African Church Leaders Meet to Discuss Peace and Security

Participants of the WCC consultation on “Peace and Security in Africa” laying flowers at the Kigali Genocide Memorial in Rwanda. (Photo: WCC/Mathews George)

Nearly one hundred church and ecumenical leaders from churches across the continent met in Kigali, Rwanda this week to discuss issues related to peace and security in the region.

Organized by the World Council of Churches' (WCC) Commission of the Churches on International Affairs (CCIA) and the All Africa Conference of Churches (AACC), the Jan. 28 to Feb. 1 meeting discussed a range of issues affecting peace in Nigeria, Sudan, Somalia, Zimbabwe, the Ivory Coast, and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Among the issues discussed were human rights violations, ethnic and religious conflicts, rule of law and democratic governance, freedom of religion, proliferation of arms, militarization and gender-based violence.

"The experiences of African people who are forced to live in vulnerable situations compel the ecumenical movement to offer ways in which people of Africa can celebrate and feel that they can live at peace with security and human dignity," Archbishop Valentine Mokiwa, president of the AACC, told WCC news.

Patrick Mazimhaka, former deputy chairman of the Africa Union, in his presentation stated that "civil wars in Africa were a response to a failed decolonisation process."

"This process handed over artificially crafted countries in a modern setting with its complex geopolitics to a leadership, which had never been exposed to state craft," he said, adding that, "Peace and security at all levels in African continent is the need of the hour to uphold the dignity of all Africans."

The group also made a visit to the Kigali Genocide Memorial to reflect on Rwanda's experience of ethnic violence, genocide and church initiatives of reconciliation in the past.

The consultation comes following one of the most violent years in African history. What is now known as the "Arab Spring" saw revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt, a civil war in Libya, the secession of South Sudan, and major demonstrations in a dozen other countries.

In recent months, violence in Nigeria and South Sudan has reached a crisis point.

Last month, radical Islamic group Boko Haram conducted raids throughout northern Nigeria on Christian churches, a police station, and government offices that left more than 200 dead. The group, whose name means "Western education is sacrilege" was responsible for more than 450 killings in Nigeria last year.

In Sudan, more than 130 people were killed in January in cattle raids between neighboring communities. Officials estimate that nearly 120,000 people have been affected by the violence so far, and in some regions, more than 10,000 people are said to be without shelter or humanitarian assistance.

The United Nations said on Thursday that the situation in Sudan has become a major concern for them.

"South Sudan faces significant challenges, including hundreds of thousands of people displaced in 2011, people returning from Sudan and refugees from the ongoing conflict in Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile states in Sudan," UN humanitarian chief Valerie Amos told reporters.

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