Five Divinity School students attended the ninth annual Great Lakes Initiative (GLI) leadership institute in Kampala, Uganda, on Jan. 6-11, 2019 with the Center for Reconciliation (CFR) at Duke Divinity School in order to allow other contexts for reconciliation to shape the students’ future ministries.

The students joined over 150 scholars and practitioners of reconciliation from the Great Lakes region of Africa (Burundi, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan, Tanzania, and Uganda), Sudan, and the U.S. The weeklong institute offers participants an opportunity to interact with and learn from some of the most remarkable and dynamic Christian leaders in East Africa. Participants gather for seminars, prayer, plenary sessions, and a pilgrimage to a local community of peace and hope. 

Representatives from Duke Divinity School were Krystal Bracy, M.Div. ‘20; Carie Dupree, M.Div. ‘20; Sharice Lloyd, M.Div. ‘19; Ryan Ware, M.Div ‘21; and Philip Zoutendam, M.Div. ’20; Edgardo Colón-Emeric, the Irene and William McCutchen Associate Professor of Reconciliation and Theology and director of the Center for Reconciliation; J. Warren Smith, associate professor of historical theology; and Abi Riak, CFR Operations Director.

DDS students and alumnus, Darriel Harris attend the Great Lakes Initiative Leadership Institute with Dr. Edgardo Colón-Emeric.
Sharice Lloyd, Carie Dupree, Philip Zoutendam, Ryan Ware, Krystal Bracy and alumnus, Darriel Harris (back far right) attend the Great Lakes Initiative Leadership Institute with Dr. Edgardo Colón-Emeric. Photo by Abi Riak.

Said Ware, “I assumed that I would be learning about a specific context that I could then adapt to meet my own. On this journey, I was surprised. I was incorporated into God’s ministry. I was welcomed into the journey as a fellow pilgrim. I was taught what it means to be on the journey toward reconciliation.” 

Ware said he was most affected by his visit to the Ugandan Martyrs Shrine, which commemorates the 32 martyrs executed in 1882 for refusing to renounce Christianity.  

“Here there is a stream of water that provides fresh water for people. It is on the spot where the killers washed their hands of the blood of the martyrs. This spoke to the resilience of the people and the power of God,” he said.

Talks and seminars led by leading theologians and practitioners in reconciliation provided framing for the experience. Zoutendam said he felt called to the process of lament after hearing Dr. Célestin Musekura, who was personally affected by the Rwandan genocide and founded an organization to train African leaders in transforming conflict.

“Dr. Musekura defined lament as the audacity of expressing dissatisfaction, the audacity of confronting God about the places where his action (or inaction) doesn’t seem good enough. I realized as I heard that lecture that I can recognize places of deep dissatisfaction, if not in my own rather comfortable life then in the lives of the men I work with in prison and in reentry processes. If I have not known lament in these contexts, it is because I have kept too much distance,” Zoutendam said.

Bracy, Dupree, and Lloyd said that learning about reconciliation in an East African context made them reflect on the landscape of reconciliation in the United States.

“It’s quite easy for me to think that the world owes me something and that reconciliation is not my job as a black woman. However, we all have a part to play in it, including those who have been oppressed,” Bracy said. Reflecting on James Cone’s work in black liberation theology, she said, “One critique of Dr. Cone’s work fundamentally said that Jesus needs to be more than just liberation for Blacks, but also redemption for whites. In other words, Jesus must be big enough to save the oppressed and the oppressors.”

The five students presented their experience to the Divinity School community on March 6th at 12:20 p.m. in 0013 Westbrook.

Since the institute’s inception, Duke Divinity School has sent 36 students, 16 staff members, and four faculty to attend.

The CFR is one of the founding sponsors of GLI, which is part of a larger initiative that began 13 years ago. The initiative continues throughout the year with an intentional focus on building country-level reconciliation networks. The CFR also plans to host several members of the GLI community at this year’s Summer Institute for Reconciliation at Duke Divinity School.