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Religious leaders explore message of peace in East Africa

A consultation of church leaders from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Rwanda, Uganda and Burundi opened in Addis Ababa on 23 February 2017.


“The peace message must be delivered to all the stakeholders, including the opposition," urged Adama Dieng, United Nations special adviser on the prevention of genocide, during the opening remarks.

The aim of the meeting was to reach a message of peace, he said. “What is happening today in Burundi is something we have to consider as situation to not allow to escalate. The future of Burundi belongs to Burundi and no one can save Burundi but the Burundians themselves.”

He also pointed out that the participants will need to identify viable solutions, as “church leaders have the capacities to succeed where others have failed”. He emphasised that the meeting is in line with his increasing engagement with religious leaders. He finished his speech by inviting participants to challenge each other, to hold frank talks and to be open to having a united voice.

The gathering was organised by the United Nations Office on Genocide Prevention. the Responsibility to Protect and the World Council of Churches (WCC), and was sponsored by the All Africa Conference of Churches (AACC).

Participants discussed the role of the church in stabilising the Great Lakes region of Africa, with a special focus on Burundi and DRC, and on finding a peaceful solution to the current situation in these countries based on the moral and Christian imperative to promote sustainable peace among peoples and nations.

The Great Lakes region – which comprises comprises Burundi, DRC, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda – faces political and social instability. As the implementation of the 2000 Arusha Peace and Reconciliation Agreement has failed,

Burundi is witnessing sociopolitical instability despite efforts by regional and sub-regional organisations, including the Great Lakes Region Commission, Eastern African Community, and the African Union to resolve the crisis.

In DRC, the exit plan for the conflict resolution between the majority and the opposition parties led to a January 2017 agreement but a consensus has yet to be reached on implementation.

AACC General Secretary the Rev Dr Andre Karamaga gave a brief background to the consultation, and Dr Nigussu Legesse, WCC programme executive, outlined the objectives of the meeting.

Legesse invited participants to analyse the current situation in Burundi and DRC, including the risk factors for atrocity crimes and their link to hate speech and incitement to violence.

He also highlighted the need to examine the role of Christian religious leaders and faith-based organisations in fuelling or preventing hate speech and incitement to violence in Burundi and DRC.
The meeting served as a platform for sharing knowledge and good practices on past successes of religious leaders’ participation in the prevention and the fight against incitement to violence in the wider Great Lakes region.

The World Council of Churches promotes Christian unity in faith, witness and service for a just and peaceful world. An ecumenical fellowship of churches founded in 1948, by the end of 2012 the WCC had 345 member churches representing more than 500 million Christians from Protestant, Orthodox, Anglican and other traditions in over 110 countries. The WCC works cooperatively with the Roman Catholic Church.

Jimirasire

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