Advocacy, Catholics Confront Global Poverty

Catholics Confront Global Poverty: A Voice from Uganda

Archbishop Odama is an unassuming man who champions the cause of peace and lifts up the needs of the most vulnerable, especially children caught in the midst of violence and crushing poverty. With great courage he has gone to the bush to speak with members of the Lord’s Resistance Army to encourage the rebels to set aside violence and take up dialogue. With equal passion he has challenged the government to work for peace and to meet the needs of its people.

In 2005 when the International Criminal Court issued warrants for the arrest of Joseph Kony and four other Lord’s Resistance Army leaders, the Archbishop offered himself to be arrested in Kony’s place and jailed in a dramatic gesture aimed at bringing about reconciliation. Archbishop Odama’s courage is astounding, and his words for the attendees at the Catholic Social Ministry Gathering were sobering.

The Archbishop gave a persuasive case for the Catholics Confront Global Poverty Initiative. Recounting the horrible suffering of women and children during the decades-long conflict in his diocese, he urged us to support greater efforts to end the fighting and ensure that the people in Uganda and in other parts of Africa experience the peace and development they are entitled to as people.

He also urged that the US reform its foreign assistance to strengthen local capacity and accountability. He spoke powerfully about how aid must better establish self-sustaining structures and systems. He seemed to be critical of government schemes that have, in his view, led to corruption, while emphasizing those efforts that helped people more directly.

He also highlighted the need to reverse trade and other economic policies that have prevented the full participation of his country in the global system.

The seven key issues the Initiative is tackling relate strongly to the Archbishop’s personal diagonosis of global poverty. He left us with a strong moral challenge to address them seriously. It was clear that the consequences for northern Uganda of further conflict and underdevelopment would be severe. I was certainly excited to help out.

Bill O’Keefe, CRS senior director of advocacy

Catholic Social Ministry Gathering blog can be found here.

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