By Margaret Alerotek
“Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.”
—Matthew 5:9 (KJV)
Margaret Alerotek, a World Vision communications officer in Uganda, died suddenly in July, shortly after writing this essay. Please pray for her family, colleagues, and the children of northern Uganda for whom she was a courageous and tireless advocate. Please read this tribute
to her life — one of World Vision's great success stories, cut tragically short.
Peace means many things: the end of hostilities; a period of rest, tranquility, and stillness; an inner sense of contentment, love, care, and forgiveness. All these are important ingredients for lasting peace.
In northern Uganda, peace has been elusive for 21 years. The Lord’s Resistance Army, led by self-proclaimed prophet Joseph Kony, has forced children to carry out atrocities against their own people.
Can you believe even children as young as 5 years old have been forced to choose to either kill or die a slow and painful death? It is unthinkable, isn’t it?
Margaret Alerotek, a World Vision communications officer in Uganda who passed away suddenly and unexpectedly, was passionate about bringing peace and reconciliation to a country that has been ravaged by war for more than two decades.
© 2007 Kari Costanza/World Vision
|Yet it has repeatedly happened in northern Uganda as the world watched and lamented but did little to stop it.|
The good news is that today, the words 'peace' and 'reconciliation' are on everybody’s lips. I was especially encouraged by the level of concern portrayed by Americans during my recent trip to the United States. The interest shown by different congressional officials, World Vision staff, and others in supporting peace in northern Uganda was indeed soothing. Let’s never grow weary of this work.
Personally, I had no idea I would play a part in the peace process. Not long ago, I was a big advocate for punishment for all the perpetrators. I thought it would be nice to watch them suffer like they made others suffer. I vividly remember refusing a handshake with an ex-rebel commander because I thought he was my parents’ murderer.
I never thought I could ever find it in my heart to forgive the people who deprived me of my parents’ love at the age of 3. But that changed when I joined World Vision and saw the staff’s efforts to build peace — even when others probably thought it wasn’t worth it.
I talked with the child soldiers being rehabilitated and listened to their experiences. In spite of their unimaginable suffering, they were willing to forgive and move on. They helped me decide to spend my energy on rebuilding peace in my community rather than being bitter, though at first it was not very clear how I could contribute.
When the Juba peace talks hit a snag in December 2006 and the warring parties were fighting each other in the media, the picture of my role became very vivid. Through God’s guidance, I managed to convince the LRA and the Ugandan government negotiators to participate in a teleconference, moderated by World Vision, to revive the stalled peace talks.
It dawned on me that God sometimes lets bad things go on because he wants to give each of us a chance to fulfill the purpose for which he kept us alive. In the case of northern Uganda, God’s purpose for us is to make peace.
I know that it may be incomprehensible to many that one should talk about forgiveness and reconciliation in a situation where justice should rule. Nevertheless, we are called to leave the judgment to God and instead do our part in offering mercy — just as God has been merciful to each of us.
I firmly believe this is the price for peace in northern Uganda. A demonstration of humanity’s inhumanity can only be overcome by agents of forgiveness and peace. You and I are the agents. It is up to us.
about the conflict in northern Uganda and how children and families are affected.
>>Read a tribute
to Margaret Alerotek, written shortly after her unexpected death in July 2007.
Ways You Can Help
>> Pray for peace in northern Uganda.
Pray that Margaret's vision for peace, reconciliation, and development in northern Uganda would be realized, and that her life's work would inspire others who carry on in her footsteps.
>> Make a monthly financial pledge
to help provide for the needs of children affected by war.
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