Monday, May 28, 2007

Traditional Wedding (by Ben)

(The group from Lira)

Yesterday, Holly and I went to a village outside of a small town bordering Congo to attend a friend’s wedding. Carol, the bride (who works with us at CPA) grew up in the village near Congo, while Tom, the groom (a good friend) grew up in Lira. As such, we all woke up very early and caravanned to the village. Several goats and cows accompanied us on the journey.

(Congratulating Tom)

Holly and I have attended wedding ceremonies before, but this was the first one we really felt integrated with the other guests; the newly weds are friends of ours, and we had been to enough ceremonies like this to know how to conduct ourselves.

(Holly in her stylish Gomaz)

Holly wore a traditional dress called a gomaz, and I wore the traditional suit. After we arrived at the wedding, we waited for the “negotiations” between Tom’s elders and Carol’s elders to decide on the “bride price”. Half and hour was designated for the negotiations, but they lasted for over five hours. By the time they finished it was dark. But no problem…it was time to celebrate! Women were ululating, pounding the ground with weeding hoes, and waving dried fish on a stick. In the initial hours, men needed to wear a stern face, without smiling, or they would be fined. After speeches by fathers, everyone was allowed to visibly enjoy themselves.
(traditional dancing)

(Carol the bride)

Theories of Nonviolence and Community Reconciliation (by Ben)

(Lam and I)

Last week Holly and I were with CPA’s trainers in Soroti, Uganda. This was our eighth out of ten training modules. Holly and Lam (an Acholi peace activist) worked together to bring new levels of understanding and commitment to nonviolence. Lam vividly described his real life experiences and challenges of brining peace to Northern Uganda, while Holly placed new ideas and inspired reconciliation.

(Holly teaching a model on reconciliation designed by JP Lederach)

A common training technique to get participants to express and debate their views is an activity called “Agree-Disagree”. After a statement is read, individuals take a position by standing along the spectrum of "agreeing" or "disagreeing". One statement provoked an interesting discussion. It is a widely-held belief in the community that “the best punishment for a thief is death.” Participants stood along the entire spectrum of this statement. The legal system is Uganda is so unstable at times that “taking justice into your own hands” is the only way to deter crime. If thieves are brought to the police station, the police will often tell them that they should’ve been dealt with in the traditional way, and that they would release the thief in a day or so. Mob justice certainly is an effective deterrent to crime (and thousands lose their lives to mob violence every year). One trainer raised her hand and spoke of the passage in the Gospels where an angry mob is ready to stone a woman caught in adultery. In this story, Jesus says, “let he who has not sinned cast the first stone”. Slowly the crowd dissipated with the elders first to leave. Holly then asked, “Raise your hand if you have ever stolen anything in your life. Whether it be large sums of money or knowingly accepting more change than you were owed after a purchase”. Everyone raised their hands...and there was silence. The following day some participants expressed their new views: that killing wasn’t the answer. This led to discussions and questions on “what true restoration, reconciliation and rehabilitation would look like in Northern Uganda”

(Trainers hard at work)

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Labor Day Football (by Ben)

Hi Friends,
We spend a lot of time doing our routine work in the office, but when we break away, it's fun share with all of you. On labor day, Holly and I traveled to Gulu for a Bi-annual football tournament. Several NGO's spend months training to win the tournament. This year, CPA was geared up and ready to defeat the returning champion, CARITAS.

Training and playing football keeps a lot of us balanced. Adrenaline and endorphins flood into our bloodstream and give us natural highs, as stresses from the office fade away. We were defeated again this year. 0-1. It was a good game and we're already looking forward to the rematch in October!


(Our "football mothers". Members of CPA's board who came to support our team)

Next week we're both out of town conducting a training in "Peacebuilding: Theories of Non-violence and Community Reconciliation". We hope to keep you posted.