Victor OCHEN awarded the St. Norbert College Ambassador of Peace 2015
Acceptance Speech at St. Norbert College – Wisconsin, United States of America
29th September, 2015
Thank you for honoring me this evening. As you have just heard, my name is Victor Ochen and I am from Uganda. I am the founder and the Director for AYINET.
Five years ago, I came to St. Norbert College, and I had the honor to meet with Rob Pyne and Catherine Kasten. They were so gracious to organsise for me the opportunity to meet and talk with the students here at the St. Norbert’s library.
It was a cold beautiful snowing December, when I got to experience the charming and beautiful Green Bay. I remember when I met a young man, Steve Pyne, and I asked him what’s so special about Green Bay, his answer was the Spirit of Green Bay Packers. In Green Bay, we are a team.
And, yesterday I was very delighted to be at Lambeau Stadium and have my first experience of an American football match. I witnessed the spirit of Go Packers as they play against the Kansas City Chiefs. Filled with excitements, I was Proud, I was Loud and we won!
Thank you very much for honouring me tonight, I am here to offer my sincerest gratitude to dozens of people, without whom I wouldn’t have been possible to be here.
Dr. Thom Feroah and James Feroah of Center for Global Health and Peaceuilding
To my family back home in Uganda
The entire leadership of St. Norbert College, from top leadership to the last person on this campus. And again Rob Pyne and Catherine Kasten; you’ve been key in this entire process, thank you for working so hardly with your team from design to secretary to IT for the heartless efforts making todays’ event a reality
The student community of St. Norbert College and the community of Green Bay, Wisconsin and US at large.
To my team at AYINET who are working so hard to ensure we continue our great work – I can’t mention all your names – I am proud of you all.
And, as I stand here to receive the award today, may I from deepest part of my heart pay the tribute to those victims and survivors of war, both in Uganda and around the world. I drew my strength, my inspiration and I get renewed every time I act to help restore hope, healing and the dignity of the war wounded, injured and tortured men and women.
I even get strong knowing that as I speak, I am not speaking about what I learnt, not what I researched, but I am speaking as one of you, a survivor and someone who shared your experience, and instead of being crushed by hardships and suffering, I became a strong advocate for our rights, the rights of the victims and survivors of war. Thank you for keeping strong and I would like to say this recognition is yours. This award is dedicated to you.
New FACE of PEACE
Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, this gathering is just so special, as I was never the likeliest person to stand here receiving this award. I'd also like to briefly discuss the New FACE of PEACE as the event is titled; Looking at the role youth and children plays during and after the conflict settings.
As you may be aware, it’s now 100 years since the beginning of World War one. And over the last decades, we have seen the conflicts have transformed in nature, just as society alike. From war lords to piracy, to guerrilla war fares, not to mention child soldiers’ recruitment to terrorism and the ongoing battling of extremism.
But as we move on, we have reached a point to reflect on the causes, the effects and multiple roles young people plays in conflict. We have seen that major causes of conflict has been the difficult historical experiences and inequities, inherited by generations and resulted into indoctrination.
We have also seen the effects of armed conflict in the form of destruction, anger, resentment, alienations, poverty, and bulging number of orphans, refugee crisis and death.
And, often, because of the reasons for causes of conflict and its effects on the people, in most cases young people finds themselves taking part either in rebuilding, reconciliation, reintegration, or at some points they retaliate and pick up the spirit of revenge.
For me one of the most important questions is: Who wants war to continue?
Intuitively, you would think that the answer from anyone would be that no one want’s war to continue. Yet, people’s actions may demonstrate otherwise. In my view, this is seen among;
Every parent who indoctrinates a child
Every government who sends weapons
Every policy maker - Member of Parliament or congressman who pass on a bill sanctioning war
Every company or corporation who trades on war
Every religious or spiritual leader, who instead of preaching peace instead choses to preach hatred
Every political leader who segregates, excludes sections of societies from benefiting from national resources and opportunities.
And therefore, the question has to be followed by asking: Who wants peace to prevail? Equally, this is answered by the actions of people. I think we everyday see great examples of:
Every parent, who even amidst the deep suffering and losses would still choose to teach their children peace, love and not to hate each other’s.
Every school, churches and mosque that teaches and preaches peace, tolerance and respect, of one another regardless of gender, race, religion, culture or origin.
And, every young person who refuses to be used as tool for violence, that young lady and gentleman seeks peace.
In order to strengthen and amplify this, I appeal that people around the world take action for peace.
I appeal to the young generaton, that conflict cannot stop without you refusing to be the tools for injustice. Injustice will only stop when we pick up the confidence to challenge our society, and we embrace the concept of tolerance, and it doesn’t matter if your cause is popular or not, as long as you know you’re doing what’s right and is for the safety of humanity.
Young people – if one hundred people do not sign up for war:
these 100 might make the difference between chaos and democracy in Somalia, Syria, Libya or Iraq
these 100 might make the difference between rebellion and peace in Uganda, Afghanistan, Pakistan or Colombia
these 100 might make or break groups like Lord Resistance Army, Boko Haram or Al Shabab, and above all might lead us to understand the reason as to why such groups came into existence
these 100 can affect change!
My message to you is: You are the generation with their heart in the right place, you're the generation with integrity
I appeal to governments and the United Nations that history has proved that we totally fail when we peruse both war and peace at the same time – and sustainable peace cannot be kept by force.
We cannot achieve sustainable human development when we look at peace with the military lenses – we need human right lens to see peace. We need to empower those who can make change, and this is the youth.
It’s time that the New Global Goals for sustainable development open our eyes and we de-militarize the peace processes. Your success is not measured by how many rebels you have killed, but by how many rebellions you have avoided.
And, as you know, 8 wonderful humans on this planet have previously received this prestigious honor as St. Norbert Ambassador of Peace Award.
Today, I feel humbled to stand here a young man who never wore shoes until he was 14 years, yet today speaking in this powerful house, in front of the most distinguished audience.
Someone who had to struggle to work to facilitate his education, laboring and taking all the life risks to survive and study today honored at one of the most prestigious schools in the United States of America
A person who survived death not only from war, but diseases and chronic sicknesses, a man who survived on one meal a day for years, spending my childhood growing up in the IDP camp as a refugee today stand in this podium to receive the responsibilities to carry to the world, the legacy of St. Norbet, legacy for peace and reconciliation
Ladies and gentlemen, I come here this time, as the Nobel Peace Prize nominee 2015, on record making me the first Uganda and perhaps the youngest African to be nominated for the world most prestigious award, the Nobel Peace Prize.
Today, I stand honored to become the first African, and also the youngest person to ever receive the St. Norbert Ambassador of Peace Award.
I want to say: The brighter day is rising upon Africa. Already I seem to see her chains and shackle of poverty dissolved, her desert of hopeless is transforming into the land of opportunities. I see the African glory in her raising young generation, and it reaching the point where culture and religion won’t be an obstacle, where churches and universities becomes the home for teaching unity.
I am so grateful that I am here today, and as much as I appreciate this award and as grateful as I am for it, the greatest reward I’ve ever been given in life is the simple opportunity to help victims of war, to help generations of young and old people to learn take part in healing and recovery. A situation that will help them make peace in the world around them.
I dedicate this award of honor as Ambassador of Peace to the victims and survivors of violent conflict, not only in Uganda but all over the world.
I am pleased, honored and humbled to accept, and to join the recipients of this award. And, a very special thanks to you all those who nominated me and special thanks to the board of St. Norbert College for selecting me.
Thank you, we are, and will forever remain human race, we are one, and we belong together and let’s work for peace and justice for all.