By Mary Keoch
The Shalom Center for Conflict Resolution and Reconciliation has been working in Turkana county since 2010 when it began the first of many much needed workshops. Turkana lies in the northwest part of Kenya and has experienced persistent conflict between the Turkana, Pokot and Samburu peoples within Kenya, and also from the Karamojong in Uganda, the Dassenach-Merile in Ethiopia and Toposa in South Sudan. One of the participants in that very first workshop is now the Bishop of Lodwar, Dominic Kimengich. Since those early days, Shalom has conducted more than 30 workshops and helped to develop more than 50 primary schools with construction material, solar lighting and classroom equipment in an area which has known and continues to experience violent conflict.
Bishop Kimengich wrote to Fr. Patrick Devine recently to acknowledge the work of Shalom over the past five years. “The most challenging issue that is facing us in the Diocese of Lodwar is that of insecurity,” he wrote. “Unfortunately, with the arrival of modern weapons in the region, especially guns and other small arms, and with almost every family having a gun, cross border raids have become deadly and many lives have been lost. These raids trigger revenge and counter revenge that has created a vicious circle of violence that has devastated the region.”
The Bishop acknowledged the contribution Shalom continues to make to a situation which has often been full of despair: “What Shalom has been doing in the region for the last 4-5 years is shining rays of hope in a situation that caused many to despair as they see no way out of these ongoing conflicts.”
Bishop Kimengich noted that Shalom has been exact in the methodology that it is using to equip people with the techniques enabling them to engage, transform and create a peaceful environment:
“We appreciate the new approach that Shalom is bringing in, that is more scientific and systematic. The fact the Shalom is addressing the root causes of the conflicts in the region and the willingness of the staff to go to the conflict areas and work among the warring communities, is bringing a long term solution to these endless conflicts. The peace trainings and workshops conducted by Shalom in conflict areas have not only enhanced peace awareness but have made the people more committed to peace building. When these workshops target both sides in the conflict divide, as done by Shalom, the prospect of long lasting peace becomes attainable instead of the frustrating situation seen before where peace treaties have been broken immediately after the agreement.”
Shalom is strategically and intensely involved in conflict management and developing peace building mechanisms in and across northern Kenya, where Lodwar Diocese is located. This is an area in which tribal communities continually face the challenge of living in a harsh environment of violent conflict, where people are killed, maimed and displaced on a persistent basis. Shalom is keen to further strengthen numerous state, church and civic peace initiatives. On behalf of Shalom, Fr. Devine commended Bishop Kimengich for his “presence, solidarity and commitment to peace and development for marginalized and neglected people. Our collaboration for to help people towards reconciliation knows no boundaries.”