Ecumenical visit and consultation on the role of religious actors in fostering peace and promoting social cohesion in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo
The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has been embroiled in civil wars and ethnic strife since independence. Factions throughout the country control various regions and oftentimes, the central government has little influence in these more remote areas. People seem to be left on themselves and, many turn to alternative means to “secure” themselves, including joining armed groups, who promise to meet their basic needs. In addition, DRC’s neighbors have very significant influence over security dynamics and routinely intervene to protect their national interests. This contributes to entrenched suspicion between communities across borders, fueled by rumor.
The Eastern part of DRC holds enormous economic and social promise as the country strides towards a more stable and prosperous future. However, decades of war and conflict have hampered development efforts and created deep-seated mistrust between communities and their leaders. Intercommunal clashes between militia groups have severely disrupted social cohesion. The Mai-Mai group of militias who consider themselves as indigenous Congolese are fighting the cattle-herding Banyamulenge community – often labelled as outsiders due to their Rwandan origin. Continuous violence has led to widespread killings, looting, burning down of villages and large-scale displacement across South Kivu’s highlands. Decades of war, violence, and poverty have claimed the lives of over five million people. An absence of schools, health care, and reliable income-generating opportunities hinder communities' ability to emerge from crisis.
Religious institutions particularly the church has been on the vanguard in reconciliation and mediation. This has incessantly helped in addressing post conflicts societies by use of biblical, cultural and religious values, to address the deepened conflicts in Africa that keep re-emerging at the slightest provocations.
The All Africa Conference of churches has always tried to maintain ecumenical pastoral presence for peace and reconciliation in difficult situations in many countries in Africa. The AACC has been involved in DRC peace processes for decades. Of recent, the AACC deployed eminent persons to DRC in 2019 to diffuse tensions related to the then just concluded elections. The AACC also sent a delegation of eight Eminent persons this last November 2022 and they engaged with different stakeholders to encourage the political authorities, the religious leaders and all people of influence to work and advocate for peace and stability as the country prepares to hold general elections slated for December 20, 2023. It is in this spirit of accompaniment of its member churches in the DRC that the AACC plans a roundtable consultation of religious leaders and actors to promote social cohesion, counter violent extremism and advocate for peace in the Eastern part of the DRC
Overall, the ecumenical visit and consultation seek to enhance the capacities of the religious actors to contribute toward trust building between communities and advocating for lasting peace in the eastern part of DRC.
to reflect on issues affecting social cohesion in the eastern part of DRC
to enhance the knowledge and understanding of at least 50 religious leaders on issues of social cohesion and inequalities
to strengthen the skills of at least 50 religious leaders on prophetic advocacy actions for peaceful coexistence.
to enable participants identify key issues of inequalities and design strategies to advocate for their elimination
Religious leaders are equipped to mobilize communities to build social cohesion and reduce vulnerability to violent extremism.
Issues of concern regarding social cohesion are identified and strategies to overcome them developed
Strategies to act together for stronger, healthier, and more just social ties are defined
The roundtable will bring together 50 religious actors from the Protestants, Catholics and Muslims. It is expected that twenty will come from Goma area while the remaining thirty will come from the other parts of Eastern DRC where people can easily and safely travel to Goma by route. At least twenty women and ten youth will be among the participants. A particular attention will also be put on participation of people living with disabilities.
In order to encourage the churches in the Eastern part of DRC, and as it was planned in the first half of 2023 but did not happen due to security issues, the Vice President of the AACC Central Africa region will also participate in the consultation and will take the opportunity to visit and talk to some member churches in the Goma area.