Uganda. Radio Pacis. Inform and evangelise: towards integral human promotion

Radio Pacis carries out a true “ministry of evangelisation” which includes emphasising the social dimension of the gospel.

A catholic radio station offering Christian communities and the entire region of West Nile, Uganda, “infotainment programs”. This is how the tens of young operators who work in Radio Pacis describe it. An instrument of information and entertainment to educate listeners for their human integral development addressing topics such as health, schools, human rights, domestic violence, agriculture, family life, Christian life and local and national news authoritatively and attractively. All this information is brought to life with music, sports and radio drama programmes.

It all started more than twenty years ago. After a long period of evangelisation in Uganda, an Italian Comboni priest Fr Tonino Pasolini and an American volunteer, Sherry Meyer were invited in 2001 by the then Bishop of Arua, Mons. Frederick Drandua, to set up a diocesan Catholic radio station at the service of evangelisation and information for the Christian communities.

The province of West Nile experienced years of instability and civil war in the early 1980s after the fall of the dictator Amin (who was originally from that region). The new government used an iron fist with the dictator’s militia and the region’s inhabitants. Joseph Kony and his rebels of the Lord’s Resistance Army terrorised the area between 1986 and 2008. The government’s repression devastated the Acholi region and the Lango district.

The radio station headquarters remain located in Arua, the place where it was officially inaugurated on 26 November 2004. Over time it has covered the diocese of Nebbi and the archdiocese of Gulu.

When Radio Pacis was founded, its slogan “Peace of Christ for all” was chosen. This clearly shows the mission of the community radio station that the bishop wanted. Fr Pasolini explains that “the radio carries out a true ‘ministry of evangelisation’ emphasising the social dimension of the gospel. Radio Pacis uses four frequencies, thus making itself heard by thousands of listeners from the various ethnic and linguistic groups which inhabit the vast region. This includes tens of thousands of refugees from South Sudan in the Moyo area”.

Fr Tonino is keen to emphasise this aspect: “We have been able to promote the listening of the radio and give a voice to the representatives of the 1 200 000 refugees, mostly South Sudanese. We also engaged with 70 000 refugees in the camp of Palabek, in Gulu, who have not been able to return to their country. They have discovered the radio as a venue of meeting, exchange and mutual encouragement to move forward”.


“The signal of Radio Pacis,” continues Fr Pasolini, “covers a radius of over 200 km, and in addition to the three Catholic dioceses of West Nile: Arua, Nebbi and Gulu, it reaches parts of DR Congo and South Sudan. The four different frequencies allow to radiate in the districts of Koboko, Yumbe, Nyadri, Moyo, Adjumani and Masindi. The listeners are more than ten million and have only grown over the years.”

Radio Pacis also launched programmes in Arabic, a language which is understandable by the thousands of refugees from South Sudan. Many associations, humanitarian organisations and Christian communities from the North of the world have generously offered the necessary support to launch this Radio Pacis project, develop it and guarantee its operation.

According to the missionary, the keystone to the success of Radio Pacis is the fact that over the years listeners have become loyal to the station and call it “our radio!”. This is for reasons that go beyond the quality and variety of the programmes; unlike commercial radio stations, also operating in Arua, Radio Pacis is a real community radio, aimed at the integral development of people.

From its earliest years, it has been present in the area with the regular weekly dispatch of reporters and correspondents among those living in the hinterland and even in the most distant villages, where they dialogue face-to-face with all kinds of listeners. In addition to gathering information, correspondents also allow the people interviewed to express their ideas, about their local problems, and to list the needs and aspirations of young people, women, families, etc.

In case of emergencies, for example, it creates immediate solidarity among users and relief campaigns or rescue operations can be launched. In this way, space is also found even for those who, like women, have never been given sufficient space to make their voices heard.

Fr Tonino adds: “I am convinced that the radio has so far rendered a valuable service in preserving stability and respect among people of different ethnicities and languages as well as of different religious beliefs. In our territory, there have never been conflicts or tensions between Christians and Muslims, as happened elsewhere. Following a common schedule in all the frequencies allows millions of people in different local languages, to tune into the radio. This greatly facilitates their encounter, to talk to each other and to exchange experiences from the most diverse backgrounds.”

From the very beginning, Radio Pacis has intended to emphasize its vocation to bear witness to the Gospel and the values associated with it. It seeks to reach people of all ages, backgrounds and faiths. Fr Pasolini goes beyond that: “The radio is still the medium of communication most in use among our people. Although the young are now equipped with mobile phones, tablets, computers, etc., ordinary people love the radio because it is the simplest means of communication; it does not require electricity – often lacking – and it only takes a few batteries for it to work for a long time. The radio, therefore, becomes a ‘teacher, bearer of education and of values’.”

The radio broadcasts the Eucharistic celebration, the recitation of the rosary and biblical and catechetical reflections. The Social Doctrine of the Church and the most important pastoral documents are also regularly included in the programmes.

Equally important is the space given to social topics such as justice, peace and the integrity of creation; the conditions of the refugees and migrants; domestic abuse and violence; youth problems; care of the environment; small entrepreneurship, etc. It is there not only to inform, but to also transform community life.

Looking optimistically to the future of Radio Pacis, with its more than 150 collaborators and volunteers, Fr Pasolini concludes: “After more than 20 years of commitment both of myself and of Sherry Meyer, we have long since carried out a gradual handover in the management of the radio station. The repeated request to have a young and capable person at my side as a replacement, has been already been realised: for some time, Fr Charles Idraku, a Ugandan priest trained professionally and a connoisseur of the languages Mahdi, Luo, Lango and Logbara, is working in Radio Pacis. Sherry Meyer continues as responsible for the human resources department and has started the process of recruiting those who’will take over the task after her. The dream of St Daniel Comboni, ‘Regenerate Africa through Africa” is realized through Radio Pacis”. (G.C.)

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