Blessed are the Peacemakers – Christmas 2016
On 1 January 2017, Pope Francis will deliver a major address to the world marking the 50th Anniversary of World Peace Day. His message affirms the primacy of nonviolence, based on the irrefutable evidence of the multi-dimensional and historical damage which violence causes.
On the birth of Jesus Isaiah prophesised:
“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9:6)
This Christmas the Society of African Missions gives thanks to God for a major peace initiative undertaken by SMA missionaries in Kenya. The Shalom Centre for Conflict Resolution and Reconciliation was founded by SMA missionary Fr Padraig Devine. Fr Padraig carefully chose the name ‘Shalom’, an ancient Hebrew word, describing it as: “much more than the absence of violence which is mere negative peace; it is about positive peace where all sides are mutually interested in the wellbeing and development of each other; it is Peace with Justice and harmony holistically integrated.”
Recently the Irish Independent reported on a visit made to Kenya by the Irish Minister for Overseas Development, Joe McHugh, TD. Minister McHugh visited many Irish projects but was particularly interested in the Shalom Project which has been instrumental in building 120 inter-ethnic schools throughout rural Kenya.
With the support of Fr Oliver Noonan, the Shalom Centre has trained 5,000 community leaders and village elders “in resolving often ancient land and cattle disputes”.
“Many conflicts,” Fr Devine told the Irish Independent, “exist in rural border regions where tribal tensions are often heightened by the nomadic lifestyle and disputes arise over land and animals.”
In the region of Tuum, because of the work of the Shalom Centre, the once-hostile tribes of Turkana and Samburu people now meet regularly at peace camps and workshops.
Raphaela Lelaono, a member of the Samburu Women’s Group, told journalist Greg Harkin that “Father Patrick and Shalom have shown us a new way and it is working.” She also said that people in the region no longer live in fear.
The Shalom Center for Conflict Resolution and Reconciliation has won several international awards in recognition of its peace and reconciliation efforts. In 2013 Fr Devine was awarded the ‘Caring Award’, from the Caring Institute, Washington D.C. whose previous recipients include Saint Mother Teresa and His Holiness the Dalai Lama.
You may access the Irish Independent article about the work of the Shalom Centre here:
And Fr. Devine’s acceptance speech for the Caring Award may be accessed here:
And you may also access the Shalom Centre’s own account of the visit by Minister McHugh TD and the Irish Delegation here:
On this, the feast of the Prince of Peace, we pray for the continuing success of the work of Fr Padraig Devine SMA and Fr Oliver Noonan SMA and all their dedicated Kenyan colleagues. We thank them for continuing the work of the child of Bethlehem, whose birth resounded with the Heavenly chorus:
“Glory to God in the highest,
And on Earth peace among people of goodwill.”