Sunday, August 26, 2012

Transforming conflict and prison ministries

Almost two months  ago, I was asked by Argentina, who coordinates the Santa Rosa prison ministry, to do a presentation on conflict for a regional prison ministry meeting which would include people from the north coast and our diocese.

I have been doing a few workshops on the topic, partly based on the workshops I’ve received from Caritas Honduras using the materials developed in  Colombia and other places in conjunction with John Paul Lederach.  I also try to incorporate what I’ve learned from the Alternative to Violence Program here as well as from nonviolence training I received in the US years ago.

The theme of the meeting was dealing with conflict. Their theme was “Prison ministries constructing justice and peace, avoiding conflicts.” 

Santa Rosa bishop, Monseñor Darwin Andino, sharing closing remarks

I, however, noted that the challenge is not to avoid conflicts – since conflicts are inevitable; nor is it to resolve conflicts – because resolved conflicts at times leave the underlying conflicts unresolved and new conflicts arise, rooted in the underlying problems. The real challenge is to transform conflicts, seeking to craft a new situation in the face of conflicts.

The workshop went well, better than I had hoped. But it was a humbling experience.

I was going to work with about 60 people who work in the prisons here, some of them former prisoners. Among them was San Pedro Sula auxiliary bishop Romulo Emiliani. At the end of March this year he was the major force to resolve a major conflict that started violently at the San Pedro Sula jail.

At the end of the meeting, Monseñor Emiliani spoke a bit about his role in that conflict. What most impressed me is his courage, his willingness to risk his own life, for others. Three times, he said, he moved into a situation where he could have been killed. But his faith and his dedication to prisoners gave him the courage to proceed forward.

Monseñor Romulo Emiliani

Would there were more people like Monseñor Emiliani.

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