Category Archives: 2011 Uganda

Restless for Peace

As a group we went on a desert hike. We walked along a path taken by migrants into the United States.

The experience I had on this hike is more explanatory in description than any analysis I could give in this blog.

We crawled under barbed wire. We went up and down a rock wall. It was a grueling approximately two mile hike and we had plenty of water and rests along the way. We came across water stations where groups had left gallons of water and canned beans for migrants to consume.

On the walk we saw articles of clothing left behind.

We finally made it to a shrine for migrants where there were crosses, rosaries, and other keepsakes. There were also jugs of water hanging from trees so that the ravens could not get them. Here we sat down with the leader of this hike and reflected. During this reflection we were given a prayer for the migrant. This prayer was a call to action. It explained how we all could work for peace. Though we were praying to God to accomplish these tasks, there was an underlying tone that each of these things can be accomplished by humanity and more specifically God working through us. This is why this prayer made sense to me more than really anything else we had talked about up to this point, I felt like this could be accomplished and I could help.

The prayer follows:

Creator, full of love and mercy, whose own Son became a refugee and had no place to cal his own; look with mercy and compassion on our brothers and sisters who today are fleeing from poverty, homelessness, and hunger.

Protect them as they suffer mistreatments and humiliations on their journeys, are labeled as dangerous, and marginalized for being foreigners. Make them be respected and valued for their dignity. Touch with Your Goodness and Active Concern the many who see them pass.

Care for their families until they return to their homes, not with broken hearts but rather with hopes fulfilled. Inspire generosity and compassion in all our hearts; and guide all the people of the world towards that day when all will rejoice in you Reign of justice and love. Let it Be.

Arizona desert
Arizona desert

Part of our reflection at this migrant shrine was discussing a young woman who had died during the journey to the U.S. not far from that spot. John (our hike leader) ended our time at the shrine, after telling this young woman’s story, by saying may she rest in peace and may we be restless for peace.

This experience was a call to action, that I may be restless for peace.

Blessed to be a witness

The Omaha Film Festival will be screening our Uganda documentary, “Mato Oput” tonight (March 8) as part of a block of Nebraska documentaries. I am thrilled and proud and excited to see our film in what should be a packed theater.

The screening comes at an interesting time as the nonprofit Invisible Children begins an international campaign to stop Joseph Kony, the warlord who was behind the civil war that caused so much pain and destruction in northern Uganda.

Having seen that destruction and the strength of the people to build their lives again makes me feel even more blessed to have had the opportunity to go to Uganda and hear the stories and meet the people I will never forget.

Eagerly awaiting the premiere of ‘Mato Oput’

It’s been three months since our trip to Uganda, that amazing, overwhelming journey. I think of the trip, the work and the people often, both my wonderful colleagues and terrific students from Creighton and the people we met there. I am a different person because of the journey.

The memories will come back on 5 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 14, when we premiere “Mato Oput” for an audience of our friends and others at Criss 252 at Creighton. I am excited for everyone to see our work and slightly nervous (OK, really nervous) about their reaction.

We also are collecting donations for Ocer Campion Jesuit Secondary School, a wonderful school run by Father Tony Wach, S.J. We met Father Tony and interviewed students and teachers there for our film. We are so impressed the work of Father Tony and everyone at Ocer. 

Come, if you can. We have entered the film in several film festivals and we’ll keep you updated on the latest. We hope eventually to have the film online.

 

 

 

Mato Oput

Mato Oput, Reconciliation and Justice. These are the terms we were asked to define and discuss in our latest blog post.

Justice, a word that often brings to mind truth, honesty, and fairness. To me, justice is more than that. Justice is the answer to those bracelets everyone gets as children from the church, the W.W.J.D. bracelets. Jesus was a man who lived to define what justice was. He was the defender of the poor, the sinners, and the shunned.

When I think of how to best define justice, my mind drifts toward the people that I have seen who have lived through the injustices of the world. Those who are neglected, forgotten, broken, hurt, those whose cries are not heard, those are the people that come to mind when I think of justice, because justice seems to have passed them by.

Not because of anything they did, but because of the cruelty of the world, the hardships of the world that most of us have no idea of. The hunger pangs that come after not having eaten in several days, the pain of backbreaking labor in the hot sun to barely slide by each day.

Justice is the equality and calmness in life that we all take for granted. The clothes on our back, the shoes on our feet, the medicine that keeps us healthy, and the opportunity to succeed in life. That is what justice means to me, not the truth, not honesty, but fairness and peacefulness and the opportunity for a non-violent life.

Those are the things that we all take for granted but even when we don’t, we often forget that there are very few who live a life without worrying about many of those things. 

 

Forgiveness.

After out trip to Uganda I have thought a lot about what forgiveness truly means. I have decided that the best definition of forgiveness is when you let go of the past in order to be able to move on to a better future. 

Mama Angelina was an example of this and so many others were also. It was so common to see and hear form people who were holding on to the past and consequently struggling even more to move forward. It was the people like Mama Angelina that found a way to forgive that were able to move on.

Letting go of the past is in no way an easy task. Especially for the people affected by the civil war in Uganda. However, if I learned anything from this trip it is that forgiveness is necessary and without it you can be stuck forever. 

What is…?

We have been trying to uncover the definition of these words throughout our entire trip.

PEACE:

Peace is when one can live in their home or town or country and feel safe. They can be at ease because they know that they are secure and protected.

Peace is when one is happy and content with the life they are living. They are satisfied with what they are doing and are doing the best they can. 

JUSTICE:

Justice is when one recognizes that what they did was wrong and they do everything in their power to make it right again.

Justice is NOT seeking revenge.

RECONCILIATION:

Reconciliation is when two parties can come together peacefully and put the past behind them.

Reconciliation is being able to move one and start fresh.

FORGIVENESS:

Forgiveness is truely accepting what has happened and not holding a grudge against anyone or anything.

Forgiveness is realizing that things happen, and we cannot dwell on the past.

 

How can we ask God to forgive if we don’t forgive?

The strongest lesson I learned while in Uganda is what forgiveness truly is and why we need to do it. Mama Angelina put it best while sitting on a mat in the middle of the pouring rain under a mango tree in rural Uganda. She asked, how we can expect God to forgive us if we can’t forgive others? We all want God’s forgiveness because we are sinners, however, we are frequently unable to forgive others.

Every grudge I had ever held seemed so minute in comparison to the atrocities committed by the LRA towards the people of northern Uganda. Although not everyone found forgiveness to be possible, many said they had already forgiven or could see forgiveness as possible someday. This was unfathomable to me. I came home from Uganda and mended broken relationships because I have to forgive before I can expect God to forgive me.

Additionally, Mama Angelina pointed out that without forgiveness we cannot know peace. Although we in the United States know peace much better than those in northern Uganda, we all have known inner turmoil of some degree. We cannot move forward without first forgiving. This was a common theme with many we spoke to in Uganda. Forgiveness and reconciliation are the only ways to peace.

Forgiveness is possible

Forgiveness has been a very difficult thing for me recently. Actually, at times it has seemed nearly impossible.  How do you forgive someone who has hurt you so badly when you would never do the same thing to them?

While in Uganda, I was blown away by the people’s ability to forgive. Parent’s whose children were taken away from them by the Lords Resistance Army (LRA) choose to forgive Joseph Kony (the rebel leader) because they believed that was the only they would ever find peace.

I’m pretty sure I talked about Mama Angelina in one of my previous blogs but her story is a prime example of this kind of forgiveness. Her daughter was one of 149 girls taken from Saint Mary’s Boarding School by the LRA many years ago. 119 of the girls were returned in just a few days but Mama Angelina’s daughter, Charolotte, was not one of them. Mama Angelina spoke out against the rebels for a long while until they finally tried to make a deal with her: they would give her Charolotte back if she kept her mouth shut. Knowing that this problem was so much bigger than just her and her daughter and not wanting to betray other parents, she declined the offer and kept speaking out. Mama Angelina didn’t see her daughter for seven years and seven months, but Charolotte along with 29 other girls were eventually returned.

While Mama Angelina could have forever hated the rebels, in her eyes that wouldn’t have solved anything. When we interviewed her she explained that without forgiveness there would never be peace and that without peace happiness is basically impossible. 

I learned a lot from Mama Angelina and all of the Ugandans we spoke to. If they can forgive Kony and the rebels for all of the hurt caused to them, how can I not forgive for much smaller wrongs done towards me?

  

What is peace?

Peace.

What is it?

This is what I struggled with while we were in the country. How on earth were these people able to forgive the rebels for what they did?! Are they JOKING?! I’d never ever forgive someone if they had made me watch someone murder someone I loved. If I had been abducted, I would never be able to stop holding a grudge.

 

And yet, I watched and listened to almost every person we talked to as they said, “I have forgiven them.”

It still gives me chills. 

I have learned what peace is. Peace is being able, no matter what, to see the good side of something. To not get stressed out over something, no matter how major this is.  These people are the definition of an optimist. They believe in the good of a person, of anything, even when they cannot see it. They live life day to day, and know that no matter what they do, tomorrow will be different; tomorrow will be better.

They have taught me to try to be more at peace with myself, because there cannot be peace in a world when people don’t have peace with themselves.

 

Peace be with you.

First World Problems.

We’re done.

 

Well, almost.

I still have the paper to write, and the final to do. So actually, I’m not nearly done.

I sat here, trying to find motivation to write my paper, and thought to myself “Ugh. This SUCKS. I don’t want to write a paper. I want it to be SUMMER. Hasn’t this class required enough of me?! I’m ready to go to the beach!”

Then I stopped.

REALLY, Marybeth?! Have you learned NOTHING over this five-week course?! I’m annoyed about having to write an eight page paper, while some people would give anything to get an education. Wow. Makes it seem minimal to write a paper, huh.

 

I’ve been blessed. I’ve been given so much for which I am not grateful for. If I take anything away from this class, I really hope that I remember the faces. I hope that I can think of the people I have met when I went there. I hope that this experience stays with me forever. 

I am blessed to be a witness.