A Ugandan rebel group which has committed appalling human rights abuses over the years and has been implicated in cult-like religion has said it realises it was wrong and wishes to seek forgiveness from its many victims.
The Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) has been criticised by human rights and church groups for years. Now, under conditions of ceasefire, its leaders say it wishes to ask people's forgiveness for crimes committed against Ugandans.
In response, Catholic Archbishop John Baptist Odama of the diocese of Gulu, in northern Uganda, says that there are "concrete hopes for peace" and restoration of justice in the region.
"The people say they are ready to forgive the rebels for the suffering inflicted. They are applying the Gospel command: 'love your enemies and pray for their conversion'. The fact the LRA delegation is continuing its mission in northern Uganda is positive. After Gulu the delegation went to West Nile and then to Lira" said the Archbishop of Gulu.
On Saturday 10 November 2007, as the president of the local Catholic Justice and Peace Commission, Archbishop Odama inaugurated the new John Paul II Centre for Peace at Nsambya, near the Ugandan capital Kampala.
"The Centre is the local Catholic Church's contribution to peace in our country" the Archbishop of Gulu explained. The Centre is promoted by missionary congregations working in Uganda: Jesuits, Comboni missionaries, White Fathers, Maryknoll Missionaries, the Congregation of the Holy Cross.
In his address at the inauguration ceremony Archbishop Odama appealed to all Ugandans to strive for authentic conversion, to leave paths of violence and take paths to peace.
Archbishop Odama prayed that those most in need would find peace, in particular the children, whom society needs but whose rights it often violates.
Present at the ceremony were Catholic Archbishop Paul Bakyenga of Mbarara and Bishop Robert Gay, emeritus bishop of Kabale. Archbishop Bakyenga called on Ugandans and all Africans to work for peace in the whole of the Great Lakes region.
During the Mass Cardinal Emmanuel Wamala, emeritus Archbishop of Kampala, recalled that peace is not simply the absence of war, it is a task at which all must work in order to do the will of God.
The director of the John Paul II Centre, Fr Lazaro Bustince, a member of the Missionaries of Africa or White Fathers, said the centre would promote and inspire Christian faith through comprehension of social problems in order to build a society of justice in particular for the poor.
The activity of the Centre will include networking to promote and support initiatives of peace and social justice, to meet the basic needs of the people.