GRG reinvests in its community theater for peace projectsPosted in News
By Francis Opio
Only a few years ago, the people of northern Uganda faced abductions, rape, killings and other abuses by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA). Now, although the guns are silent, communities in northern Uganda still grapple with issues that sprung from this crisis—stigma, trauma, land conflict, HIV, sexual and gender based violence, and alcohol abuse, just to mention a few. GRG uses the community theater for peace model, among other programming, to help communities in northern Uganda cope with these legacies of their past.
Why community theater?
While most current peace-building processes focus primarily on political and military solutions, the art of community theater has been a critical, alternative tool for grassroots peacebuilding. Current peace-building processes directed toward solving structural issues can sometimes undermine progress in resolving cultural issues. This is not to underestimate the efforts of stakeholders working at structural and political levels but rather an echo of the fact that for any peace process to realize impact, it is prudent that peacebuilding agents do not also forget that culture is a strong pillar that shapes the beliefs of community members. Community theater plays, scripted by local community members in GRG’s operational areas, embody cultural values and norms and create an environment where members can share their experiences. Song, poetry and dances are also popular to open space to discuss community concerns. This space allows members to develop collective solutions to social issues like stigma and individual problems like trauma. It fosters knowledge-sharing, as theater plays the important role of educating the community on how to handle some of the many conflicts they face. Often after a performance a dialogue is held with the spectators to discuss the lessons learned or concerns highlighted. And it helps members come to terms with their past by creating a sense of belonging when members realize that they can relate through the stories they share. Thus collectively, community theater facilitates healing and reconciliation.
GRG is conducting a series of community theater refresher trainings to strengthen group members’ capacity to realize these goals and further cope with some of the impacts of the LRA war in northern Uganda. I am so glad that I will be rejoining GRG to be part of that team!
Many thanks to Francis for helping GRG implement an expansion to our 2012-2013 theater pilot project. During the pilot, Francis was the GRG field officer who worked with community theater trainers from The Justice and Reconciliation Project (JRP). Having just returned from completing his Master’s in International Peace Studies at the prestigious Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies at the University of Notre Dame, Francis will be retraining our groups and current staff on how to use theater for peacebuilding and forgiveness. Stay tuned for photos and videos from the training and performances in the coming months!