“We’ve been told we have to love our neighbors, but we haven’t been told how. These words from a Congolese citizen I met during a visit to the Great Lakes region of Africa on behalf of the NGO Eirene Suisse speak volumes, and certainly reflect a state of affairs in every country in the world. Living together: a local and global challenge. Is humanity suffering from a lack of empathy?
In Africa’s Great Lakes region, as in Europe, contempt for those we don’t know, or don’t want to know, is still too widespread. This leads to all kinds of discrimination, as well as a lack of consideration for others. Everywhere, the same mechanism: simplifying clichés categorize groups and generalize judgment to the whole group, leading to exclusion. Add to this what we simply don’t want to see. Ignoring other people’s feelings may simply be more comfortable. And so we stare into each other’s eyes. Racism, in Europe as elsewhere, seems an indomitable scourge. In the face of terrorism, we speak more readily of war than of peace. And yet… how can we build peace? In the media, we don’t hear much from those who, like Mandela or Gandhi, have led entire peoples to reflect, to a collective intelligence in the service of living together. In Northern Uganda, Omoana relies on a network of peace leaders who are trying to move forward despite wounds of unimaginable proportions: economic strengthening (if possible for all), trauma management, education programs to give young people prospects… The seriousness of the situation calls for a pooling of resources and knowledge. Faced with the complexity of human stupidity, sharing experiences and learning together makes perfect sense. Whether we like it or not, promoting peace concerns us all, because no one is immune to violence. Knowing how to communicate, how to overcome divisions and how to take into consideration the perspectives of others are not innate. So it’s up to us to encourage exchanges that leave room for reflection and innovation. This applies not only to Ugandan civil society players. Europe could also learn from those who, like the peoples of Africa’s Great Lakes region, have been confronted with the greatest traumas. So let’s take the measure of the challenges that lie ahead, so that we can face them more effectively. This can only be done together. Let’s seize this opportunity!

Adrien Genoud