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Uganda. Justice and Peace Centre

John Paul II Justice and Peace Centre (JPIIJPC) is a consortium of five Religious institutes: Missionaries of Africa, Mill Hill, Comboni Missionaries, Holy Cross, Jesuits, and Comboni Sisters.

Reflecting on the years of church life in the country, the major superiors of these congregations in Uganda recognized that the people of God in Uganda were still affected by poverty, exploitation, corruption, violence, and lack of respect for human dignity and rights. In his letter (Ecclesia in Africa), the late John Paul II, called upon the Church as the family of God in Africa to bear witness to Christ, affirm commitment to justice and solidarity by each member of Gods people.

In response to this call, after years of reflection and discernment; the five Religious institutes decided to establish John Paul II Justice and Peace Centre in 2006. The naming of the Centre after the pope, was intended to keep alive the teaching of the late Pope who tirelessly reached the Gospel call of Jesus on reconciliation, justice and peace. They envisaged an empowered people of God living in a just and peaceful Uganda inspired by the Gospel values. The founders aimed at making the Catholic Social Teaching more known and effective to the religious and the laity.
In realizing the vision of the founders, the Centre creatively contributes to the building of a just and peaceful Uganda through: training, research and advocacy based on the Catholic Social Teaching of the Church. Trainings are conducted on various topics (human rights, peace building, environmental protection, good governance, gender, leadership, etc) to empower citizens on their civic rights and responsibilities. It targets: teachers, school drop outs, religious leaders, youth, and catechists.
Research is undertaken by the Centre to provide creditable evidence on social injustice issues and recommendations to curb the issues. Advocacy activities are organized by the Centre to influence duty bearers to fulfil their obligations and right holders to hold their leaders accountable. For effective advocacy, the centre collaborates with other organizations to ensure a collective voice.
Through training, JPIJPC has managed to expand and strengthen civic education initiatives in the country. The Centre has enhanced teacher’s commitment towards civic Education in Secondary schools and increased civic responsibilities among students. Trained teachers by the Centre engage students in their respective schools in civic actions, such as environmental protection and charity work.
The Centre has generated credible information on social justice issues. Specifically, the Centre has investigated into social justice issues in respect to: the plight of slum dwellers, food insecurity, conflict between central government and cultural institutions, the plight of people with mental illness, plight of women in accessing maternal health care, and challenges to provision of quality Universal Primary Education (UPE) in the country. These studies exposed the silent issues that some of the vulnerable and marginalized population are affected with and the need to end their insurmountable suffering.
The recommendations of these findings are being used by; Government officials, Civil Society Organizations (CSOs), Journalists, and individuals to address the issues. Through the sharing of the report about the poor quality of UPE with the partners, a linkage for lobbying and advocacy on UPE has been created. To that effect, relentless actions are being undertaken by the partners to ensure quality UPE.
The advocacy initiatives by the Centre have contributed significantly to the realization of the founders dreams of a just and peaceful Uganda. In respect to UPE the parents have been sensitized on their role towards their children’s education. The resultant effect has been parents meeting their obligations in terms of sending children to school and footing their scholastic needs.
This has been significant against the background that there was a miss conception on the UPE policy as being free and thus parents not obliged to meet their children’s educational requirements. Again in bid to improve quality of UPE, the Centre recruited community monitors and provided them monitoring tools to access teachers’ commitment, use of funds, pupils’ attendance, pupils’ performance, etc. Consequently, the frequent monitoring of schools by the community monitors, improved teachers’ commitment, pupils attendance, use of the school grants by the management, and literacy. Subsequently
One of the major social injustice issues in the country has been corruption, especially in the public sector. In the bid to address this vice, the Centre launched anti-corruption campaign in 2012 preceding the country’s celebration of 50 years. This initiative generated strong commitment among partners to initiate activities to fight the vice. After the launch a number of activities have been organized by various partners to fight corruption in government institutions. One of the strongest campaigns right now is the “Black Monday” whereby everybody is called upon to wear black every first Monday of the month as a sign of morning the theft of public funds by government officials. This is being spear headed by National Non-Governmental Organizations Forum and Action Aid-Uganda involving all people of goodwill.
On the other hand, the enjoyment of civil liberty has been met with brutality from the Police Force. This tainted the image of the Uganda Police Force and JPIIJPC saw the need to work on the Police-public relationship. To that effect, the Centre envisaged dialogue meeting between the police and civil society as a way forward. Continues dialogue organized by the Centre registered a gradual improvement in police-public relationship. Radio and TV talk shows organized by the Centre in partnership with the Uganda Police Force has contributed to a better relationship between the police and civil society as the officers on air respond to the concerns of the public. It has also led to better understanding of the role of the police and citizens in ensuring law and order. The community debates, have also built stronger police-community collaboration.
However, the centre does not operate without challenges. The challenges include financial constraints as the centre depends on donors to finance its activities, human resource constraint, unwilling of duty bearers to collaborate on issues which they feel infringe on their interest, lack of political will to address the structural injustice issues, among others.

Alfred Avuni

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