LUBUMBASHI, Democratic Republic of Congo (UMNS) — “We are challenged to focus our time and energy on activities that promote peace and justice, not on things that undermine us,” said Julie Ngwej. “Let us change our negative attitudes, our misunderstandings that contribute to hostility among us.”
Ngwej was one of 65 participants from the South Congo Episcopal Area who attended the sixth United Methodist General Board of Church & Society (GBCS) Culture of Peace & Reconciliation Seminar this past summer.
Main objectives … were to [provide] biblical, theological, emotional and a systematic-justice orientation to the causes and effects of conflict.
The seminar focused on understanding conflict, sound biblical references, causes and effects of conflict, a culture of peace and reconciliation, youth-adult relationships in the workplace, trauma and resilience models, mining companies versus local communities and tribalism.
“The main objectives of the seminar were to [provide] biblical, theological, emotional and a systematic-justice orientation to the causes and effects of conflict,” said the Rev. Neal Christie, GBCS assistant general secretary for Education & Leadership Formation.
Conflict stems from humanity’s divergent cultural views and includes sociocultural, economic and spiritual dimensions.
No society with conflict
“There is no society without conflict …” said Tshinyama Kadima, a professor. “We must learn to recognize conflict, to live it and to manage it better.”
We must learn to recognize conflict, to live it and to manage it better.
Various types of conflict — intrapersonal, interpersonal and intra- and intergroup — affect human life. The seminar provided avenues for each participant to reflect on his or her conflict-approach style. They also learned to recognize strengths and weaknesses of various conflict-resolution styles.
While unresolved conflict can be a threat, participants heard, it also could be an opportunity to bring change.
The Rev. Robert Kapembwa Mwape encouraged acceptance of others as humans created in God’s image, despite their weaknesses. “There is need to change,” he said, “because human life is not static. … We should not try to pigeonhole people by social class, tribe and gender. God is good to everyone.”
Biblical messages play a significant role in creating a culture of peace and reconciliation, speakers said. Participants were encouraged to take cues from Jesus and his followers who knocked down barriers of race, gender, age, culture and exclusion. Jesus welcomed children, tax collectors and those isolated from society, such as lepers and prostitutes.
Intrusive conflict sometimes occurs between young adults and older adults in the workplace. Some older workers resist changes by young adults that may affect their jobs. A youth participant encouraged “educating those adults who are developing … insecurity within them about the importance of facilitating youth positive development.”
Conflicts also arise in workplaces because of unpaid wages. Multinational mining companies may damage the environment, affecting communities. In the Kolwezi area, for example, surrounding communities have suffered child labor and lack of expatriate labor sensitivity to environmental damage.
The seminar enlightened participants on injustices experienced in trauma resulting from treatment of women, poverty, unemployment, loss of loved ones and family conflicts in general.
Small affinity groups of young adults and women groups addressed the issue of tribalism and began to develop “plans to move forward,” according to Christie.
The seminar defined the differences between tribality and tribalism. Tribality, which connotes a social bond of an individual to a tribe to which he or she belongs, is based on shared values, respect, good neighborhood, consensus and justice.
Tribalism, which affirms an individual belonging to a community, can also breed rancor and discrimination against people of a different tribal persuasion.
The seminar identified four key principles that undergird conflict resolution:
- Learning to listen and to understand others’ views;
- Learning to be flexible;
- Learning to settle conflicts; and
- Learning not to hate those who are different.