Catholic Peacebuilding Network

Enhancing the study and practice of Catholic peacebuilding

Conflicts and the Role of the Church

Crowd at Fifth CPN Conference

Central AfricaColombiaThe PhilippinesUganda

Since its founding, CPN has focused on learning from and supporting the peacebuilding role of the Church in Colombia, Central Africa and The Philippines. You can learn more about the conflicts in those three places and the work of the Church there, by clicking on the links to the right.

Here are some observations about each location offered by Scott Appleby on April 14, 2009 in his presentation at the Fifth CPN Conference on April 14, 2008:

The war-torn nation of Colombia is, paradoxically, both an ideal laboratory of peacebuilding, and a virtually unique case. An “ideal laboratory” because Colombia is a perfect storm, a “comprehensive” internal conflict. Comprehensive, in that it stretches across time (spanning at least half a century),
takes numerous forms (from drug-trade-related assassinations and governmental corruption, to leftist guerrilla kidnapping and terror, to paramilitary, right-wing murders and human rights abuses; from civil war to common crime) and envelops all sectors of Colombian society in its deadly violence while also entangling numerous transnational actors, hostile and friendly states, and the international community….

The situation of the Church in the Great Lakes region of Africa is similar, and could not be more different. The similarities begin with the central role the Church plays, both in terms of shaping culture and mediating conflict. Shaping culture means, in particular, the striving to create a culture of nonviolence, peace and justice, a society for which human dignity and human rights are sacrosanct, written both into law and in human hearts. As in Colombia, the Church in Burundi, in Rwanda, and in eastern Congo promotes justice and peace through an impressive array of local and regional institutions initiatives, and services, led by women and men, laity, religious and clergy. As elsewhere, the Church is an alternative to the state, a guarantor—at times, the sole guarantor—of the delivery of whatever social-material relief that is available to the people, and of presence to the people, a compassionate and disinterested presence, marked by integrity and devotion to the common good. The Catholic hierarchy, while striving to remain apolitical and operating through civil society, apart from the government in most respects, cannot and must not escape politics, questions of governance and especially the responsibility of shaping a political culture that is at least not inimical to the culture of peace and justice….

In Burundi/Congo/Rwanda, as in Colombia inter-religious conflict may not be entirely absent, but it is muted. By striking contrast Mindanao is one of the world’s capitals of Christian-Muslim tension, and also a potential site of a world captivating breakthrough in Christian-Muslim relationships. The familiar enemies of peace also reside in the southern region of the Philippines: inequality and racial discrimination; grinding poverty amid tiny but powerful islands of affluence; contests over the direction of regional, national, civic even religious identity; an indifferent or obstructionist national government; anti-terrorist policies that boomerang; extremist and separatist movements seeking to effect change through the barrel of a gun….

Excerpt from The Many Dimensions of Catholic Peacebuilding (PDF document).