“For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility.” – Ephesians 2:14
The Karamoja community, originally known as the Jie, which means “old men can walk no further,” is a northern Uganda tribe that originally migrated from Ethiopia. They make their livelihood out of herding livestock. The availability of food and water for their animals is always a concern, which sometimes leads to conflict with other ethnic groups.
The rhythm of life in the Karamoja Community is marked by cattle raids, killing, and displacement of communities. The violence leaves families in pain and the economy underdeveloped. The arguments over who owns livestock have roots in giving mass livestock as a dowry. That has since changed to pure commercialization; livestock is in demand outside of the area, which leaves all of it at the risk of being raided. What began as occasional raids with raiders armed only with spears has escalated to gun warfare. Most victims don’t have any source of self-defense, so they find themselves helpless.
Ten years ago, a Young Life kid from the Kumi region in Uganda became a nurse and started a Young Life ministry there. Two years later, she recruited local leaders Akiki and Isoko as volunteers to reach teenage warriors and share the gospel with them.
It is a hard place to do ministry. A month ago, Simon Okiria, regional director in Uganda, received a call from Akiki, who shared that things in Karamoja had gotten worse. His people were dying and Akiki wanted to give up. Simon traveled to Karamoja and was overwhelmed by the situation. He sat down with Akiki to listen, talk, and pray.
Akiki suggested a demonstration for peace. The idea was well-received, and soon after they embarked on the Karamoja Peace Walk. More than 85 Young Life leaders as well as over 100 former warriors who had their lives changed by Jesus through Young Life were joined by community elders, local council administrators, friends, and family members in the demonstration to restore peace to the region.
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.…” Matthew 5:9
On the first day, there were more than 200 participants who walked over 26 kilometers. By day two, there were over 300 people and they covered an area of over 40 kilometers. On the last day, there were over 500 people participating. This number included over 200 reformed warriors as well as village elders from various parts of the region.
Over the course of the demonstration, 18 guns were handed over. The over 200 reformed warriors pledged their commitment to becoming agents of peace. To top it all off, the Young Life team in Karamoja walked to the Karamojong Village Parliament to talk to the elders and declare their intention for peace.
“It was very emotional and encouraging to see elders, women, young people, and kids hold hands together to pray for peace. This has never happened before. It was the highlight of the whole peace walk. Especially because in the culture of Karamoja people, you only speak or mingle with your RIKA (people of your own age) which means kids, women, and elders do not mix. The Holy Spirit was definitely at work here,” said Simon.
The most encouraging thing for Akiki and Simon was to see warriors declaring that they are going to give up raiding and instead strive for peace. It is their prayer that the new is here! Just like the Bible teaches in 2 Corinthians 5:17, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone!” Hope has been restored in the community as elders, young men, women, and children all came together for peace. The community is aware of their need for peace and Young Life leaders were able to share the gospel with them, transforming more lives.
The next challenge is how to support those who handed over their guns and find a way to keep them from feeling the need to resume raids. Moroto requires programs and projects for reformed warriors to empower them and give them additional skills to make a living. They would like to see the education system in Karamoja improve, join us in prayer for a more robust educational plan that will help the children not only go to school but to complete it as well.
“How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, ‘Your God reigns!’ ” – Isaiah 52:7
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