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Want peace, Do the Work of Peace

Fr. Joseph, a Jesuit priest and native of the Central African Republic, told us, “People are tired of war. They are so tired.” Innocent civilians have been caught in what must feel like endless cycles of violence. They are displaced, then displaced from that displacement, only to be displaced again. Despite that, they continue living with hope for a better future.

Even in the middle of violent episodes, mothers go out to collect food and wood so that their children can eat. We asked a group of parents from the preschool’s parents association, “What gives you hope?” Their answer was simple. “Education.” They want their children to have a chance. They want them to go to preschool, primary and high school, and even beyond so that they have at least a chance for a better life than the parents have lived.

The odds are not good. Only between 2 and 3 percent of young men and women from CAR graduate from high school. Children from Boeing, the small village where the preschool is, have to walk six kilometers to attend primary school and many do this with little or no food in their stomachs.

As we drove across the city and through Boeing, I saw people working. They were in the fields and in the market. They were cleaning the space around their mud homes and collecting wood and water. They do this knowing that peace might not be around for long, but they are investing in the future—their children.

If you wondered about the name “Boeing,” it comes from a 2002 airline accident. A plane, a Boeing 707, fell from the sky in that area, not far from the airport. It’s now the home to approximately 3,500 people that have been displaced by violence one or more times in the past.

Fr. Joseph has a poster in his office. It shows two elephants pulling on a CAR flag in opposite directions, trying to get to trees for food. Neither can reach their tree, as they stretch the flag to its limit. They discover that they can both get to the food if they work together. Sounds simple, but it takes hard work to get to peace.



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