By Paschal Norbert
ROME, OCTOBER 24, 2023 (CISA)– “For several decades now, our region has been experiencing a security situation marked by multi-faceted wars that continue to cause millions of deaths, internally displaced people and refugees. We are convinced that the people of Burundi, DR Congo and Rwanda want to live together in security, collaborating with each other and with their governments to put an end to inter-state and inter-community conflicts,” said the Association of Episcopal Conferences of Central Africa (ACEAC) in a statement issued on October 18, 2023.
The conference, which consists of Catholic Bishops from Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), and Rwanda met in Rome, Italy, from October 16 to 18 for a focused pastoral exchange on the urgent issue of peace in their region that is daily plagued by violent conflicts.
The meeting organized by Pax Christi International, a worldwide Catholic movement for peace, was also intended to be a pilgrimage for the bishops on the sideline of the ongoing Synod on Synodality.
The bishops while acknowledging the surge in violence and political instability in their region, especially the escalating conflict in eastern DRC, reaffirmed their commitment to pursuing “alternative paths” to achieve lasting peace within their region.
“We renew our commitment to finding alternative paths to peace-building, peaceful conflict resolution and unity in the diversity of peoples. We will continue to accompany the people and public authorities of the region in their search for ways out of the security crisis in the border areas of our countries, and in the implementation of peace-building mechanisms and development programs. We wish to reinvigorate our structures and commissions to accentuate the culture of peace and education in active nonviolence in order to prevent conflicts from escalating, or to manage them through positive approaches to dispute resolution,” they stated.
They urged the political leaders “to work together towards the renewal of conviviality, respect for life and the dignity of each individual.”
“We pray that ACEAC’s vision of “the peoples of the Great Lakes, relieved of their suffering, assuming their diversity, living in security, collaborating with each other and with the authorities for good governance, the dignity of each person, the consolidation of peace and integral human development” will become a reality,” the bishops implored.
The bishops appealed to people of goodwill to join in their clarion call for peace, noting that building peace is “not an isolated act, but a joint and collective effort, involving various layers of society and structures of various kinds.”
“We exhort all those who, far or near, continue to sow death, desolation and division in our region, to ‘heed the Church’s call to universal solidarity, and let themselves be guided by the search for integral human development. We recommend that the peoples of our three countries, Burundi, DR Congo and Rwanda, especially young people and women, do not give in to manipulation, hate speech and division,” the bishops implored.
According to Pax Christi, the gathering, which served as a platform for in-depth discussions on the situation prevailing in the Great Lakes region was facilitated by the Regional Technical Advisor for Peacebuilding at the Catholic Relief Services (CRS) Jean Baptiste Talla and featured the participation of a representative from the Vatican Dicastery for Promotion of Integral Human Development, along with the Pax Christi Regional Coordinator, Dieudonné Serukabuza, and Marie Dennis, Senior Program Director at the Catholic Nonviolence Initiative.
Founded in 1945, Pax Christi International is a Catholic peace movement with 120 member organizations that promotes peace, respect for human rights, justice and reconciliation in the world.