Saturday, December 9, 2017

Anti-Slavery Campaign Interview Series. Isaac Okello

Okello Isaac was born on 02nd Feb, 1992. He is an Etesot by tribe and He originates from Teso sub region in eastern Uganda and particularly Amuria bordering northern part of Uganda. He is currently pursuing his bachelors in philosophy at Queen of Apostles Philosophy Center Jinja and He is a final year student. He was inspired by the Camillian charism of serving Christ in the sick and the poor and this finally made him to join the order of St. Camillus or ministers of the infirm where  he is undergoing his religious formation. It is his pleasure to share his life in connection to his experience in the courses of conflict transformation, power, identity and trauma.

Yago: Could you share with us the relevance of the course Conflict Transformation in the context of religious and missionary formation?

Isaac: The knowledge of conflict transformation is very important in religious context because in the first case conflict is part of us and indeed flows in and away from us, people often think the religious are exempted from conflicts but that is not true. Obviously a religious is an instrument of healing, hope restoration, peace, happiness and above it all to make God’s love visible to all he serves but all these aspects are counteracted by the reality of conflict. A pastor, in his service encounters personal conflicts or even people who are overwhelmed by conflict. Human life is very complex to the extent that we are not aware of what goes inside of us, some conflicts in our lives are not visible and we thus remain slaves of our own conflicts. Conflict transformation brings a religious into awareness of the conflicts within himself and within others, helps him to analyze their causes, frame a plan of how to manage and resolve the conflicts that he encounters or those presented to him. Management and resolution does not mean the conflict is transformed. This knowledge helps him to see beyond and devise necessary tools to deal with conflict in a transformative way and indeed design a constructive change initiative to change attitudes and behaviors that influence and fuel conflict. Lastly, it makes a religious view conflict as positive and as a factor of change. the ability to transform his own, and other conflicts helps the religious to influence positive thinking, change the outlook of life, change negativity into positivity among those he serves and thus his mission becomes fruitful and the love of God becomes visible and is shared to all.

Conflict Transformation class exercise

Yago: You were also engaged in another course where we deepened on key areas of Conflict Transformation such as Power, Trauma and Identity, could you share with us how relevant are these three areas in the context of religious formation (explain one by one)?

Isaac: Well power, trauma and identity like conflict are realities that we live and witness throughout our lives. Power being ability to influence outcomes is very important. All of others are gifted in some areas. But what matters is for us to discover our own abilities and strive to excel in them. This development depends on others as well. A religious needs others to strengthen his weaknesses and encourage his strengths. Some people think they are powerless and others powerful and this influences their interpretation of power. A religious should have the capacity to empower those who think they are powerless and make their vulnerabilities icons of positivity towards life. A religious needs to know the dimensions of power and as a pastoral agent, he should use that knowledge to correct the abusive dimensions of power and speak for the oppressed so that human dignity is at all costs preserved. Identity is very much important in defining who we are and is thus relevant to a religious. It helps him to know ways of helping those he serves to construct positive identities and thus help those who identify themselves as victims, less important and are nobodies. In my understanding, trauma is a response to an overwhelming event. Some traumas occur when we are still in our wombs, some witnessed, others are caused by policies that are unjust, and historical and cultural variations. In fact trauma is a wound in a life of a person. People often carry past traumas in their lives without knowing and indeed even among the religious. These traumas need to be dealt with to ensure a balanced personality. Trauma that is not resolved leads to violence and this is very visible in the aggressor’s cycle in form of acting in and acting out. Trauma is psychological and it can affect our psychic. A religious who is traumatized should be helped to heal out of it and as a result he becomes a wounded healer. He will be in position to use his wounds to heal others. Many of the problems we hold today are as a result of what happened to us in the past. the knowledge about trauma in a nut shell is important in the religious context in that it helps them to reconcile with their past or those he serves   with their past, gives them the power to live the present and embrace the future with hope and joy, helps the religious to heal others. A religious should have the capacity to listen to people’s problems, feel their situation and help them overcome it through empowerment.

Yago: Could you share with us how these two courses have contributed to a better awareness of yourself?

Isaac: Well and good my personality is so complex in that I didn’t know much about it but these two courses have helped me to connect with myself. In the first case, I no longer view conflict as something negative but part of life and I have learnt that what brings happiness in life is not to look at the dark side of the conflict but to face it with hope. Conflict is there to challenge not to destroy us, it brings in new changes in life. What matters is how you view and approach the conflict other than running away from it or avoiding it. Power, identity and trauma have helped me to connect with my past and change its negative part into positivity in order to change my outlook of life. What now matters for me is empathy rather than pity or sympathy when I encounter those traumatized. I use my past wounds to help others, encourage and empower them. For example my past experience with the invasion of LRA rebels is a basis for my healing to others. I now look at power as an instrument of service and empowerment to others. I make sure I don’t use my power to oppress but to relieve those who feel they have no place in the world. We are all unique and power should not be used to abuse the dignity of others.

Yago: How meaningful are these courses for a better understanding of our religious community life?

Isaac: Well obviously they are very meaningful because they portray exactly what goes on in the community. We are not islands to live in isolation each of us are born in society with the family as its smallest unity. In the community we have differences and these often lead us to conflict. We have a multiplicity of cultures and each person comes to religious life together with his past traumas. Others can misuse power to project what they suffered in the past. Conflict transformation helps us respect personal ideologies, respect other people’s cultures and work towards inculturation. The community provides avenues of healing from our past traumas and influences us to view life positively as we use our past as stepping stones to better living. With this knowledge of power, those in power will view leadership as a service rather than superiority and this brings unity and transparency and thus our identity becomes concrete as we see others as brothers and sisters, there will be a sense of belonging and thus the community becomes a source of joy to its members.

Yago: You are a candidate of the Camilian congregation. How relevant has these courses been towards a deeper understanding of the Camilian charism? 

Isaac: It is a wonderful occasion to share the Camillian charism. The Camillian charism is to serve the sick even at the risk of your own life. This charism goes beyond the medical dimension and indeed encompasses all other needs of human life. There are those who are spiritually sick, psychologically, emotionally, intellectually, and physically. All these affect a person’s life in one way or another and that is what we seek to heal. Conflict can lead to any kind of illness or deviant behavior whatsoever and a Camillian should have the capacity to transform any conflict and bring healing that leads to peaceful living. Trauma which is not resolved can lead to depression, anxiety, low self-esteem among others that may have an impact in our spiritual, psychic, and emotional dimensions. The knowledge of these courses will make a Camillian effective in bring healing to these dimensions. Ignorance contributes to part of our problems. A Camillian with this knowledge can sensitize others on how to use their power, help people define their identities and indeed live life to the fullest.

Trauma, Power and Identity class picture

Yago: You have been introduced and gone through the experience of Trauma Releasing Exercises. How would you evaluate the experience? 

Isaac: Hahaaaa it is amazing to share this. the theory on trauma releasing exercises made me wonder what goes on in it really not until I had the practical part of it. It was my first experience and I wondered how magnificent our bodies are. It is true trauma is physiological and is often stored in our bodies. Our bodies have a lot to communicate to us but we often don’t give the attention needed nor do we understand its language. When I began the exercise I could not feel anything but as the process went on, I was able to listen to my own body, how the blood moves, the patterns of breathe, and I found myself abandon other thoughts. It was like I was a sleep but very much awake to the body. It was followed by a serious trembling all over the body that was neither willed nor forced but came without my consciousness with much of it in the waist, pelvic and thighs. At the end of the session, I found myself light, fresh and that day I had a soft sleep.  I kept on doing it and is now part of my activities. Being a student, sometimes we develop a certain anxiety in exam period but I make sure I do this exercise one hour before an exam and find easy writing my exams. It is a wonderful experience try it and discover its beauty.

Yago with the Camilian student's community after the TRE exercise. Isaac is second from left.
Yago: Did the exercises contribute to a new awareness of the wisdom carried on your body?
Isaac: Oh yes. Our bodies are created with mechanisms towards self-preservation. It often has something to communicate all is needed is to be in tune to it. Whenever we respond to a traumatic situation, the body generates its defense mechanisms and a lot of energy is generated in this response and afterwards the residues of this energy are stored in the body. This energy needs to be discharged because it is useless in the body. It is very important to know that trauma is physiological and our bodies have the ability to deal with it. This I witnessed in the trembling.
Yago: Thanks Isaac for your wonderful work and commitment on those courses.

Isaac: Thanks to you Isaac. You have indeed contributed much.