Assisi that Lord may make us his instruments of peace. “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God”. (Mt. 5:9). Let us support the efforts of peacemakers by praying for peace, singing for peace and working for peace. “God, give me the serenity to accept the things I can change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference so that peace may prevail in our land”.