Yumbe, Uganda, 13 February 2020 (F2A)- Africa Alex is a young man from Kululu Sub County in West Nile region of Uganda. After he dropped from school, Africa hanged around Kululu with his friends. He did odd jobs and did not have big dreams. Then he had a simple encounter with a team from Uganda Joint Christian Council (UJCC) and Muslim Centre for Justice and Law (MCJL) which became a turning point in his life.
The UJCC/MCJL was looking for promising young men and women that it could empower with information and skills in interfaith relations and cooperation, community dialogues, and peaceful coexistence. The UJCC/MCJL would then deploy the trained youth as Community Own Resource Persons (CORPs) to promote interfaith relations and peaceful coexistence between Muslims and Christians in Yumbe district. The UJCC/MCJL identified Africa as a promising youth and listed him for training. In his words,
“It is very difficult to get employment in the district. We have a number of NGOs but these are mainly for the welfare of the refugees. It is hard to obtain information on national programs for the youth. When I heard about the UJCC/MCJL’s project on the youth, I decided to join. Most of the youth are idle and spend most of the time causing trouble in the community.”
Initially, Africa was not enthusiastic about interfaith relations and the UJCC/MCJL project. But he became very passionate about the project after the first training and subsequent engagements with the UJCC/MCJL teams. He fervently reached out to young men and women in their respective villages, mosques and Christian churches and parishes in the Kululu sub-county. He explained to them the importance of interfaith relations and peaceful coexistence.
In addition to house-to-house outreach, Africa and his fellow CORPs organised sports and music, dance and drama as required by the UJCC/MCJL project. He found sports for peace and music, dance and drama very entertaining because they involved hundreds of young men and women. By 30 August 2019, Africa and his team had reached 4577 young men and women in Kululu sub-county. Further, for the first time in his life, Africa saw the potential of youth groups not just in entertainment, but also in income generation.
As he says, “during the training, most of the participants were more educated and skilled than me. I therefore decided to upgrade my skills by enrolling for a short training program in building and construction conducted by the the Finn church Aid.”
Africa has continued with the work of promoting interfaith relations and peaceful coexistence in Kululu sub-county and Yumbe district. And to earn an income, he has used the skills that he acquired on building and construction to form a group which builds and constructs houses for people in Kululu and Yumbe. The group started with 7 classmates whom the Finn Church Aid trained. It has since expanded to 26 members, that is, 5 Muslims and 26 Christians. 4 members are from the Aringa ethnic group while the other 22 are refugees from South Sudan.
“During the Finns training, I engaged with the youth in my class from Kululu Sub County and after school we formed Yoyo Young Talent Builders Association. We started with 3 Ugandans and 4 South Sudan refugees. We applied for government registration and then started contracting buildings for people. I used some of facilitation money that I received from UJCC/MCJL to pay for the registration. Our biggest achievement so far has been to receive a sub-contract from the Peace Wind Japan.”
Africa is very proud of his work as CORP for the UJCC/MCJL project. Using religious scriptures, he concludes that “every person has been created for a purpose and every youth will be accountable.”
The Faith to Action Network has been supporting UJCC and MCJL through a small grant and continuous technical assistance, which covers program management, financial management, monitoring & evaluation, and assessment of outcomes and impact. The F2A Network has also been supporting both partners on documentation of lessons learned and best practices and generation of additional research themes from the impacts. The F2A is funded by the European Union (EU) and administered to the partners under a project known as Communities Richer in Diversity (CRID). Other F2A partners in the EU funded project are Council of Anglican Provinces of Africa (CAPA), the African Council of Religious Leaders (ACRL) and the All Africa Conference of Churches (AACC).