Nickel Mines parents meet with international peacemakers
MCC East Coast staff arranges for group to gather, tell stories of surving violenceBy Celeste Kennel-Shank Mennonite Weekly Review
AKRON, Pa. — Johnson Gakumba, Anglican bishop of the diocese of northern Uganda, has something in common with a group of Amish parents in Nickel Mines.
All have lived through the horror of violence targeting children. And all chose to not to seek revenge.
Gakumba sees their shared faith as the source of that response.
“For us Christians, it was possible,” he said.
Kenneth Sensenig of Mennonite Central Committee East Coast set up a meeting of 18 international visitors with four families whose daughters had been killed or wounded in an Amish schoolhouse shooting Oct. 2, 2006. A local Amish bishop and the mother of the shooter, Charles Roberts, who killed himself, also attended the June 12 meeting at Nickel Mines Mennonite Church.
The international visitors were MCC-sponsored participants in the Summer Peacebuilding Institute at Eastern Mennonite University in Harrisonburg, Va.
Gakumba was impressed that the families sat with Roberts’ mother and expressed compassion for her loss of her son.
“That to me was the power of faith,” he said. “I saw how faith can overcome hatred and revenge.”
In northern Uganda, children were often abducted and forced to become soldiers for a rebel group during a 20-year civil war.
Gakumba shared with the Amish families and fellow SPI participants his story of surviving ethnic conflict while working in northern Uganda. In 1996, Gakumba and his family received death threats, yet Gakumba continued to live among those who could have harmed him.
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