Uganda's Transformation Must Start With Me

Since independence 47 years ago, Uganda has not experienced peace. Civil wars, coups, military regimes, you name it. People are getting fed up. We are tired of this, and we want a new regime.

There is a growing conviction that the way things are is not how they should be. But we are aware that there are limitations, and we do not know the way forward. This is how the dream of the John Paul II Justice and Peace Centre was born. A number of missionaries and ministers came together to see what we could do. We cry for justice, cry for peace, cry for liberation of marginalized people, cry for environmental justice. That is the vision we have -- a just, peaceful, reconciled nation. How do we achieve that?

I have become more and more convinced that what we need in the church is unity in order to effect change for peace. The number of worshipers in churches is very high, but life does not change. Faith does not do justice. It does not transfer to action. Religious leaders should address this!

The John Paul II Justice and Peace Centre has three major objectives. First, we educate people based on Catholic social teaching, emphasizing the dignity and value of every person regardless of tribe, gender, or religious persuasion. Second, we perform research and documentation on all issues impinging on social justice, including domestic violence, abject poverty, and food insecurity. Third, we emphasize advocacy.

I have been realizing that a new creation has to start with me. I need to be converted more and more to Christ. I cannot give what I do not have. I must first become like Christ and pass it on. I have learned about good leadership that empowers people. I have also really appreciated the emphasis on lament during this past week. This is very tough. I am really trying to go back to those places of pain, but I feel emotionally drained. I cannot be reconciled until I go to those places.

Sister Evelyn Mayanja is the Coordinator of Training at the John Paul II Justice and Peace Centre in Kampala, Uganda. She has been an active participant in the annual Reconciliation Gatherings hosted by the Duke Center for Reconciliation's African Great Lakes Initiative.

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