OAR Missionaries as Instruments of Peace and Reconciliation
Kamalo, SIERRA LEONE—In the rural place of Sierra Leone Africa, petty disputes usually ends up as a tragedy. Youth riots, burning of houses and properties and murders due to this actions happens from time to time, and because of their strong communal ties, incidents of this kind usually end up as a village or town war. This is mainly due to the lack of an effective law and order system in these places, these places are still using their traditional chiefdom-ship law system.
OAR missionaries are assigned in the rural places in the northern part of the country and cannot pull themselves away from this kind of incidents, basically because in-time they have become unofficial elders of the community they administer and they have become the last resort or saviours of the local people whenever things gets out of hand. Missioners have been the local 911 and peacekeepers in their areas.
Last month, Kamabi village in Kamakwie town was burned to the ground right after a group from this village murdered a man from its neighbouring village Kamaporie because of a trivial dispute on a woman. Another incident happened on November 29, of this year when a riot broke out, during a game between St. Paul School Kamalo Town and a School team from its neighbour town Kamakwie. The incident which was started by unknown persons from Kamalo brought physical injuries to a handful of people, including one boy from Kamalo who was found unconscious after the incident, and Fray Jess Marco Sanchez, OAR, who was stoned and wounded hours after the riot.
Fray Jess was then bringing the injured boys from Kamalo and Kamakwie to the hospital, when people from Kamalo threw stones at the mission vehicle which was being driven by Fray Jess, with cabin lights on, to ensure that anybody outside can clearly see that the Augustinian Recollect missionary was driving.
During the height of the this incident, the Recollects directed the Kamakwie players to take refuge at inside the walls of the mission convent. And this action of the missioners might have angered the attacking party; thinking that the OAR Fathers have favoured the side of the Kamakwie people. The missionaries decided to handle the incident within the town community and to never bring this matter to higher authorities or made any criminal complains, to protect the Kamalo Community from any judgements or condemnation coming from the national or international media. This kind of incident was not the first. On the 9th of July 2019, a riot broke out, but this time it was between Kamalo and Kamaranka, where in the Kamalo youth were the one’s who were being attacked and again the riot started because of a meaningless football match. Many people were injured and a lot of properties have been burned. During the incident, it was the OAR Fathers who brought the trapped Kamalo youth back to Kamalo.
The Fathers, with their vehicles, made two trips back and forth to ensure the safety of the Kamalo people. On his second trip back to Kamaranka, while searching for other Kamalo people who were now hiding in the bushes or in the nearby villages, Fray Jess caught a group of people on the way to the bush, who were on the verge of beating and raping two Kamalo girls which they captured. Fray Jess courageously reasoned with them and begged to let the innocent girls go, the mob later agreed with Fray Jess and left the girls under his care, and later brought them back safely to the arms of their thankful parents.
A week after this July incident, since every peace negotiation should involved a respected neutral party, the Recollects in Kamalo with the district representatives of both towns facilitated the peace negotiations. Then the missionaries with the leaders of both town went to the office of Assistant Inspector General for more police assistance in resolving the conflict between the two neighbouring towns. After a month or so, peace have been successfully restored between the town of Kamalo and Kamaranka.
Following these riot incidents and negotiations, the Recollects appealed to the local elders and youth leaders to create measures that will prevent the eruption of senseless incidents. The Recollects demanded that a youth peace enforcer would be formed in Kamalo that would monitor and control the crowd whenever a public and inter-town activity will be held in Kamalo. In response to the request, the town officials together with the youth quickly formed a peace and order enforcers and promised and signed that they will try their best to not let this kind of incident happen again, especially incidents that will put the lives of the missioners at risk.
The missionaries still believe and expect that these kind of incidents will continue to happen until the local people have learned to control their impulsiveness and which can only be achieved through good education and strong relationship with God. With these, the missionaries will continue to risk their lives and give their time rendering help even in the public matters of their mission communities and more over double their efforts in their educational and religious apostolate to help the local people grow and prepare them in facing the different challenges of globalisation which is now slowly affecting them.
Praying for your safety and most especially your missionary work in that far flung country.