CHILDVOICE INTERNATIONAL – CARE PARTNER IN NORTHERN UGANDA
Founder, CEO, and current president Conrad Mandsager talks about justice, forgiveness, and reconciliation.
Conrad Mandsager shared three poignant stories at this year’s TEDxAmoskeagMillyard event.
First, he tells the story of Grace, a young Ugandan woman. Like many in Northern Uganda, Grace was abducted at the age of 10, forced into combat, hard labor, and sexual slavery. After six years in the LRA, Grace stole away one night amidst the confusion of battle. Upon returning to Gulu, the largest city in Northern Uganda, she found her parents dead and was rebuffed by fellow women who blamed her for her actions. Her anger and bitterness toward the rebels and others prevented her from healing and moving on.
Second, Conrad shows an interview with a man named James Quinera. James was a child soldier and is now an employee of ChildVoice International. After escaping the LRA, James married a woman and had six children. While living in a displacement camp, five of his six kids died from disease. While he and his wife were still living in the camp, LRA rebels massacred the inhabitants and burned down shacks.
Third, he tells the story of Ron, an inmate in a Texas prison serving time for homicide. He murdered a young woman, leaving behind her grieving mother.
How does a man like Conrad find hope for healing in these horrible circumstances?
For Conrad, “without forgiveness there can be no reconciliation.”
For those who have undergone or perpetrated trauma, retributive justice simply doesn’t bring healing. Both parties are worse off, Conrad says, under the hard fist of the courts.
Instead “unmerited and freely given” forgiveness is vital.
The reconciliation and healing of individuals and communities as well as the reintegration of outsiders is best achieved through the avenue of forgiveness.
After connecting with ChildVoice International, Grace began to understand the forgiveness of God. She said she understood only God could forgive her for the terrible atrocities she committed and that she would work toward extending the same toward Kony and his commanders.
Despite the incredible pain inflicted upon James and his family, he believes that healing for his community and overall safety can only come by forgiving Kony. He is willing to forgive Kony and says that he should come home.
While in a faith-based prison program, Ron met with the mother of the woman he murdered. He apologized, asked for forgiveness, and confessed his wrongdoing before her. Both were brought to tears. She stood on stage at his graduation from the program, calling him her adopted son.
“What do we learn about these stories?” asked Conrad.
“Maybe there is hope for all of us that find ourselves seeking justice.”
“The restoration of relationships in community seem to be a far better outcome of justice if we are really serious about making the world a better and a safer place for our kids and our families.”
For extended remarks from Conrad Mandsager, see his video presentation here (his presentation begins at 1:53:30).