Dreams Become a Reality as ARLPI Begins 'Interfaith Centre for Peace' Construction
By Wade Snowdon
JANUARY 1, 2010
KORO, NORTHERN UGANDA- It was almost five years ago when the Acholi Religious Leaders Peace Initiative (ARLPI) first made known their plans to build a peace centre for the people of northern Uganda. After 5 years of dreaming, the vision is now becoming a reality and like peace in the region, the foundation has been laid brick by brick.
In 2004, ARLPI became the first African institution to ever receive the Niwano Peace Award for her contributions towards promoting unity and her commitment to finding peaceful ways to end the northern Uganda conflict.
Upon receiving the prize, ARLPI vowed to use the monies awarded to create the first of it's kind--an 'Interfaith Centre for Peace' in Gulu. In an effort to promote peace in Uganda, Africa and the world at large, the centre is to be dedicated for training in peace education, research, and advocacy for non-violent conflict resolution and other peace related issues.
The centre will consist of an administration block, a hotel and catering wing, as well as a theater which will house hundreds.
Referring to the prize, retired Bishop of Kitgum Diocese, Macleord Bishop Ochola II stated, “this peace award signifies a strong message being sent to Uganda and the rest if the world to find a peaceful solution to the current conflict...and search for more meaningful peaceful co-existence in human diversity. ARLPI has received international recognition as it is a unique organization in that it teaches about the love of God and the love of neighbor in practical ways.
With such a heart in mind ARLPI Chairman, Catholic Archbishop J.B Odama stated, “this site is an Acholi project where people will benefit for the sake of peace. May it be a source of inspiration of how Christians can work harmoniously with Muslims and that something good can come out of war.”
While ARLPI purchased the land in the township of Koro, just outside of Gulu town in 2004, insecurity in the region prevented them from being able to move forward with the project. Now after almost 3 years of relative peace, construction has begun with the first phase of the project set to be completed by March.
At an official introduction to the leaders of Acholiland, Gulu Vice-chairman, Hororable Makot Kitara said, “ARLPI has given us pride because we can say that when people are united, they can do many things.”
Decades of brutal conflict waged primarily against civilians throughout northern Uganda by the Lords Resistance Army (LRA) resulted in over 30,000 children having been abducted, almost 2 million civilians displaced, and scores more mutilated or killed. Today, the LRA are no longer active in northern Uganda with the majority of people rebuilding their lives after leaving the camps for the internally displaced. Despite the relative calm, much more work needs to be done to achieve sustainable peace.
“We have achieved silence of the guns but still there is no peace in the minds of the people. We need to achieve this,” said Micheal Ocula, the MP for Kilak Sub-county.
With that in mind, the 'Interfaith Centre for Peace' seeks to be used as a resource centre to be used by the people to promote the beauty of Acholi culture as well as non-violent ways to resolve conflict so that Uganda 's future may be one of peace, unity, and brotherly love.