Students from Africa, Central America, Asia, and Europe enrolled for the Shalom-SCCRR’s academic course on Conflict Resolution and Reconciliation. The input of Fr. Oliver Noonan, MA, SCCRR’s Country Director and Fr. Patrick Devine, PhD, SCCRR’s International Chairman, ably assisted by Esther Kibe, MA, and Paulson Erot, MA was much appreciated by the class of 2018-2019. Shalom-SCCRR has been assisting the university for ten years in providing this important and unique academic contribution. The students were from the departments of Islamic Studies and Theology. The course is oriented towards equipping students and peace practitioners with analytical skills and peacebuilding techniques essential for conflict transformation and reconciliation in profoundly divided societies. Particular attention was given to the African context, centering on the peace-development nexus and religious ideological extremism.
Overall the course was rigorous in addressing modules of Paradigms of Conflict Analysis, Conflict Transformation and Reconciliation, Marginalization and Development, Governance and State Responsibilities, Religion and Conflict, Radicalization and Extremisms, Gender and Conflict, Extractive Industries and Conflict, Just War Theory and the Environment and Conflict.
Reinforcing the course’s orientation is the rationale that,
‘For communities in African conflict environments, where people are killed, maimed and displaced persistently it is practically impossible to have any sustainable development. It is extremely difficult, if at all possible, for social and religious ideals such as Peace, Truth, Justice and Mercy (gospel values) to take deep root; people cannot live normal communal lives or experience positive peace’. (Patrick. R. Devine Ph.D.)
Numerous students forwarded their appreciation and reactions to the course. Student Edward Baharagate, expressed his gratitude by saying, ‘‘the course introduced us to conflict resolution and peacebuilding strategies, paramount aspects whose absence has deterred the incarnation of the values of Peace, Truth, Justice and Mercy in the building of peaceful and reconciled communities.’’ These sentiments resonate with his classmates who pointed out their profound understanding of structural and manifest conflict, the role of development interventions and the continuum stages of conflict transformation-peacebuilding required to achieve positive peace. They acknowledged the critical importance of rigorous research and the paradigmal analysis as vital to the progression of these processes. The students deemed the course essential as many communities and nations are entrenched in conflict worldwide. Catherine Mukwasa, a student from the Islamic Studies department, stated that, ‘‘the course extensively addresses the paramount issues of our modern day societies of radicalization and extremism; religious fundamentalism; governance and conflict; development and conflict; role of women in conflict; extractive industries and conflict and other realities that impede peaceful coexistences’’.
The transformation of manifest violence first to negative peace and then onto the reconciliation components intrinsic to positive peace demands persistent qualitative presence. This is especially important as interventions empower the grass-root influential opinion shapers and forms of advocacy to other stakeholders. At a minimum the interventions must address coherently the personal, relational, structural and cultural domains underpinning conflict’s existence and protraction. These are essential components in creating the environment where sustainable development will flourish, where people’s basic needs will be met and where peace will prevail:
“Development as an approach to alleviate poverty has for the most part ignored the importance of people’s security or has not explicitly incorporated conflict management as an aspect of development”. (Oliver Noonan MA)
Shalom-SCCRR remains committed to its vision of realizing a society where peace, social justice and reconciliation prevails throughout Africa. It will continue partnering with international/ regional universities and inter-religious institutions, sharing its best practice to inspire future generations of local peacebuilders. We extend our appreciation to the administration of Tangaza University College and hope all the students who participated in the course will be inspired to work in creating societies across Africa founded by peace, truth, justice, and mercy.
By Esther Kibe, MA, BA. (Head of Communication Department, Shalom-SCCRR)