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Gervase Taratara (2005)

Gervase Taratara

Gervase Taratara


I came to Kimmage in 2004 after working as a Team Leader for the Spiritan Refugees Services for the Rwandese and Burundian Refugees in the camps, in Tanzania for nine years. I am currently the General Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation (JPIC) Coordinator for the Spiritan Congregation and the president of Africa Europe Faith Justice Network (AEFJN).
It is important to know that in a refugee camp there are numerous organisations, local and international, that render various services to refugees. Working with refugees requires that one understands social, political and cultural situations, which contribute to them being refugees. Along with this, understanding the policy of the hosting and sending countries towards refugees, as well as that of the UNHCR, the UN agency for refugees, helps one to play a rightful place when serving refugees. Equally, no one should forget that refugee status is only temporary. It ends with repatriation, resettlement or integration in the hosting country. All these determined the type of pastoral program we embarked upon, and made me realise that chaplaincy to refugees require other formation than that one in philosophy and theology. To this end, after nine years working in the refugee camps, I needed a formation in social sciences, by which I would become effective and competent in my ministry and the ability to relate well with all those political and humanitarian agents that served refugees.
Choosing Kimmage Development Studies Centre above other Places.
Having discussed with my superiors, two possible places were suggested to me; Kimmage Manor, Dublin, for Development Studies and Duquesne University in Pittsburgh-USA for conflict resolution. Looking at the course outlines for both institutes, I opted for the former because I noted that nearly all the courses offered were very relevant to my situation. They would answer most of the questions I encountered while working in the camps, they would enable me to respond to the immediate refugee situation and participate in post war peacebuilding which include taking part in the resolution of political conflict and national development.

Some of the courses and their relevance
Although all the course were relevant, for the sake of this paper, I wish to briefly highlight some of them.
Humanitarian Emergencies: While the course enables participants to respond to humanitarian challenges, to me, who had been working in the camps, it confirmed with me that refugee situation is not there to stay; therefore, all agents, national and international should combine emergence services and development. When giving emergence assistance to refugees it is imperative that they should also give refugees, especially the youth skills and education which after sometime will enable them to be proponents of their own destiny. These include provide them with skills in carpentry, agriculture, building, bricks making, forestry, animal keeping, driving, etc. Instead of restricting them only to primary education they should encourage formal education at all levels, bearing in mind that they will need it whether they return home, remain in the country of asylum or resettled to a third country.

Political Economy of Development: The course helps the participants to know different meanings and theories of development and how they have been applied by different nations across the globe. Like other subjects, participants are encouraged to do a critical analysis of those theories so as to determine which ones are relevant to their own situation. In this way, course participants know why some countries are developed while others are not. Thanks to the fact that my Congregation is a member of AEFJN. For the past twenty six years, AEFJN, an organisation of forty international religious congregations, advocates for Economic Justice between European Union and African Countries. Since 2009 I served the organisation as the co-vice president and president respectively. The course in Political Economy has been very helpful in my work here.

Adult Education: The course gives pedagogic techniques and means to deal with adults. I have been applying its principles when giving seminars and talks to peoples of varying education levels, life experience, and from different walks of life across the globe. The cause enables one to critically analyse the education offered in one’s nation and the manner by which it is given. It proposes a liberating education especially for the marginalised groups.

Leadership and development: This is the course that greatly influenced my choice of Kimmage above other possible institutes where I would have done my course. This was so because I was aware that the crisis in leadership was the reason for the presence of refugees to whom I was ministering, and they would return back home only when good leadership was installed. Did the course satisfy my wish? The answer is yes. We were able to analyse different types of leadership, and how the type of leadership affects the common good. At Kimmage, it is offered by combining theory and practice. Writing on my own experience helped me to realise that throughout my ministry in the camps I worked to promote good leadership. This way, I became satisfied and competent as I realised that some of my actions turned to be life giving to thousands of people, restored their dignity and assured them right to asylum as well as voluntary repatriation. The course continues to guide me whenever I assume leadership positions or dealing with various intercultural groups.

I would like to express my sincere gratitude to those who invited me to be among the contributors. Writing my experience ten years after, not only that it has deepened my understanding of what I learnt at Kimmage but also made me share it with others. For those who do not know, Kimmage Development Studies Centre is known for academic Excellency based on a deep critical analysis of issues. For that matter, I believe, that Kimmage Alumni continue to make a difference by advocate for the integral development so that the marginalised become the subject and object of the development agenda.


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