The African Council of Religious Leaders-Religions for Peace, with Network support, recently convened the first of three meetings with 13 multifaith actors in the Central African Republic. The intended outcome is to strengthen interreligious understanding and further enrich collaboration between religious and traditional actors to build social cohesion and reconciliation throughout Central African Republic. Following the roundtable discussion, a delegation of participants will be traveling to Lindau, Germany for the 10th Religions for Peace World Assembly to discuss reconciliation in Central African Republic and to engage, share and learn from experts in attendance.
The Central African Republic (CAR) has experienced a surge of violence since March 2013. Approximately 1.1 million people have been forcefully displaced, rendering the crisis as one of the worst humanitarian disasters of our time. While various peace accords have been created between the parties to the conflict, the efforts of effective implementation have been weakened by various elements.
Given the situation on the ground and the challenges of ongoing mediation initiatives in the Central African Republic, it is of critical importance to support the reconciliation process and dialogue efforts. Attention and programming must focus on the role of the religious actors to end the crisis; it has been recognized that religious actors play a crucial role for the stability of the country. In general, religious actors are deeply respected and trusted actors within their own and other communities and are familiar with the grievances and local context. Given their status in the community, they are also positioned to build bridges within and between communities and facilitate dialogue, reconciliation and social cohesion efforts.
“Peacemaking in the Central African Republic” project was developed by the Network, KAICIID and Finn Church Aid and other partners in 2014, and the current three-step engagement program builds on that with the support of the African Council of Religious Leaders-Religions for Peace. The Network offered its support in the three-step engagement program which aims to strengthen interreligious understanding and further enrich collaboration between religious actors to contribute to reconciliation and social cohesion. The first part of this program was a roundtable discussion in Bangui hosted from July 30 to August 1. The roundtable built on the work conducted by the Network together with its partners, including Religions for Peace, since 2014 on building the intra-faith cohesion and preparing the communities for multi-religious dialogue.
The positive and productive atmosphere during the roundtable included discussions on topics in relation to the conflict. All discussions were inclusive in nature to ensure that women and youth, whose engagement is traditionally limited, had the opportunity to engage and participate in a meaningful way. Two of the primary issues explored by the delegation included (1) how religious actors, youth and women can support the Accord for Peace and Reconciliation in the CAR and (2) how this delegation can prevent the instrumentalisation of differences based on religion, ethnicity and politics, especially among youth. As the crisis in CAR is not religiously motivated, it was agreed that the instrumentalisation of differences is a main driver of conflict and is a significant obstacle for peace.
The concrete outcome of the roundtable was a Declaration that committed the delegation to work together, “to advance peace and reconciliation within their country.” The final paragraph in the declaration emphasizes, “… that we, religious actors in the Central African Republic, have a crucial role to play in promoting peace and reconciliation in the country. The crisis brought us together and strengthened our relations as religious actors in this country. We are determined to speak with one voice to achieve peace.”
Following the roundtable discussion, a delegation of participants will travel to Lindau, Germany in August for the 10th Religions for Peace World Assembly. This will build upon the roundtable discussion to further advance interfaith dialogue and to understand how it can be further applied in the Central African Republic. While the delegation is looking forward to the opportunity and fruitful discussion in Germany, the real work will begin upon their return to the Central African Republic. A third roundtable discussion with the delegation will occur in mid-fall in the Central African Republic.
Program evaluations will continue throughout the entirety of this engagement with broader outcomes and analysis presented in the future.
The Network has been engaged in the Central African Republic since 2014 through its collaborative project, “Peacemaking in the Central African Republic.” The project was created to enable the Muslim and Christian communities to contribute to the creation of an enabling environment for a secure, economically strengthened and peaceful nation. Religions for Peace has been a key partner in the project, especially in the initial multi-religious fact-finding mission to Bangui in 2014.
For more information surrounding the Network’s engagement in the Central African Republic, please contact Marikki Rieppola at: Marikki.Rieppola@kirkonulkomaanapu.fi
14 August 2019