Catholic Peacebuilding Network

Enhancing the study and practice of Catholic peacebuilding


South Africa Conference Focused on Religion, Reconciliation and Peace

July 01, 2013 • Renée LaReau

Some 30 peace studies scholars and practitioners gathered in Cape Town, South Africa, June 5-7 for the conference “Peace from the Ground Up: Post-conflict Socialization, Religion, and Reconciliation in Africa.”  

“Peace from the Ground Up,” which fostered mutual learning between academics and peacebuilding practitioners, convened with support from the Catholic Peacebuilding Network (CPN) and the Templeton Foundation. The conference was co-organized by the University of Notre Dame’s Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies, Program on Religion & Reconciliation, directed by Kroc professor Daniel Philpott, and the Institute for Justice and Reconciliation, directed by Fanie du Toit in Cape Town.

Conference presentations focused on the role of grassroots peacebuilding initiatives carried out by religious and cultural groups, said Philpott, professor of political science and peace studies at Notre Dame and member of CPN

“During the last decade, Africa has seen a flurry of high-level political efforts to address past violence,” he said. “But after the trials and truth commissions have ended, media attention has waned, and peace agreements have been signed, an absence of violence does not automatically lead to peace.” Though political processes remain indispensible, Philpott said, civil society, especially religious groups, plays an integral role in reconciling warring parties and repairing social fabric torn apart by protracted conflict.  

According to a recent Pew Forum report, Sub-Saharan Africa is the most religious region in the world, with northern Africa not far behind, Philpott said. Religion also has played an important role in peace processes because of the enterprising efforts of religious actors. 

“Peace from the Ground Up” drew on the experiences of participants from 12 countries, including Australia, Burundi, Cameroon, Canada, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ghana, Mozambique, Nigeria, South Africa, South Sudan, Uganda, and the United States. A Conference Report (pdf) is available.

The conference featured keynote addresses by Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela, a clinical psychologist and senior research professor of trauma, forgiveness and reconciliation at the University of Free State, and Bishop Matthew Hassan Kukah, Bishop of the Diocese of Sokoto, Nigeria.  Other conference participants, almost half of whom have worked with CPN, included: 

  • Rev. William Headley, CSSp, founding dean, Joan B. Kroc School of Peace Studies, University of San Diego
  • A. Rashied Omar, research scholar of Islamic studies and peacebuilding, Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies
  • Lyn Graybill, author, Truth and Reconciliation in South Africa: Miracle or Model? and Religion and Resistance Politics in South Africa 
  • Rev. Elias Omondi Opongo, S.J. , Director of the Hekima Institute of Peace Studies and International Relations
  • Theresa Ricke-Kiely, associate director, master’s program, Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies
  • Victor Igreja, associate lecturer in anthropology, University of Queensland, Australia  
  • James Latigo, program director, Uganda Historical Memory&Reconciliation Council 
  • Joanna Quinn, associate professor, department of political science; director, Centre for Transitional Justice and Post-Conflict Reconstruction, University of Western Ontario
  • Ismael Muvingi, associate professor of conflict resolution and African Studies, Nova Southeastern University.
  • Rev. Apollinaire Malumalu, priest of the Diocese of Butembo-Beni, Democratic Republic of Congo 
  • Claudio Betti, professor of international relations and conflict resolution at the Institute for European Studies, assistant to the president of the Community of Sant’Egidio 
  • John Ashworth, consultant to Catholic Relief Services on Sudan and South Sudan 
  • Symphorien Pyana, advocacy and public relations advisor, World Vision
  • Rosalind Hackett, professor and head of religious studies, University of Tennessee
  • Cecelia Lynch, professor of political science, director of international studies, University of California Irvine
  • Hippolyt Pul, coordinator, Africa Justice and Peace Working Group, Catholic Relief Services
  • Rev. Emmanuel Ntakarutimana, O.P., director, Ubuntu Centre for the Promotion of Peace and Reconciliation 
  • John Baptiste Talla, Central Africa Regional Office Technical Advisor for Peace Building, Catholic Relief Services
  • John Katunga, regional technical advisor for peacebuilding and justice in East Africa, Catholic Relief Services
  • Rev. Jean Nyembo, S.J., assistant director, Boboto Cultural Centre, Kinshasa
  • Rev. Peter John Pearson, director, Southern African Catholic Bishops Conference Parliamentary Liaison Office
  • Charles Villa-Vicencio, senior research fellow, Institute for Justice and Reconciliation 
    — Renée LaReau