| Religions for Peace Secretaries General endorse the Peace Process in the Central African Republic
15 April 2014
Archbishop Dieudonné Nzapalainga (L), Imam Omar Kobine Layama (C) and Pastor Nicolas Guerékoyame Gbangou (R)
Religions for Peace (RfP), in its capacity as a co-founder of the Network of Religious and Traditional Peacemakers, endorsed a major step in the peace process in the Central African Republic (CAR), in particular the efforts of its religious leaders.
The Central African Republic has been gripped by a brutal and protracted civil conflict that has claimed thousands of lives, resulted in large refugee flows and internally displaced persons and the destruction of years of development. Tragically, the fault lines of the political conflict have converged along religious identities, resulting in the misuse of religion to further fuel the conflict.
In this context, the religious leaders in CAR have built a Platform of Religious Leaders for the express purpose of harnessing inter-faith cooperation for national peace building and reconciliation. The Platform of Religious Leaders was the driving force behind an historic agreement of principles expressed in a statement, signed by representatives of the key parties to the conflict-Seleka and anti-Balaka-, the Transitional Government and the Platform of Religions of Central Africa on 8 April 2014.
The statement renounces violence, welcomes the role of domestic religious leaders, encourages inter-communal and interfaith dialogue and urges the Transitional Authorities to implement an inclusive national dialogue between all political, social and religious parties in the country.
A senior American delegation of religious leaders-including Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, Archbishop Emeritus of Washington, DC, USA, Pastor Leith Anderson, President of the National Association of Evangelicals of the USA and Imam Mohamed Magid, President of the Islamic Society of North America-joined in solidarity with the Platform of Religious Leaders, as witnessing signatories of the agreement. Supporting the American delegation was Ambassador Rashad Hussain, President Obama’s Special Envoy to the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC).
RfP International Secretary General, Dr. William F. Vendley, and the African Council of Religious Leaders (ACRL-RfP) Secretary General, Dr. Francis Kuria, also signed the document as witnesses and in solidarity with the religious leaders of CAR, as did H.E. Ufuk Gokcen, Ambassador of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation to the United Nations.
Dr. Kuria stated: “Africa’s religious leaders have deep and hard-won experience in conflict resolution and the ACRL-RfP as well as the global RfP movement is prepared to work in solidarity with the Platform of Religious Leaders in the CAR for peace.”
Dr. Vendley said it is vital for RfP and its global network to demonstrate support for the Platform of Religious Leaders constructed by CAR’s religious leaders.
The Network representatives also met with H.E. Dr. Cheikh Tidiane Gadio, the Special Envoy of the OIC for the CAR, who shared a three point agenda of stopping the violence, building a consensus of shared principles among political players and advancing humanitarian relief. Ambassador Ufuk Gokcen stated that the OIC is committed to working with both the Muslim and Christian communities in building peace. “The conflict is fundamentally political,” he noted, “and requires a political solution based on an inclusive national dialogue. The religious communities, however, can play an irreplaceable role in fostering peace. Finn Church Aid, the Coordinator of the Network of Religious Traditional Peacemakers facilitated a gathering of CAR religious actors, international religious NGOs-including Catholic Relief Services, a key supporter of the Platform of Religious Leaders-in a strategic planning exercise designed to further support to the inter-religious work of the CAR religious communities. Finn Church Aid, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, Religions for Peace, the United Nations Conflict Mediation Support Unit and Alliance of Civilizations are co-founders of the Network of Religious Traditional Peacemakers. “We are grateful to Finn Church Aid’s service of facilitation of the Network”, noted Dr. William Vendley.
Left to Right: Archbishop Dieudonné Nzapalainga, Imam Mohamed Hag Magid, Theodore Cardinal McCarrick, Pastor Leith Anderson, Ambassador Rashad Hussain, Imam Omar Kobine Layama and Pastor Nicolas Guerékoyame Gbangou