For the Healing of Nations

by Dr Alan Channer

Our world is one cloth, a seamless garment. To tear the thread of any one strand inevitably affects all of them together and shreds the whole cloth….’ 

Rev Dr Sam Kobia, Senior Advisor on Peace, Conflict Resolution and Social Cohesion in the Executive Office of the President of Kenya, was speaking at the opening of a symposium on ‘Healing and Reconciling Wounded Memories: Key Elements in Achieving Holistic Peace’.  The seminar, organized by OikoDiplomatique and Norwegian Church Aid, took place in December 2016, in Nairobi.

Dr Kobia continued: ‘The call for peace is not enough. Peace and justice must embrace each other, but to do so other interlinked threats to life must also be addressed: the environmental crisis, the denigration of people, the plight of migrants, the debt crisis, human trafficking, diseases. 

 ‘Wounds are crying out for healing; wounded memories are longing for reconciliation. Spirited efforts have been made by many, but needless to say, a great deal more work is waiting to be done.’

Signs of genocide

As he opened the Symposium, Rev Dr Sam Kobia focused the attention of all the participants on the turmoil in South Sudan:

‘Every time there is genocide in any part of the world, the international community resolves never again to allow another genocide.  But as we meet here there are ominous signs of genocide in South Sudan.  This symposium is challenged to respond.’

Moved by this challenge, participants shared their own experiences of peace work in the past month. In this way, the symposium started on a practical note. A common thread emerged: of a need for healing and reconciliation in different situations in Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, South Sudan, Somalia and beyond.

The documentary film An African Answer, depicting the transformation of ethnic conflict in Kenya following post-election violence in 2007/8, was screened on the first evening. The film was introduced by the producer, and associate of OikoDiplomatique, Dr Alan Channer, together with production consultant and peace activist, Mr Joseph Karanja.    

The next morning, Dr Mustafa Ali, Director of Arigatou International in Kenya and laureate of the Coexist Foundation’s international peace prize, spoke about ‘The effects of conflicts on childrens’ minds’.