The Silent Gun: Battling Alcoholism in Karamoja
In the picturesque landscape of Karamoja, a region known for its breathtaking beauty, rich cultural heritage, and resilient people, there exists a silent yet deadly adversary that is ravaging the lives of its youth – alcoholism. From August 21st to 24th, 2023, a seminar at the Losilang Formation Center brought together the youth leaders from all of the ten parishes of the Diocese of Kotido. Led by the youth chaplain, Fr. Ignatius Nshing, this seminar served as a platform for reflection and meditation, focusing on critical topics such as catechism, the impact of alcoholism, the World Youth Day in Lisbon, and Pope Francis’s “Laudato Si” encyclical.
Alcoholism, often referred to as the “silent gun,” has stealthily crept into the lives of many young people in Karamoja, leaving a trail of destruction in its wake. This seminar sought to shed light on this pressing issue and equip the youth leaders with knowledge and inspiration to combat this hidden menace.
Fr. Ignatius, in his opening homily, emphasized the pernicious effects of material possessions on the lives and mission of young people. He urged the youth not to be consumed by personal belongings but to remember their higher purpose – to be compassionate, helpful, and to actively engage in the mission of the Church. This message served as a guiding principle for the rest of the seminar.
Fr. Joseph Lokiding, the parish priest, delivered a powerful challenge to the youth. He shared his credentials and work ethic, showcasing his own involvement in bricklaying projects and successful agricultural endeavors. His message was clear – the youth should avoid idleness and embrace hard work as a path to personal and community development.
Mr. Ochaya P.P, a senior catechist and a friend to the young people, delved into the different forms/stages of alcohol and how they have devastated the lives of young people in Karamoja. Through an engaging session, he shed light on the harrowing realities faced by the youth in the region due to alcoholism, encouraging them to make wise choices and prioritize their well-being.
On the 23rd of August, Mr. James Opala, working with Caritas Kotido, shared insights about the “silent gun” and its consequences. He highlighted how idleness and poverty have made alcohol an attractive escape for many young people, resulting in destructive consequences. However, he also emphasized the importance of education for social, economic, and political development, urging the local youth to inspire their peers to embrace learning and growth.
In addition to addressing alcoholism, the seminar echoed Pope Francis’s “Laudato Si” encyclical, which calls for the protection of our common home. Karamoja, once abundant with indigenous tree species, has seen them vanish due to rampant charcoal burning, often driven by desperation. Mr. Opala stressed the urgent need to restore and conserve the region’s environment, urging young people to take up the mantle of environmental guardianship.
On 24th His Lordship Bishop Dominic Eibu closed the seminar with a prayer and in his homily he encouraged us the young people to be channels through which God’s love is manifested. He also thanked God for the gift of small Christian communities that were started earlier as a form of primary evangelization and encouraged us the young people to partake of the meetings, prayers and various activities in order to foster the growth of small Christian communities. In his remarks he quoted
“Once we offer someone to God, God gets
the chance to change that person, God knows
each one of us very well, our fears and worries”.
The seminar at the Losilang Formation Center was a momentous gathering that tackled the “silent gun” of alcoholism head-on. Through reflection, education, and inspiration, the youth leaders of Karamoja were equipped with the tools to combat this pressing issue, while also embracing their roles as stewards of their community and protectors of their common home. As they leave this seminar, they carry with them the hope and determination to silence the “silent gun” once and for all.