Catholic Peacebuilding Network

Enhancing the study and practice of Catholic peacebuilding

The Church's Role in Peacebuilding in Central Africa

Faith based humanitarian organisations welcome Pope Francis to the Central African Republic

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Bangui, 27 November 2015 – Along with a number of other faith-based humanitarian organizations, Catholic Relief Services issued this statement welcoming Pope Francis to the Central African Republic.

“Together with the hundreds of thousands of displaced and vulnerable children and families who we strive to serve, we salute your visit to the Central African Republic (CAR) as a sign of hope and courage. The moment is critical as the country and the dire humanitarian circumstances are once again at risk of being forgotten amidst other crises taking place in the world….”

Read the rest here.

“Elections are an opportunity for the Country and not a step back” warn the Bishops
10 December 2014

Bujumbura (Agenzia Fides) – “We appreciate the fact that the Burundians are getting used to renewing the institutions through elections, but there are signs that raise serious concerns on the fair and peaceful conduct of the upcoming elections”. This is the meaning of the Message of the Bishops of Burundi on the general elections to be held in 2015.

Reception in Africa

In the document, sent to Agenzia Fides, the Episcopal Conference of Burundi, citing Centesimus Annus, recalls that the Church “appreciates the democratic system, as it ensures the participation of citizens in political choices and guarantees to the governed the possibility both of electing and controlling their own rulers, and of replacing them through peaceful means when appropriate”and stresses that “the elections are a right and a duty of every citizen” as well as an opportunity to assess the work carried out by the outgoing rulers.

“How does Burundi present itself on the eve of the elections?” the Bishops ask themselves. On the one hand, the Bishops rejoice at the fact that the democratic system has entered the national consciousness (“we appreciate the fact that so far no one has claimed to reject the path of elections”) and for the electoral “road map” signed by all the political forces. On the other hand, the Bishops’ Conference expresses concern about some disturbing signs. In particular, the Bishops note that “dialogue and plans that had allowed to elaborate the ‘road map’ do not appear to be a reality, a fact that leads some to consider the ongoing electoral process monopolized by a single trend”.

“We are entering the election period in a climate of fragile security” states the document, denouncing “acts of banditry and murder that trouble the population; language that incites violence; young people affiliated to political parties that seem determined to resort to violence”.

The Bishops appeal to the sense of responsibility of all (young people, leaders, politicians, members of the Independent Electoral Commission) so that the elections are not a step back, but a step towards the full consolidation of democracy in the Country. (L.M.) (Agenzia Fides 10 December 2014)
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Message des Evêques du Burundi à propos des élections générales

Bujumbura (Agence Fides) – « Nous apprécions le fait que les burundais s’habituent actuellement à renouveler les institutions par le biais des élections. Mais il existe des signaux qui inquiètent quant au déroulement correct et pacifique des prochaines échéances électorales ». Tel est le sens du Message des Evêques du Burundi à propos des élections générales qui se tiendront l’an prochain.

Dans ce document, envoyé à l’Agence Fides, la Conférence épiscopale du Burundi, citant l’Encyclique Centesimus Annus du Saint Pape Jean Paul II, rappelle que l’Eglise « apprécie le système démocratique, comme système qui assure la participation des citoyens aux choix politiques et garantit aux gouvernés la possibilité de choisir et de contrôler leurs gouvernants, ou de les remplacer de manière pacifique lorsque cela s’avère opportun » et souligne que « les élections sont un droit et un devoir pour que chaque citoyen » outre à constituer un moment de vérification de l’œuvre entreprise par les gouvernants sortants.

« Comment se présente la situation actuelle du Burundi » à la veille des élections se demandent les Evêques. La réponse est en demi-teinte. D’un côté, les Evêques se réjouissent du fait que le système démocratique soit entré dans la conscience nationale (« Nous apprécions le fait que les Burundais soient en train de s’habituer à cette voie du renouvellement des institutions au moyen des élections ») et de la feuille de route électorale adoptée par l’ensemble des forces politiques. De l’autre, la Conférence épiscopale fait part de sa préoccupation quant à un certain nombre de signaux inquiétants. En particulier, les Evêques remarquent que « le dialogue et la concertation qui avaient permis la confection de la « Feuille de route » semblent ne plus être une réalité, ce qui amène certains à considérer le processus électoral en cours comme étant monopolisé par une seule tendance ».

« La convocation intempestive dirigée contre des membres de l’opposition devant la justice, semble être une stratégie du pouvoir pour les exclure de la compétition électorale ». Par ailleurs, la division des partis politiques constitue, elle aussi, un signal qui, selon les Evêques, risque de « faire perdre à la compétition électorale son caractère démocratique ».

A cela vient s’ajouter le fait que « nous entrons dans la période électorale dans un climat de peur d’une sécurité fragile » affirme le document, dénonçant « des actes de banditisme et d’assassinat (qui) inquiètent la population ; un langage qui incite à la révolte et à la violence et le fait que des jeunes affiliés aux partis politiques qui semblent déterminés à user de la violence ».

Les Evêques font appel au sens de responsabilité de tous – jeunes, dirigeants, hommes politiques, membres de la Commission électorale indépendante – afin que les élections ne constituent pas un pas en arrière mais un progrès vers la pleine consolidation de la démocratie dans le pays. (L.M.) (Agence Fides 10 décembre 2014)

“Contribution de l’Eglise catholique au processus de paix dans la sous-région des Grands Lacs”
May 2002

In May 2002, the Bishops of Burundi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Rwanda released a joint declaration in which they strongly emphasized that all Christians and people of good are expected to work to end conflicts. Here is the entire text of Contribution de l’Eglise catholique au processus de paix dans la sous-région des Grands Lacs.

See also the United States Institute of Peace report Rough Neighborhood: Catholic Perspectives on Peace and Reconciliation in the Great Lakes. With the Congo just emerging from a civil war, the Institute hosted a briefing on Catholic perspectives on peace and reconciliation in the Great Lakes region. Featuring insights from Catholic bishops from Burundi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Rwanda, the panel discussed such issues as:

  • The impact of conflict on social and religious institutions;
  • The role of faith-based organizations in the promotion of peace and dialogue; and
  • The challenges facing governments and civil society throughout the region.

For an overview of the challenges facing the Church in Central Africa relating to resource extraction and conflict, the Association of Episcopal Conferences of the Central African Region published The Church and Poverty in Central Africa (PDF document) in July 2008. This document is also available in French, L’Eglise et la Pauvrete en Afrique Centrale (also a PDF document).

In October 2012, several national and regional groups of bishops in the Great Lakes region and Horn of Africa met for a workshop on the theme “Revitalizing the strategy of the Catholic Episcopal Conference of the Great Lakes region and Horn of Africa for Reconciliation, Justice and Peace.”
The Final Declaration (PDF in English), which created a working group and strategy of the Church for Reconciliation, Justice, and Peace, was approved by the National Catholic Episcopal Conferences of Burundi, Kenya, Uganda, DRC, Rwanda and Tanzania, as well as the regional conferences ACEAC and AMECEA. The Declaration Finale (PDF en francais) is also available in French.

The Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar issued a comprehensive pastoral letter, “Governance, the Common Good and Democratic Transitions in Africa,” in February 2013. Recognizing the responsibility of all to contribute to the common good, the letter explores the church’s role, “using access points that include liberation, reconciliation and reconstruction, vis-a-vis democratic values of the quest for human dignity and participation of all people in decisions that affect the quality and direction of their lives.” The SECAM Pastoral Letter (link) is available for download in English, French and Portugese.

Selected articles on the the role of the Church in Burundi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Rwanda are available by clicking on the links to the right.