Updated: Jul 10, 2020
“In a religious context among Christians and Muslims, people believe that all human beings are created in God’s image.” So began Samson Turinawe’s opening remarks at the International Day of Peace conference in Uganda last month. “Therefore, each of us here in this conference hall, as well as those in the streets, villages and slum areas of Uganda, are images of God. Why not treat each other as if we are treating God? In my view, if we did this, peace would prevail in all nations.”
Samson Turinawe is Director of Universal Love Alliance (formerly Universal Love Ministries), a Uganda organization with a vision for a community free from discrimination based on race, gender, sexual orientation, tribe, religion, or political affiliation. Spirit in Action has partnered with ULA to promote the rights for women, children and LGBTI people in Uganda. Because we have an on-going relationship with ULA, I am sharing this update on their non-SIA-funded peace-building work.
Fifty-nine people attended the ULA peace conference, representing many segments of Ugandan society. There were representatives from Catholicism, Islam, Anglican and Pentecostal Churches, as well as schools and government.
59 religious and local leaders attended the peace conference last month.
Listen to the Children and Embrace Change
“The world in which the parents grew up is unlike the reality that young people face in the world today,” said Professor Hosea Muhanguzi, Senior Lecturer at Makerere University, during his speech about the role of the family in building a culture of peace. He called for parents to listen to their children, respect their views, and understand their needs and fears. “Young people are quite possibly more informed about current affairs than their parents are. The culture is undergoing big change.”
Samson, Director of the Universal Love Alliance
Prof. Hosea invited participants to talk to their family members accepting and embracing change as a way to build peace. “Rigidity and conservatism result in mistrust which, in turn, leads to conflict.” This is an important message for all of us around the world facing ideologues and people with entrenched opinions.
Bringing people together from all walks of life
The third speaker, Siraji Ntutumo, Secretary of the Ugandan Muslim Supreme Council, began his presentation by greeting people in Arabic. He emphasized that a true Muslim maintains peace. Also, that tolerating discrimination leads to conflict that destabilize peace. Mr. Ntutumo thanked ULA for inviting the Muslim community to be part of the peace event, “ULA is the first organization that has given a chance to Muslims in this region, to invite us to talk about peace with an Islamic understanding.”
Overall, Samson was pleased with the flow of the day and the possibility for future collaboration. “The event showed that the ULA approach regarding inclusion of all people is working. People may not share certain values with us, but they agree with us on other values. This agreement forms the basis for working together. This leads to tolerance and, as time goes on, we get to know each other.”