By Naomi Yakawich
In recognizing the effectiveness and relevance of the Global Peace Foundation (GPF) interfaith approach taken in Nigeria, GPF Uganda began conducting a pilot One Family Under God Campaign in partnership with the Interreligious Council of Uganda.
With a simple, all-inclusive and values-based platform, GPF provided much needed space for interfaith and cultural leaders to discuss a common vision for the good of all people. Major Banana Frank Working of the Internal Security Organization shared how the vision of “One Family under God” had melted down the identity-based tensions in the region.
A key GPF initiative that resulted from these kinds of interactions between community leaders was one apple planting program. In this program, families that had previously been in conflict were given an opportunity to meet together in peace and to make a shared commitment to move forward, using the symbolic act of planting apple seedlings together. This initiative was inspired by a traditional Ugandan practice in which conflicts between families would be settled where a daughter would be married to a member of the aggrieved family. Here, instead, the families would plant apple trees together.
Apple trees are traditional cultural symbols of love and peace, and the joint planting represented the commitment to move forward, together. Beyond the act of planting, the families were encouraged to care for the apple trees together, and with increased interaction and cooperation, build ties and eventually— literally— reap the harvest of apple fruits.
These kinds of initiatives, although simple in concept and design, can be powerful models for reconciliation. Yet, to engage in such acts of forgiveness, requires deep reserves of faith, love, hope and commitment to a shared future. When families see themselves as part of One Family Under God, they were able to naturally seek out win-win solutions to conflicts to the benefit of the entire community.
Moreover, it is in the commitment of the interfaith and intercultural leaders towards building communities of peace and social cohesion that allows for this kind of initiative to take place.
When faith and cultural leaders take the lead, modeling behaviors and mindsets of leaders of a community of “One Family Under God,” other positive developments naturally follow.
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