Dear Brothers and Sisters, 'People of God'

On behalf of Acholi Religious Leaders Peace Initiative and on my own behalf, Peace be with you as you end the year 2008 and enter the year 2009. Today we are gathered here to commemorate the year 2008 with all the successes and challenges encountered by different stakeholders who have struggled for peace in Uganda and in particular for peace in the Acholi sub-region.

Our theme, Sustain Peace through Reconciliation and Development is chosen to reflect on the current dynamic situation. This is a walk and prayer witness in support of the little peace we have experienced since the beginning of the Juba Peace Talks and subsequently the people returning home from the Internally Displaced Persons Camps. All the development efforts by Civil Society Organizations, Development Partners, Government of Uganda (GoU) and International Community and grass root community are commended.

Peace is a value desired by all and we should reflect on it in the context of the past, present, and future. The challenge we have to work on is, how do you sustain peace? It should be a collective effort and this is why Acholi Religious Leaders Peace Initiative motto is: "Together for Peace". People should not despair with what is happening in the Democratic Republic of Congo but instead we should trust in God who is the author of Peace.

Religious Leaders perceive reconciliation as a pre-requisite to peace and development in Acholi land and beyond. It has to start with one self and with God, among individuals, families, communities, clans to national and the whole world. Religious leaders invite you and all who have heart of reconciling the community and make the region recover from the brunt of conflict. As your return to your home, you should forgive one another for the sake of peace and harmonious co-existence. Your focus should be on healing the community who underwent suffering and tragedy for the past twenty years of war. Feeling sorry for all those victims and survivors of conflict should prepare you for reconciling with those who might have offended you. Humanity should feel as one to proactively address their problems for sustainable development of our nation Uganda. Hence join hands to support all efforts aimed at uniting people.

You have to acknowledge the commitment Government of Uganda has shown towards peace and development of the war affected areas and the under-developed regions, Acholi sub region inclusive through Peace, Recovery and Development Plan (PRDP). We see this framework as part of fulfilling the five pillars of Poverty Eradication Action Plan (PEAP). We Religious Leaders respect that people are fully informed and helped to embrace PRDP. Your participation in its implementation and monitoring is very crucial.

In most cases development is looked at in terms of human needs: education, health, livelihood, infrastructure together with other facilities needed for addressing the wellbeing of a person. As religious leaders, we are strongly urging every body to develop spiritually if we are to achieve human security and the world we want to live in.

Therefore, we religious leaders of Acholi pass this message of hope to all men and women who have made it to this day after a series of struggle to build peace in Northern, Eastern and West Nile regions of Uganda. All your contributions in different sectors, levels and walks of life are acknowledge especially as you struggle to implement and sustain the peace through reconciliation and development.

May the peace of God which passes human understanding keep your mind and heart in the year 2009. Now you exchange greetings of peace of next year. Peace be with you.

Thank you.

"Together for Peace and Development"

+Archbishop John Baptist Odama

  Sheik Musa Khalil

+Bishop Nelson Onono Onweng

+Bishop Sabino Odoki

+Bishop Benjamin Ojwang

+Rtd. Bishop Macleod Baker Ochola

  Father Julius Orach