Gulu in northern Uganda is now the second largest city of the country. Many immigrants and Ugandans have moved there to school and find work. Among them is Gloria Mukambonera who works in the computer field. When she arrived in 2013, she contacted the local Focolare community so that she could share her Gospel ideal of peace and unity with others. “I found a real family here” she recounts, “in which I could share my joys and sorrows. We also practice a communion of goods, following the example of the first Chrisitan communities, each person in their own way. The proceeds are used to help people in need and to care for the sick members of the community.” It is an experience that helps you to see the needs of those around you, which are many because of the war.
“One day,” says Gloria, “a priest had asked us to visit the people in a parish that was 4 hours away, because – he told us – there was a conflict between tribes and we might be able to help them reconcile. He had suggested that we tell them about how we try to live the Gospel and of our experiences of peace and unity that flow from that. In particular we shared our experiences of forgiveness, of how we were helped to overcome the divisions among us by living the ‘art of loving’ that is found in the Gospel. There was quite a special meeting with all the young people of the place. We read the Word of Life and shared with them our experiences of trying to live it, and then we invited them to share. There was singing, games and mini theatrical performances. . . The dialogue that followed uncovered their desire to begin living in reconciliation with one another.”
It was an opportunity to be “peacebuilders” as the bishop had invited us to be. For us it was a matter of “choosing the Gospel’s way of love for the reconstruction of the country, following the destruction caused by years of war.”
Ibanda lives in Uganda’s Western Region. There is also a Focolare group there, and they strive to transform the environment around them by transforming themselves, beginning from a jail. “Our outlook and behaviour have changed radically, especially the negative view we had of the inmates,” says Sara Matziko. “The Gospel sentence: “In everything do to others as you would have them do to you” (Mt 7:12) has encouraged us to visit them and pray with them. We discovered that many of them had not received the sacraments for years. The priest from our community went with us to offer this service.”
The inmates’ relatives gradually overcame their indifference, we became friends and they went with us to visit the inmates. During one of those visits I met a young man named Ambrose who, after his jail time, wanted to continue his studies. “We helped him to finish high school,” Sara recounts. “Living the Word of Life with one another improved the relationship among us and within the community. The pastor has also joined us in this process that we try to share with other parish communities. Several people from our group attended the international Economy of Communion (EoC) meeting that was held in Kenya, at Mariapolis Piero, May 2015. That helped us to carry ahead our current project.”