Diving in to peace and conflict studies

Next to me is a stack of library books, an Acholi phrasebook, and a list of things to do before embarking on my trip to Africa. In just three weeks, I’ll be on my way to the SIT Study Abroad program, Uganda & Rwanda: Peace and Conflict Studies in the Lake Victoria Basin. The course will explore the history, contemporary politics, and role of the state in the Rwandan genocide and the Lord’s Resis­tance Army conflict in the Acholi region of Uganda, as well as measures that miti­gate conflict and create peace.

Here is a peek at the schedule for the course:

June 15th – June 19th Arrival and orientation in Kigali
June 20th – July 5th Homestay in Kigali, Rwanda case study
July 6th  – July 8th Visit refugee settlement in south western Uganda and conclude Rwanda case study
July 9th – July 10th Gulu orientation
July 11th – July 20th Homestay with Acholi family in Gulu, Uganda case study
July 22nd – July 23rd Trip to Murchison Falls National Park, Overnight in Entebbe
July 24th – July 26th Wrap up and re-entry sessions at Country Inn, Masindi
July 27th – July 28th Travel to Entebbe, End of program

I found this program just two days before the (extended) application deadline, and I’m so glad I did. I think the structured curriculum and cultural immersion will be a great way for me to learn about the history and the current dynamics in the region. So far, our team has learned a lot about life for former child soldiers just from researching on our own and talking with our contacts in Africa, but I think it’s really important to be able to situate what we’ve learned so far in a broader understanding of the historical and cultural dynamics in the region. In laying the foundation for our project, I think it will be invaluable to learn from Rwandan and Ugandan teachers and the carefully designed curriculum.

I’m so grateful for this opportunity and excited for the adventure. I’m sure what I’m picturing in my head is nothing close to what the experience will actually be like, so I’m trying to keep an open mind and let go of my expectations. My goal for this summer is to dive into this study, embrace the heaviness and the hope of these narratives, and prepare myself for peacemaking work in the world.

I’ve gotten a lot of questions about why I’ve chosen to pursue this. (Why there? Why something so heavy? Wouldn’t you rather be doing ___ this summer? Why travel so far when there’s so much injustice in your own country? Aren’t you concerned about safety?) To me, it’s simple; I’m responding to a call. There are a million injustices in the world, but what I can do as an individual is observe what pulls me towards action and look for opportunities to use my personal strengths to make a difference. This past year, the vision of this project to work towards a more just and peaceful future in the wake of conflict in central Africa has pulled on my heart and given me the opportunity to take action. Yes, there is heaviness and unbelievable hurt in the narratives of genocide and conflict, but there is also hope and beauty and the chance for peace. This is my world, and I want to learn about it. Even those who seem so far away and so broken are really closer to me than they appear. The genocide and the LRA conflict are part of the human history I share. Of course I have my fears, but I know this summer is going to have a big impact on my life, in one way or another. And I hope I will be able to use the way it changes me to pursue greater peace in the world.

If you need me, I’ll be somewhere with my nose in a book. And trying to learn some Acholi.

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