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Irish missionary to lecture on conflict transformation methods at Queen’s

By Sarah Mac Donald - 14 March, 2017

Fr Patrick Devine SMA, Executive Director, the Shalom Centre for Conflict Resolution and Reconciliation with Professor Hastings Donnan, Director, Institute for the Study of Conflict Transformation and Social Justice at Queen’s University Belfast.

An Irish missionary who has been honoured for his work in conflict resolution in Kenya is to give a public address in Queen’s University next week on conflict transformation methods.

Fr Patrick Devine established the Shalom Centre for Conflict Resolution and Reconciliation (SCCRR) in 2009 in Nairobi, Kenya.

SCCRR is inclusive of all faiths and works with people to look at the root causes of conflict. It uses inter-ethnic education, peace building skills and problem solving workshops to do this.

The centre is constructing inter-ethnic schools which allow children and parents from opposing groups to study together.

It is also working on providing solar powered lighting to 178 schools in impoverished communities.

The Senator George Mitchell Institute for Global Peace, Security and Justice at Queen’s University Belfast will host Fr Devine on Wednesday 22 March at 4.30 pm.

The title of his lecture is ‘Inter-Ethnic Conflict Transformation Methods: Applications in Eastern Africa’.

It will have direct relevance to academics and practitioners working in a variety of conflict situations encompassing research-based religious and humanitarian perspectives.

The Shalom Centre has signed a memorandum of understanding with Queen’s University through its Institute for the Study of Conflict Transformation and Social Justice.

The memorandum aims to enhance the ability of both partners to undertake research into conflict transformation and reconciliation and to connect the perspectives of all those who seek to contribute to conflict transformation and social justice – from the insights of world leading researchers to the experience of practitioners, policymakers, politicians and activists.

It strives to provide an environment within which all voices can be heard and to underpin the pursuit of peace through world class research which is focused on addressing the root causes of conflict.

Fr Devine is originally from Frenchpark in Co. Roscommon. He was awarded the 2013 International Caring Award for creating enduring peace settlements in Kenya. The 2012 winner was His Holiness the Dalai Lama.

Fr Devine became a member of the Society of African Missions in 1988 and has spent over 20 years in eastern Africa.

The Shalom Centre is a project supported by the Society of African Missions and funded by Misean Cara.

It aspires to bring about deep-rooted transformation of conflict in Kenyan society through conflict resolution and reconciliation processes.

The necessity of having conflict management processes was illustrated during the 2008/2009 post-election violence in Kenya.

Many regions of eastern Africa experience periodic conflicts between pastoralist ethnic groups. The SCCRR promotes conflict management which is concerned with non-official or informal conflict management processes.

It concentrates its work at the grassroots so as to be able to more effectively engage methods of conflict prevention and the consolidation of peace, and to promote healing among communities in conflict.

SCCRR also conducts in-depth research into various conflicts in Eastern Africa, to facilitate the processes of conflict mapping and analysis, and to identify the root causes of conflict. Identifying root causes of conflict is seen as vital to conflict resolution.

Fr Patrick was spurred into founding the Shalom Centre following the post-election violence in Kenya in 2007–2008, during which 1,250 were killed, thousands were injured and up to 500,000 displaced.

Fr Devine believes inter-ethnic education is key to his work. “When you bring the children together, the parents enter into the process and then the political leaders have to take an account of what’s happening.

“That’s a very simple development out of the whole process but I think education is critical going forward.”

At the core of the memorandum of understanding with Queen’s is the recognition of the inseparability of social justice from sustainable processes of conflict transformation and, ultimately, of peace.

Both partners are committed to engaging with diverse groups, including vulnerable communities, to build capacity for improved approaches to conflict management, and to collaborate in initiatives such as problem-solving workshops.

The memorandum of understanding enhances the role of peace practitioners, validating the need for quality theoretical foundations to peace and development initiatives, and generating enhanced technical mastery of conflict transformation skills.

Moreover, it also entails fostering a greater appreciation for the history of conflicts and the resilience of conflict memory.

This is realised through applying the highest academic research standards, thereby countering the alarming dangers of unfounded speculation and conjecture as to the root causes of conflicts.

It also facilitates sustained cross-disciplinary and cross-cultural collaboration in research, education and training.

Queen’s University Belfast and Shalom share networks and facilities in the promotion of world class research into conflict transformation.

This may involve collaborative, comparative research projects in Kenya and/or Ireland, as well as elsewhere across Africa and Europe.

The Shalom Centre also has a memorandum of understanding with the Edward Kennedy Institute for Conflict Intervention at NUI Maynooth, as well as with the eight governments of eastern Africa that comprise the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), and with the Association of Member Episcopal Conferences in Eastern Africa (AMECEA).

In recent times it has been collaborating with the World Bank.

The work of Shalom was recognised by the Government during a visit to Kenya last November by Minister of State for Overseas Development Joe McHugh and officials from Irish Aid.

Visiting a Shalom project in Tuum to see the work first hand, Mr McHugh said, “The work that Shalom is doing shows two things: a massive vision for the region and leadership. They are doing great work, they are working on peace but not just peace for peace’s sake; they are working on development as well. We thank the Shalom team for giving us this rare insight into the work that they do.”

During his visit to Ireland, Fr Devine will attend a fundraising event for Shalom in Co. Galway organised by the Galway Solicitors Bar Association.

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