Monday, November 3, 2014

Wanting or causing change around us

Ireneo Namboka Fifty years is not a negligible duration when one is contemplating how long something that should be changed, has gone on for. This tends to be especially true when the change in question should be made by the other person. A smoker’s partner, a devoted wife heaved a sigh of contentment when finally her husband gave up smoking on health grounds, after half a century.  All that time this wife had been urging her husband to stop smoking but receiving no positive response.  Both started a new happy, shared life.

The above scenario is comparable to today’s numerous painful situations in the world. The drive within certain societies on the earth’s surface to use force and might or technological superiority in their possession to grab what they want, regardless of the repercussions on the deprived or dispossessed, is a common concern. This must not lead to complacency, in particular among societies which experienced alien domination during the twentieth century in Africa, Asia or much earlier in Latin America. With the “winds of change” during the 60’s almost all African countries agitated and got their independence from alien Western rule. With self-rule, populations started to expect change. Citizens in almost all countries that were former colonies expected changes to happen – for the better. That change, now half a century since independence, is still something many continue wanting to see happen. One could rightly say that simply “wanting change” is not enough.

Initiatives of Change underlines the centrality of the individual concerned about change in bringing about the desired change. This is not just philosophical. For over two years I kept on wanting to see something happen and in the end I practically decided to give up altogether in despair. It is in this helpless state of mind that a revelation occurred to me. My way of thinking over those two years is what was leading me to conclude that I had failed. Interestingly, my desire had all along been religiously prayerful. Suddenly, one evening, it occurred to me that in fact failure may be what is needed for a miracle to assume its true nature. I needed to change my own perception of things in life.  The story of a challenge which two young women faced two thousand years ago, when what they wanted was not given them came to my rescue. These girls’ brother, Lazarus, was seriously ill, dying. They had a friend, a performer of miracles whom they informed of their brother’s condition. The friend received the message but decided not to do what the women wanted: heal him. Instead he left the brother to die, first, and then brought him back to life! (taken from the Bible, John 11, 1-45)  

When I changed how I saw things, this enabled me to see changes occurring in the things around me: It opened and widened the space of my belief and hope. It dawned upon me that since, with God’s power even a dead person can be resuscitated, as was the case of Lazarus. Nothing is impossible – failure is not definitive where there is faith.  Despair left me. A week later, news came that what I had been wanting and thought was out of my reach was after all granted to me!

The above reflection applies to three different levels.  First, on the personal level: The wife had had a lifetime desire, to see her husband quit smoking. My personal story fits here too. The second is the group level. Lazarus' family collectively craved for his cure – survival. The collectivity could be a whole society (ethnic group) or nation. Finally, on the third level, the wanting may be at the continental or even world level. The critical and very often missing factor that governs change – the transformation of things before and around us- may well be the change inside us which we are capable of.   

Namboka Ireneo Omositson, retired from the United Nations after 15 years of service in several capacities. Before joining the UN he served in the Uganda diplomatic service for 13 years.  While in the UN, he took part in three UN peacekeeping operations in Haiti, Rwanda and Liberia.

He also served in the capacity of Head of the Human Rights and Gender Affairs division in 2008, when on special assignment as Senior Advisor to the Special Representative of the Secretary General (SRSG) in UNOWA - the United Nations Office for West Africa, Dakar in Senegal.

Since retiring, Mr Namboka has maintained activities in the defence of human rights, transitional justice and peace-building through creative actions - public conferences, writing and training.

Mr Namboka holds both Ugandan and French citizenship, is married and is a father of 6 children. 

NOTE: Individuals of many cultures, nationalities, religions, and beliefs are actively involved with Initiatives of Change. These commentaries represent the views of the writer and not necessarily those of Initiatives of Change as a whole.