October 19-21, 2010
Delegates from six national and two regional bishops' conferences, 125 participants in all, came together in Burundi to promote better regional collaboration for reconciliation and peacebuilding in the Great Lakes region of Africa. The meeting resulted in the approval of guidelines for a common strategic plan, which later received approval from the national episcopal conferences of Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Uganda, as well as two regional conferences, ACEAC and AMECEA. The plan identified four major challenges to peace in the region: "bad governance; ethnic and tribal conflicts; widespread and profound trauma; and plundering or uncontrolled exploitation of natural resources together with the subsequent destruction of the environment.” These challenges were laid alongside three cross-cutting challenges facing the Church: “underutilization and insufficient awareness of the Church’s unique potential to promote peace and reconciliation; the lack of pertinent information on the underlying causes of our problems; and insufficient coordination of the Church’s initiatives for peace and reconciliation.”
In order to address these challenges, the conference delegates agreed on a formal proposal that was approved by the participating episcopal conferences. The proposal calls on the bishops’ conferences (1) to create and provide the necessary resources for a mechanism for regional coordination for peace and reconciliation; (2) to promote closer collaboration among universities, research centers, justice and peace commissions, Caritas agencies, and social communications services; and (3) to engage in constructive collaboration at the ecumenical and interreligious levels. A working group convened by the CPN and regional peacebuilding specialists from Catholic Relief Services worked closely with the conference steering committee to plan the event, and conference co-sponsors included the Catholic Peacebuilding Network, the U.S. Catholic Bishops’ Africa Solidarity Fund, Catholic Relief Services, the University of Notre Dame’s Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies, the German Civil Peace Service (AGEH), Cordaid, Missio-Aachen, and MISERIOR.