13 March 2009
|When returning to their land, many Ugandans had to find ways of making it peaceful and good to live in again for everyone, including this old man in Kitgum. (Peter Balleis SJ/JRS)|
|The traditional belief of the Acholis in spirits has a great implication on their psychology and social life.|
A strong belief in the world of spirits is part of the Acholi tradition. Acholis believe that various spiritual forces are active in their respective areas. There are different categories of spirits such as the spirit of ancestors, the spirit that belongs to a clan or chiefdom and the evil spirit that possesses people, can cause harm, misfortune and illness.
Displacement destroys traditions
The 22 years LRA insurgency in northern Uganda has caused the loss of tens of thousands of lives most of whom have not had a proper burial. Skeletons of the victims and combatants are scattered all over the area. The case in Gulu is a classic scenario of how Acholis react to this unusual situation. They believe that the spirit of a person who died violently can seek revenge and can attack anyone. It is a common belief that in order to appease the spirit of the dead, a proper burial must be done and a cleansing ritual must be carried out to ward off spirit-related consequences.
The traditional belief of the
Acholis in spirits has a great implication on their psychology and social life.
It provides explanation for hardships in life and offers coping strategies. One
traditional way of coping is the reconciliation of the world of the living with
the world of the spirits. Acholis consider the spirits so powerful that they
can even cause diseases. Mental illness and epilepsy have been seen as caused
by spirits. The individual afflicted with a spirit-related illness requires
undergoing certain traditional healing ceremonies in order to restore his or
her well being.
Acholi rituals help displaced peoples cope with difficult situations
From a JRS
Traditional Acholi rituals and healing ceremonies usually help people cope with the circumstances they live in. JRS, which highly respects cultural diversity, has shown a tolerant attitude towards these expressions of the Acholi culture. Thus, instead of contradicting the traditions, the organisation’s activities are intended to be complementary to the traditional ways of coping to enable a holistic healing of the wounds of war for the returning Acholis.