The Hidden Life of Seeking Peace
Kampala, Uganda – The first day of the institute here included the treasure of Archbishop John Baptist Odama’s presence from northern Uganda. Odama has been a key peacemaker through decades of pain and violence including thousands of children abducted to become soldier-killers and girl sex slaves of militia groups.
Odama explained his willingness to go anywhere for the sake of peace – including many times into the untamed “bush” to meet the feared Joseph Kony of the Lords’ Resistance Army (see the New York Times Kony interview).
Yet most striking for me was not the public Odama but the “hidden” and unknown man, and the intimate relationship he drew between peacemaking and prayer.
Every Thursday – every week – this busy church leader is not available because he spends the entire day alone in stillness, adoration, prayer, and fasting. “A whole day?” asked my colleague Emmanuel Katongole. “Amidst all the need and conflict? Why do you spend a whole day? What do you do?”
“First I report to Him. Because He’s my boss,” said Odama. “I tell Him about all the challenges we’re facing, the decisions I am trying to make.”
Then he uses his hands to pray. He raised his right hand to explain. “Five fingers. Each one is a continent. America is the thumb, it’s big,” he laughed. “This hand is also all the women of the world. My left hand is the men of the world.” He pointed to the lighter inside of one hand. “This is whites, Asians, Indian peoples. The darker outside is Africa and black people.”
Odama brought his hands together. “So when I bring my hands together before Him I bring all of humanity together. Because we are all human, we are all loved by God, we are all one. I go in front of the Lord as an ambassador for all these people. My tribe is all of humanity.
“The third thing I do is confess my sin. And finally, when I am finished talking, I am silent. I listen to Him. I watch him there. He watches me there. I read Scripture, listen to it, pray over it.”
Receiving God’s gift of “new creation” into the brokenness of our communities and countries. Odama’s claim is that this is only possible through a deep companionship with God which shapes a new person: a new lens for seeing peace; a courage to step onto the risky ground; a daring, restless advocacy.
Grounded in and beginning not with activism but stillness.
About the Author: Chris Rice is co-director of the Center for Reconciliation at Duke Divinity School. He is author of Reconciling All Things, Grace Matters, and More Than Equals. He writes regularly at the blog Reconcilers.
See posts from 2011 Uganda institute: “NGO’s Are Replacing God”
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