Monday, July 23, 2012
First Day With ARLPI
The first day of my internship was definitely an experience to remember. I arrived at the Acholi Religious Leaders Peace Initiative (ARLPI) building a little before nine and witnessed the ending of morning devotion. I was a little nervous because I did not know what to expect; however the nerves quickly passed after a short introduction by the programs coordinator Patrick. Immediately after morning devotion (which is just singing, praying, and a quick sermon) it was suggested to me to attend the prayers at the local seminary. I really wanted to see the Gulu seminary because of my future interests (grad school/seminary), so I was willing to go. After dropping the others off at their own destinations, I was left with Jeffery. He told me that we are picking up the Sheik, who is the Vice-Chairman of (ARLPI) and a very prominent Muslim leader here in Gulu. So in other words, he is pretty important. When we picked him up he hopped into the truck with a huge smile. He and I spoke about the many different states and universities that he has traveled to in the USA. He is the resemblance of the true meaning of Islam (which is peace). This man has worked alongside Bishop Ochola and Archbishop Odama in promoting peace throughout Uganda and even the world. It was such an honor to be in his presence laughing and talking about our histories. We also picked up Florence the treasurer of ARLPI who was also extremely nice and took care of me when I became a little sick. Once we arrived at the seminary I expected to be in a room full with seminarians to listen to a homily and prayers. Oh how I was wrong. What I was to experience was the 25th Silver Jubilee of two priests. This was no small event. There were over 200 people in attendance. The choir was playing Acholi instruments and singing in Luo. Because I was walking with the Sheik and Florence, I was introduced to a number of people; even though I had no idea who I was meeting, I just knew they were important. As we sat down in the V.I.P. section the event proceeded to begin. A huge line of priests, escorted His Grace Odama up to the pulpit. After the singing and praying, Archbishop Odama began the mass. His message was beautiful. His words were about how all of mankind is God’s the “beloved”. He drew upon the Qur’an and explained how the Jihad is a spiritual fight for finding the purpose for one’s self and how it promotes peace rather that what extremists are using Jihad for. He then went on to emphasis the importance for religious leaders to uphold the holy text’s doctrines. Finally the most beautiful analogy he gave was when he held up his hand and said, “Look at my hand. On the front (the palm) it is brown or light. That represents non-Africans in the world. On the back, it is black. That represents the Africans. God created us to live in peace together. Just look at your hand!” Everyone began to look at their hands, including myself. Of course my hand is a little different but I sincerely appreciated the message. When leaving I met more important religious leaders and got to say “hi” to his grace. The ride home was bumpy and the Sheik joked about how “Uganda has such nice roads.” Besides the upset stomach, I had a wonderful first day with the Sheik and Florence.