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Newly Launched Interfaith Commission Will Guide Africa’s Religious Leaders’ Action for Peace

Newly Launched Interfaith Commission Will Guide Africa’s Religious Leaders’ Action for Peace Rwandan President Kagame Hails Interfaith Approach for “Removing Ambiguities”

By Lutheran World Information

Via World Faith News

KIGALI, Rwanda/GENEVA, 27 June 2006 ( LWI) * The inaugural meeting of the Inter-Faith Action for Peace in Africa (IFAPA) Commission ended in Kigali, Rwanda, on 22 June with Africa’s religious leaders agreeing to use the instrument for a peaceful future for the continent and all its people.

“We have begun the task of working together for peace. We have already gained considerable experience in responding to the challenges of conflict and poverty through our respective interfaith networks and organizations,” the participants in the 19-22 June meeting stated in their final report.

Called for by the Second IFAPA Summit in April 2005, the IFAPA Commission will provide guidance and enhance the effectiveness of the ongoing process of engaging religious leaders in peace-building initiatives in Africa. The commission includes 23 persons representing African Traditional Religion, the Baha’i faith, Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam and Judaism.

Inaugurating the commission on 19 June, Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame commended Africa’s religious leaders for choosing a faith approach that would “remove ambiguities sometimes associated with individual religious communities regarding where they stand in terms of peace.”

The convenor of IFAPA, Rev. Dr Ishmael Noko, general secretary of the Lutheran World Federation (LWF), noted that the testing point “for any initiative for Africa, including IFAPA, is whether we are truly and genuinely leading Africa out of an ‘envelope’ situation into development.” He had defined development as the process of setting free one’s potential for self-affirmation and self-determination.

The 70 participants attending the meeting also included representatives of the international community, advisers and observers, and an international team of journalists.

Alongside the launch of the IFAPA Commission, the participants in the Kigali meeting heard about the African Monitor, an independent body initiated by the Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town, Njongonkulu Ndungane, to promote an African voice in the development debate. The President of the Pan-African Parliament, Ms Gertrude Mongella, and the Vice-Chair of the African Union Commission, Mr Patrick Mazimpaka, attended the inaugural ceremony and assured IFAPA of the cooperation of these important regional governance structures and institutions.

The conference also discussed conflict and post-conflict situations in Burundi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Liberia, Rwanda, Somalia, Sudan, Togo and Uganda, and proposed possible action plans by IFAPA. Other issues included the women’s call for a healthy Africa under the campaign “A Mother’s Cry for a Healthy Africa.”

Water as a fundamental human development goal, its religious significance, and particularly its necessity for the well being of vulnerable women and children, was also discussed.

Noko said the Kigali meeting was particularly significant as the seven religions represented in IFAPA had agreed on a draft constitution and a proposed budget for the commission. “We have never, since the foundation of this continent, had the seven religions agreeing on principle,” he told journalists at a press conference at the end of the meeting.

The draft constitution will be formally adopted at a Third IFAPA Summit planned for 2008.

The IFAPA Commission participants visited the Kigali Memorial Center and offered prayers for victims of the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, in which some 1 million people died. Throughout the meeting, emphasis was made on the “powerful motivation and inspiration” provided by Rwanda as the venue, in view of the dedicated peace and reconciliation initiatives by the government, religious communities and the people themselves.

Anglican Archbishop Emmanuel Kolini told participants in the closing ceremony that, although the Rwandan church felt abandoned during the genocide 12 years ago, the presence of IFAPA made them feel embraced.

“If we are together, Africa will be peaceful,” he said.

(Ecumenical News International correspondent, Fredrick Nzwili, contributed to this article.)

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