ACCORD, in collaboration with the Fellowship of Christian Councils and Churches in the Great Lakes and Horn of Africa (FECCLAHA), recently convened an intergenerational dialogue on Faith Communities and Conflict Prevention. The dialogue, which took place virtually on 11 August 2022, facilitated knowledge-sharing on the drivers and manifestations of conflicts on the African Continent.
The discussion brought together religious leaders, conflict prevention practitioners, youth leaders, and academic experts to explore creative conflict management options when addressing forms of violence with religious overtones. The dialogue panel included Ms Jeanette Uwiziye, Executive Director of FECCLAHA, Sheikh Saleem Banda, former Director of the World Assembly of Muslim Youth, Ms. Chelsea Cohen, a fellow at the African Leadership Centre, Sheikh Ibrahim Lethome, Secretary General of the Centre for Sustainable Conflict Resolution, and Mr. Vedhan Singh, a board member of Religions for Peace South Africa. The event was moderated by The Reverend Dr Anastasia Bukashe, an ordained minister, academic and peace practitioner; alongside ACCORD’s Programme Officer Adam Randera.
The panellists agreed that, while youth were often neglected by traditional religious institutions, young people, as the largest constituency on the continent, are crucial to conflict prevention. It was argued that, while young people can and should create their own spaces for political and peace activism, there was a need for traditional religious structures to embrace and advocate for youth concerns, including issues, such as unemployment and women’s rights, that may have fallen outside their regular purview. The participants shared on the need for religious institutions to be fully transparent and to embrace two-way communication in order to nurture a relationship with young people who may otherwise be vulnerable to radicalisation. It was also stressed that education and critical thinking, both with respect to religious doctrine and secular topics, was crucial in preventing and managing extremism and violence.
This dialogue took place two weeks after ACCORD, the Methodist Church of Southern Africa, and Fundação Mecanismo de Apoio à Sociedade Civil, conducted a conflict management training for religious leaders in Mozambique, which focussed on preventing and resolving conflict through community dialogue. ACCORD’s broader strategic vision recognises the role that religious communities, as well as other local and national stakeholders, can play in preventing and transforming conflicts. As such, ACCORD will continue to build the capacity of religious organisations and facilitate knowledge production and learning amongst these groups.