Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Make me an instrument of peace

For many years, I have hung the Prayer of St. Francis in a place where I can see it when I wake to remind myself that each day can begin with the intention of promoting kindness.

When I arrived in Pader, I knew little about the village outside of what history books and human rights reports shared about the brutal violence which occurred in the region: the dismemberment of bodies, the killing, the abduction of children. I came with no set plan of action, but with an open mind and a willingness to give of my time and skills.

After my first two weeks teaching at FRO’s rehabilitation center, I approached community leaders with an explanation of my prior experience in peace building work and asked about their perceptions of what is most needed to promote sustainable peace and development in Pader. Their answer was unanimous: work to educate our most vulnerable children.

In the days following, I tirelessly labored over (and might I admit, stressed about) a plan to educate 1500 primary school children identified by a coalition of international NGOs as the most vulnerable and war-affected. All of these children are fully or partially orphaned, many were abducted by the LRA, and most care for themselves and siblings. None could access education without the support of donors to cover the expense of school fees, uniforms, school materials, and a basic living allowance.

I learned that it costs $30/year to cover all of the expenses associated with a child’s school attendance in Uganda, less than I spend in one night of dinner and a movie back home. For less than $8,000 more/year, the entire program supporting 1500 children in 56 Northern Ugandan primary schools could be administered and have all operational costs covered.

After agreeing to find funding to support this program, I was greeted with another request: help bring peace education to schools in Northern Uganda. I jubilantly accepted this challenge after seeing how happily the Kids for Peace Peace Pledge was received. Over the next few months, I will work to support peace education beginning with the most local primary schools and eventually reaching several more remote schools in areas that once served as battlegrounds for the terror waged by the LRA.

The enormity of the challenges I am facing here are at times overwhelming. While I’m constantly hearing about new “causes” to support here and realizing that one person can only do so much, I know that even so, all people can begin the day with the intention of doing the most they can to foster peace and spread hope.

The Prayer of St. Francis

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love.
Where there is injury, pardon.
Where there is doubt, faith.
Where there is despair, hope.
Where there is darkness, light.
Where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master,
grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console;
to be understood, as to understand;
to be loved, as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive.
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.


  1. May God bless you and stand by your side in your work.
    Just one question: you posted the news that Obama has sent 100 soldiers to stop J.Nk. How things are going on there? We are just skepitical about this 'Nobel Price man'. But maybe being in the field you can tell us about the peace progess that Africom is making there...

  2. I hope that God recogn;izes the strides that you are trying to make and protects you, for you truly are willing to sacrifice so much to help bring peace to these kids.

  3. @ Anonymous: I am following the news here closely, but no updates have come out of Uganda in the past week. I am most interested in the deployment for Eastern DRC, but we both know that 100 troops unfamiliar with the Congolese jungle will not be as effective as empowering the local population in self defense.

    Have you read the book "First Kill Your Family: Child Soldiers of Uganda and the LRA"? The author raises the question of why the Ugandan military was so ineffective at fighting the LRA in 20 years of war in northern Uganda. It made me think about eastern DRC and the argument that you made (if you are who I think you are!) about arming the women there and training them to protect themselves from GBV. The Acholi of northern Uganda were a warrior people, but disarming them and herding them into IDP camps made them completely incapable of protecting themselves against the LRA.

    I digress...but the point is, I think you are right to be somewhat dubious of the peacemaking prospect of sending in 100 foreign SOFs. Still, I am hopeful for peace and know that the LRA must eventually meet their end. The heinous violence at their hands must stop, and I applaud Obama for doing something, even if it is just a drop in the bucket foreign affairs-wise. It is an especially dicey move given the recent events in Libya, so even if the SOFs find Kony, it is hard to say what they will do to him.

    Thank you for your thought-provoking comments and supportive words!

  4. God bless you, Danielle. And I pray that God watches over you and provides aid and comfort to you and all of your students and friends. Don't despair at the "enormity of the challenges". Be good to yourself and you will be good for others. Incremental gains are gains none the less. Teach those you can reach!