Exclusive Interview with Father Patrick Devine: Creating Peace in Africa
As a young man, Father Patrick Devine knew he wanted to dedicate his life to working among the poorest of the world. Now the founder of the Shalom Center for Conflict Resolution and Reconciliation, he has been at the forefront of positive peace efforts in Kenya and other areas of Africa and was the recipient of the 2013 International Caring Award which brought him to Washington DC with accolades by General Colin Powell among others. His work in the region began in 1988 when he joined the Society of African Missionaries and devoted his life to improving conditions in a region of the world that had been the site of persistent poverty, conflict, and social injustice. His work brought him to a poor isolated area in West Tanzania where he spent seven years as a missionary. He later became the organization’s regional superior of Kenya and Tanzania.
In 2009, Father Devine founded the Shalom Center for Conflict Resolution and Reconciliation (SCCRR) with a vision of a society where peace, social justice and reconciliation prevail throughout Africa. In his own words, Father Devine states “peace in the sense of absence of violence is not enough.” In order to have true, positive peace, there must be not only an absence of violence, but the conflicting parties must care about each other’s well being. The mission of SCCRR is to work for a society free of physical violence and unjust social structures in Africa. This mission is lived out as the organization brings together leaders and opinion shapers from both sides of conflict and teaches them analytical skills to assess the problem and the peace building tools required to address it. Prior to these meetings, empirical research is conducted and both sides have agreed to name the issues to ensure these meetings are productive.
Like parents all over the world, parents in this geographic area also want a better future for their children. Education is the foundation on which a more peaceful future is formed. In efforts for peace, SCCRR helps to form inter-ethnic schools to bring families from opposing groups together in order to generate conversations and cooperation between them. The organization also provides solar energy to 178 schools in the area, thereby extending the learning hours so students can do work in the evening as well as providing meeting places for the community.
When asked why he named the organization the Shalom Center for Conflict Resolution and Reconciliation, Father Devine explains that Shalom means not only peace, but also peace with justice and harmony, holistically integrated. What a truly apt title for an organization that diligently works for conflict resolution and social harmony in Africa. It can serve as a paradigm for societies around the world.#