Forgiveness and Recovery Studied in Uganda
What prompts forgiveness in the wake of widespread violence? What effect does forgiving one’s attackers have on restoring order to a community?
Those questions are central to upcoming studies planned in Uganda in a partnership between the Fetzer Institute and a University of Notre Dame researcher.
“Uganda is an apt locale for such research for several reasons,” says Daniel Philpott, director of Notre Dame’s Center for Civil and Human Rights. While the country has experienced pervasive violence in the recent past, it is currently peaceful enough for research to proceed. Displaced people have returned to their villages, and former soldiers are now civilians. Also, anecdotal evidence shows forgiveness in practice among the Ugandan people, prompting the interest in examining the use of forgiveness to heal cultural divisions.
Philpott said the work “will help understand how forgiveness is practiced in Uganda, offering key learnings for the larger global emergence of forgiveness in the politics of the nation-states.”
In-depth research is planned to address several key questions. Forgiveness in the fragile country is the focus of the work, surveying Ugandans and conducting focus groups in five areas of the country where violence has taken place. In addition, more than 25 Ugandans who have exemplified forgiveness in their actions will be interviewed.
Those exemplars include Archbishop John Baptist Odama, who helped to found the Acholi Religious Leaders Peace Initiative in 1997, negotiating peace with the violent rebel regime of Joseph Kony and working on behalf of amnesty laws to bring rebels back into Ugandan society.
In addition researchers will consult with Angelina Atyam, who forgave the abductors of her daughter and became a public advocate for forgiveness as a recovery strategy.
The project aims to learn how widely Ugandans approve of and practice forgiveness after widespread violence, their perspectives on forgiveness and the conditions under which Ugandans feel it is warranted.
Findings from the research may inform the design of national truth-seeking programs, reconciliation forums, and reparations, among other measures. Results of the project will be shared online and presented at a symposium at Georgetown University.
This is a project of the Fetzer Advisory Council on Governing Professions.