‘Vusa izizwe namhlanje!’ (Wake up the nations today!) was the motto of the World Alliance of Religions Peace Summit in Africa at which the ACCORD was represented by Prof Jannie Malan, Senior Researcher and Managing Editor of the African Journal on Conflict Resolution. A diverse audience of about 500, including representatives of youth and women’s organisations and networks, was inspired by two days of enthusiastic presentations and striking videos in the Z.K. Matthews Great Hall at the University of South Africa, Pretoria, South Africa.
This well-organised meeting, held on 30 and 31 March, was a follow-up to the September 2014 summit in Seoul, South Korea, which was attended by approximately 200,000 people, and which received media coverage from over 100 national broadcasting companies around the world.
The pivotal message of the Pretoria summit was a call to ‘unite in heart and will and leave peace as an eternal legacy for our future generations’. Mr Man Hee Lee, Chairman of Heavenly Culture, World Peace, Restoration of Light (HWPL), and Ms Nam Hee Kim, Chairwoman of the International Women’s Peace Group (IWPG), presented keynote addresses.
The summit programme comprised:
- plenary sessions of about 20 speakers altogether, including Ms Iris Nxumalo of the African Youth League, South African Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba, South African Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng and six speakers representing world religions
- three concurrent sessions (also with about 20 speakers altogether) on the themes youth, sport, culture and peace; women – African champions of change; and interfaith in the African context, also with about 20 speakers altogether.
Participants were given an opportunity to sign an ‘Agreement to propose the enactment of an international law for the cessation of war’; in Seoul, the same agreement was signed by 2,000 influential guests. Delegates also appended their signatures to an ‘Agreement for the alliance of religions’ to bring about interfaith harmony.
During the side meeting themed ‘Interfaith in the African context’ there were clear signs of a cooperative orientation to promoting peace, but also some indications of groups’ emphases on guarding inter-religious distinctions. Prof Malan aims to use the useful information gathered from the meeting in his research project which focuses on why well-meaning religious people can cause conflict and how open-minded religious persons and groups can promote peace. He came away from the summit convinced that participants must have been greatly enthused to work together in their religious and/or political contexts to make peaceful coexistence a reality.
A video of the 2014 Seoul summit can be found at http://hwpl.kr.