Providing Devine inspiration among the Kenyan tribes

The time was 2 o’clock last Thursday afternoon when the phone in the office rang.

  “Dan, it’s a Fr. Devine calling from Kenya?”

  Not the usual Thursday afternoon phone call then! But then again, Fr. Padraig Devine’s career has been fairly unusual itself.

  Hailing from Frenchpark, he is the founder and international chair of the Shalom Centre for conflict resolution and reconciliation in East Africa.

  Based in Nairobi, his work takes him into the Kenyan countryside, which is inhabited by some of the 42 tribes that call it home.

  The line was poor and I could just about make out what he was saying initially.

  “Hi Dan, I’m just back from the bush.”

  Nowadays, ‘the bush’ is a place where Kenyan tribes live and co-exist, mainly thanks to the hard work of men like Fr. Devine. It hasn’t always been this way as centuries-old conflicts over livestock and land have been waged in a country with deep ethnic divides.

  The reason for the inter-continental call was the announcement recently that Fr. Devine was nominated for the Tipperary Peace Prize. The award has been presented to the great and the good down through the years and previous winners include Nelson Mandela.

  The announcement came as quite a shock to Padraig.

  “I was very surprised that the people were aware of the work we are doing along the border. Somebody had said to me that my name was mentioned for an award in Ireland. I found out about it then on the web.

  “The nominations were made last January but I didn’t know. Unless someone heard about the award in 2013,” he said.

  The priest won the International Caring award in 2013 and believes that this highlighted the ongoing work Shalom does in Kenya. He added that he hopes the nomination for the Tipperary Peace Prize has the same effect.

  Speaking to Fr. Devine, it quickly became clear just why groups had him in mind when it came to international awards.

  He detailed the process involved in creating and maintaining peace in the country’s most hostile areas.

  “We work by training local community leaders in conflict resolution and by teaching them how to take ownership of inter-ethnic conflicts. Conflict memory is very resilient and a big part of it. We have a highly qualified team and research is carried out to find out what were the root causes of the conflict,” he said.

  Fr. Devine said research and analysis was extremely important in order to get to the initial causes of conflicts. As the reconciliation process has moved forward, things have improved and many of the local people are now open to inter-ethnic education and trading.

  When they realised the process was working, tribes began to cooperate with each other and now two of them share a market while others are educated together at some of the 120 inter-ethnic schools Shalom has either built or expanded. Roads have also reopened in the region as the fear of conflict has reduced.

  Most of this work is funded by private donors in Ireland and by the Irish Government’s overseas development wing, Irish Aid.

  While international aid and support is crucial, Fr. Devine wants the local people to become “architects of their own future” and has continued with his own education in his quest to help them. He and his staff have trained extensively in conflict resolution and he has also completed a PhD in philosophy and political science. His thesis, which dealt with the persistence of conflict between two tribes, was the first seminal work on the topic.

  However, the Shalom founder realises that all of this positive work is only possible with the help of many people, both in Kenya and back home.

  He said: “The people of Roscommon and politicians from all parties have been a great help over the years.” Fr. Devine went on to mention a number of people including Overseas Development Minister Joe McHugh and Roscommon GAA manager Kevin McStay as well as local activists such as Emmett Corcoran and praised local groups and community activists for their work in supporting Shalom’s efforts in Kenya.

  Paraphrasing Edward Burke, he said: “All that’s needed for evil to prosper is for good men to do nothing.”

  There doesn’t seem to be any sign of inactivity among the supporters of Shalom with fundraisers planning events such as the Clifden Walk on March 18th. Fr. Devine also said that the Roscommon Solstice Choir had been in contact regarding a concert.

  It seems that the Frenchpark native and his staff as well as the people of Roscommon will continue to work to help the tribes of Kenya as they look to a future of peace and prosperity.

Clifden walk in aid of Shalom

A fundraising walk in aid of Shalom Centre for conflict resolution and reconciliation will take place along the Sky Road in Clifden at 2 pm on Saturday, March 18th.

  The walk comprises of 15km along one of the most beautiful routes in the West of Ireland with proceeds going towards the continued good work of Fr. Padraig Devine and the Shalom centre in Kenya. Fr. Padraig will travel from Kenya to take part in the walk on the day.

  The monies raised will assist in meeting the dire needs of the people in these environments who have been mostly left to fend for themselves. Of every euro given, 93 cents goes directly into the project and the return is making life revolutionarily better for children, families and communities who can stay in their homelands and live life better day by day. 

  All are welcome to come and support the Clifden walk on March 18th and raise vital funds for Fr. Padraig Devine and Shalom.

Frenchpark priest up for Tipperary Peace Prize

Frenchpark native, Fr. Padraig Devine, has been nominated for the prestigious Tipperary Peace Prize due to his dedicated work with tribes in Kenya.

  The founder and international chair of the Shalom Centre for conflict resolution and reconciliation in East Africa is based in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi.

  Fr. Devine is a member of the Society of African Missions and has spent the last 25 years helping to end conflict and poverty among African tribes.

  The Roscommon man will join former Northern Ireland deputy first minister Martin McGuinness; Amnesty Ireland; the Syrian White Helmets rescue workers, Lebanese activist, Lady Rabab al Sadr and Lebanese-British lawyer, activist and author, Amal Clooney on this year’s shortlist.

  Previous winners of the Tipperary Peace Prize include Senator John Kerry, UN General Secretary Ban Ki Moon, Malala Yousafzai, a young Pakistani activist who went on to win the Nobel Peace Prize, and former South African President Nelson Mandela.

  The award recipient will be announced in the coming weeks and will be presented with the International Peace Award in Tipperary on a date to be confirmed in 2017.