By Katongo L. Chilambwe
In his reflection on conflict resolution and reconciliation presented to the Kenyan and AMECEA delegates attending the Synod of Bishops for Africa in 2009, Fr. Patrick Devine highlighted among other pertinent proposals, the need to provide professional training to people in conflict management and peace building. This proposal underscores the indispensability of acquiring theoretical skills before attempting to remedy conflict situations arising from incompatible goals. In fact, the said insights come at the crucial time when the Church is being criticized for not having theoretical skills in conflict transformation.
It is against this backdrop that I want to commend the course on conflict resolution and reconciliation for providing a firm theoretical basis for acquiring skills and techniques needed in conflict management. The course exposed me to significant conflict theories that are suitable for research and analysis of conflicts whether simple or complex. In this regard, I have been empowered to analyze conflicts by identifying its root causes, actors and the theory that can be used in order to find a feasible conflict management procedure. For instance, I have learned according to John Burton’s Human Needs Theory that conflicts on a larger scale are caused by unmet fundamental needs such as security. Consequently, unmet needs may create structural violence whereby conditions of living do not favor actualization of people’s potentialities; and if this is not addressed, it may escalate into manifest violence.
Given that violence ensues as a result of structural violence, the course teaches different modes of negotiations and interventional steps which, in my opinion, favors recognition and legitimatization of the needs of both warring parties. In this respect, conflict negotiation would be said to support the ‘nurture-argument’ that violence is not inherent in the human person. Furthermore, the course discussed the less-reported role of women and religion in especially fueling and healing conflicts.
Having made the foregoing observations on the theoretical relevance of the course, I must equally recognize its pragmatic value. The course made tangible references to various past and occurring conflicts such as among pastoralist communities in Northern Kenya and the practical techniques used in achieving resolution and reconciliation. Additionally, the pedagogical skills employed by Fr. Devine in teaching the course were thought-provoking and engaging.
Therefore, I would like to thank Fr. Devine and his very able team at SCCRR for their commitment and hope for attaining a peaceful and harmonious society through their efforts embedded in the motto: Holistic Integration of peace with justice and harmony.
From a presentation by Katongo L. Chilambwe OFM Conv. Tangaza University College, May 8, 2016, Nairobi.