African Council of Religious Leaders on Peace-Building

Resources »Eapr »East Asian Pastoral Review 2009 »Volume 46 2009 Number 2 »African Council Of Religious Leaders On Peace Building

By Aquiline Tarimo, SJ

Aquiline TARIMO, SJ is a Jesuit from Kilimanjaro, Tanzania. For many years, he has been a a Professor of Religion and Human Rights at the Institute of Peace Studies and International Relations at Hekima College, which is a Constituent College of the Catholic University of Eastern Africa.


Abstract

The following evaluation is intended to serve as a catalyst for assembly participants and members of the religions for peace network to identify issues of common concern, resources, and suggestions for collaborative action at the grassroots level. This evaluation, from the African perspective, does not attempt to define the field of peace-building; rather, it provides a survey of key methodologies of peace-building and the role of religious communities to advance these efforts.

Introduction

The African Council of Religious Leaders–Religions for Peace (ACRL-Religions for Peace) is the foremost Pan-African multi-religious body dedicated to promoting peace and advancing human dignity. It is led by senior religious leaders drawn from main religious traditions of all parts of the continent. The ACRL-Religions for Peace was inaugurated in June 2003 in Abuja, Nigeria. Senior religious leaders from the continent attended the inauguration, which was presided over by H. E. Chief Olusegun Obansanjo, then President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. The idea to form a pan-African inter-faith organization was conceived in June 2002 when over 100 senior religious leaders met in Nairobi, Kenya. The following year, 2003, ACRL-Religions for Peace held its First General Assembly where its inauguration took place.

The mission of the ACRL-Religions for Peace is to advance multi-religious dialogue and cooperation in support of peace and sustainable development. The objective of the Council includes transforming conflict and advancing sustainable development, promoting peaceful co-existence and respect of religious diversity, facilitating and promoting mediation and conflict resolution within and outside faith communities, promoting inter-faith relations through dialogue and shared methodologies and programs, and facilitating cooperation among African inter-religious councils in responding to Pan-African challenges. Other objectives include action within African states in times of crisis and promotion of human rights, justice and the rule of law.

The Council is led by senior religious leaders from the Pan-African religious institutions including All Africa Conference of Churches (AACC), Symposium of Episcopal Conferences for Africa and Madagascar (SECAM), World Union of Catholic Women’s Organization (WUCWO), Senior Muslim Representatives from Africa, Organization of African Instituted Churches (OAIC), Hindu Council of Africa, African Women of Faith Network (AWFN), Indigenous Religions of Africa (IRA), and Religions for Peace International (RPI).

The Second General Assembly of ACRL–Religions for Peace took place in Tripoli, Libya from the 2nd to the 5th of December, 2008 and the theme was "Confronting Violence and Advancing Shared Security: Religions in Africa Working Together." The plenary sessions and group discussions addressed key issues related to the Assembly theme and sub-themes that inspired as well as build energy and commitment for action among Assembly participants. The outcome strengthened cooperation among religious communities intended to transform conflict, build peace and advance sustainable development. The Assembly Declaration that was issued forged a deeper moral consensus among African religious leaders to confront violence and advance a constructive vision of shared security which can set ACRL-Religions for Peace priorities for the next five years. The participants of the Assembly included the Executive Board of ACRL-Religions for Peace, the Executive Committee of the World Council, the Global Network of Religious Women’s Organizations, Fraternal Delegates and other partners of ACRL-Religions for Peace.

The movement of peace-building has become a focus of international attention since UN Secretary General Boutros-Boutros Ghali issued his Agenda for Peace in 1992. The Agenda for Peace suggestions go beyond traditional crisis interventions by rebuilding institutions and infrastructures of nations torn apart by civil wars and building bonds of mutual benefit among nations formerly at war. Peace-building, according to the Agenda for Peace, includes disarmament, building the institutional capacity of governments and non-governmental organizations, including religious communities, strengthening legal systems and governance structures, undertaking long-term education, advocacy, and action to promote lasting peace.

The experience of religious communities in the Religions for Peace network reveals the capacity of religious communities to serve as effective advocates for disarmament, fight the proliferation of weapons, play a central role in efforts to achieve justice and accountability for human rights violations, lead their communities promoting participatory governance, and to serve as peace educators.

The power of religious communities to collaborate closely with other institutions and associations as peace-builders was the main topic for discussion, reflection and action at the assembly of religion for peace. The Assembly focused on disarmament, transitional justice, formation of peace agents, and peace education for the youth. The selection of these topics did not intend to define the field of peace-building, but rather to highlight the challenges facing religious communities today. The Assembly, through its various commissions, explored ways religious communities can address the challenges of weapons proliferation, legacies of human rights abuse, and religious intolerance. Such a framework illuminated the roles of religious communities in peace-building, critical obstacles to peace, and the power of multi-religious cooperation to advance peace-building, which was intended to serve as a catalyst for assembly participants and other members of the Religions for Peace network to identify issues of common concern, necessary resources, and methodologies required for common action.

The aim of this presentation, from analytical and evaluative perspectives, is to highlight the procedures and issues of concern that emerged from the Assembly. Such horizon transcends a mere report of whatever happened at the Assembly.

Religious Communities and Peace-Building

Religious communities possess spiritual, moral, and other social ingredients required for peace-building. When properly mobilized and equipped, religious communities can serve as effective advocates for disarmament, fight the proliferation of weapons, play a central role in efforts to achieve justice and accountability for human rights violations, lead their communities promoting participatory governance as well as serve as peace educators.

The spiritual assets of religious communities are, in the eyes of their communities, their greatest assets. Spiritual assets defy an easy description, but typically, spiritualities point to what is most elemental within religious teachings regarding the meaning of human life. Faith communities offer a spiritual basis for disarmament advocacy, for religiously-based conceptions of justice, and for religious education for peace. Religious communities also have powerful moral assets that build upon and unfold the great strengths of their spiritualities. Religious leaders are uniquely positioned to use their moral stature and influence to advocate and to educate. Most religious traditions fundamentally ask their members to judge others by the same standard as they would judge themselves, providing a common ground to foster peace, justice and reconciliation and to establish consensus regarding common challenges.

Too often overlooked by the secular community, religious communities have enormous potential that can be used for peace-building. Religious communities’ mosques, churches, temples, and other social structures are located in virtually every village, district and city. These social organizations range from regularly and frequently convened assemblies designed for worship and reflection to those specifically dedicated to educational, health, humanitarian, or communication missions. Spanning this remarkable panoply of institutions is a network of communication and action. The scale of religious infrastructure varies from country to country, but in African countries it is by any measure the most developed, inter-connected, and locally-led social infrastructure in existence, reaching from the smallest village to the city and beyond. Taken collectively, religious social structures represent significant channels for communication and action that, when engaged and transformed, enable religious believers to function as powerful agents of change. Such a religious potential could be used on the ground to promote peace education. Existing religious infrastructure has also been tapped in concrete ways for peace-building, as when religious institutions act to disarm former combatants through peace education, and influencing policymaking procedures.

Religion and Disarmament

The challenge of disarmament measures are indeed security measures. Security at its core is the confidence of a community and its people that they are in the broadest sense safe, that public institutions work for the safety and well-being of all, and that when this safety is violated the community and its institutions are willing and capable of helping those affected to recover and return to a sense of wholeness and confidence in the future. The challenge of weapons proliferation and the urgent need for disarmament is as relevant today as it was in the midst of the Cold War. The use of small arms in criminal and political violence remains unabated, and it represents a threat to human security. It is paramount that definitions of human security include effective management and disarmament of the instruments of violence.

Small arms have rightly been referred to as weapons of mass destruction in every day life. They are the tools used by militia groups in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Somalia for killing innocent people in rural areas. Every minute a person is killed due to small arms, either directly by small arms, or indirectly in communities destroyed by violence. These killing fields range from gang warfare in large urban centers to the spreading chaos and violence in failed and failing states.

The program of disarmament calls for coordinated action at national, regional, and global levels to impose controls on small arms and to strengthen the capacity of governments to implement controls and address conditions that contribute to small arms abuse. Three principles have emerged as central to the effort of addressing the challenge of small arms, namely, governments must restrict and effectively regulate small arms, conform to the international standards on the production, use, and transfer of weapons, and the use of small arms by security forces must comply to the human rights standards.

Increasing financial support for small arms regulation, control, and collection efforts is fundamentally important. Post-conflict disarmament, demobilization and reintegration efforts require urgent funding. In addition, the reduction of demand for small arms must be linked with conflict transformation efforts in areas of political tension, and to the humanitarian and development agendas. Finally, it is important to explore in detail the destruction caused by small arms and scheduling of a formal review process to monitor the implementation of the United Nations program of action.

With regard to religious communities and disarmament, faith communities can play a key role advancing disarmament and addressing weapons proliferation. The disarmament agenda is stalled largely due to a spiritual poverty that has grown to accept the trade of arms as an unfortunate but necessary fact of life, and that accepts militarization of conflict as a realistic approach to problem-solving. But the cumulative experience of the current era and the timeless wisdom of faith communities tell us that human security, that is, the safety and well-being of people cannot be the fruit of efforts to perfect and accumulate the technologies of destruction. The insights and dialogue opportunities of diverse faith communities could become central to building a new consciousness regarding the spread of small weapons in Africa—not only the immeasurable destructive impact of their actual use, but also the moral and spiritual impact of their contemplated use.

Through advocacy and dialogue, religious communities and religious leaders can affect policy, build bridges of collaboration, and raise consciousness about the destruction caused by weapons. Faith communities can promote dialogue opportunities to bridge conflicting regional and ideological responses and by renewing the nuclear disarmament imperative through public advocacy. One example is the participation of religious communities and institutions in post-conflict disarmament, demobilization and reintegration efforts in Sierra Leone. In Sierra Leone and Mozambique religious communities were able to collect weapons from armed groups within their communities after reaching an agreement with public authorities to protect the identities of individuals who turned in arms. The moral authority and perceived neutrality of religious communities within their communities allowed them to perform a function that government officials could not. Learning from the two examples of Sierra Leone and Mozambique we can say that religious communities can be actively involved in advocacy against small arms at the local level. Religious leaders and communities need a variety of resources in order to become effective advocates against proliferation of small arms and related crimes. Such effort requires a multi-religious cooperation and localized initiative.

Religion and Democracy

In recent years, religions have played a significant role in the process of democracy. Their input has been witnessed in four key areas, namely, transitional justice, truth and reconciliation commissions, human rights, and justice and peace commissions.

(a) Transitional Justice: Transitional justice occurs in the context of a political transition, most commonly characterized by regime change from oppressive rule to democratic rule or by a transition from violence and armed conflict to peace and stability. In making these transitions, societies must often confront the painful legacy of the past in order to achieve a holistic sense of justice for all citizens, to establish civic trust, to reconcile people and communities, and to prevent future abuses. The transitional justice field tries to confront legacies of severe social trauma in a way that encompasses not just criminal justice, but also the model of restorative justice.

Criminal justice, which is often considered in the traditional Western conception of justice as indispensable, reflects a commitment to accountability through prosecutions and use of the courts. Transitional justice, at its core, recognizes that this singular notion of justice is not only impractical in transitional contexts, but also undesirable. Scarce resources, weak infrastructure, ineffective judiciaries, legal obstacles, and overwhelming caseloads are some of the more common practical impediments to criminal justice in transitional societies recovering from civil war and years of authoritarian rule. While recognizing these practical limitations, however, these should never be accepted as a reason for inaction, as criminal justice should always be sought to the degree possible. Transitional justice puts an emphasis on balancing competing objectives according to the mandates of international law, realistic and fair policy aims, and the limits and opportunities of the local environment.

As a field of peace-building, transitional justice also recognizes that no two transitional contexts are exactly alike, and therefore there can be no universal models for how to confront past human rights abuses. However, major approaches to transitional justice include the following: First, prosecutions both at local and national levels intended to address human rights abuses committed during the period of conflict. In this case we have localized courts known as gacaca in Rwanda. Second, truth-telling initiatives, including national and international truth commissions or other efforts that attempt to determine the exact nature of abuses. Third, other localized forms of reconciliation that seek rehabilitative and symbolic reparations focus on reforming public institutions.

In 2001, the Rwandan government began the process of setting up a decentralized participatory justice system, known as gacaca, rooted in community responsibility and localized dispute resolution. Intended to help address the backlog of over 150,000 cases from the 1994 genocide, gacaca courts began functioning in 2005 with the active collaboration of the Interfaith Commission for Reconciliation Rwanda, Rwanda’s main inter-religious organization and a partner of Religions for Peace.

Religious leaders can advance transitional justice initiatives by raising awareness within their communities about the rules and function of the International Criminal Court, advocating for best practices in national judicial processes and assisting victims and communities as they attempt reconciliation. Religious infrastructure can be employed for truth and reconciliation processes. Community-based processes, in particular, can be supported by the extensive existing social institutions of religious communities. Roles for religious communities and leaders advancing participatory governance include public advocacy within their communities.

(b) Truth and Reconciliation Commissions: The truth and reconciliation commissions in Ghana, South Africa, Sierra Leone, and elsewhere in Africa have produced significant impact. In the past several years, each of these countries has concluded a significant national truth commission. In some cases, local reconciliation processes were directly incorporated into the scheme of the commission. A number of commissions have made specific recommendations for prosecutions to follow the work of the commission, and provided case information that could serve as evidence in court. In Ghana, the number and type of abuses documented by the commission was a surprise to many, as some of abuses which were widespread but did not result in the loss of life had previously gone undocumented. In Sierra Leone, the commission struggled to balance its work with that of the "special court," a hybrid court aimed at prosecuting those most responsible for past abuses. The court includes both national and international judges, prosecutors, and staff in an ad hoc court structure.

The role of religious communities and multi-religious bodies includes advancing justice and reconciliation. The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda have shown how difficult such an international prosecutions policy can be, but it has also successfully documented the details behind key cases and convicted a number of important figures from those wars. The International Criminal Court established in 2002 has begun its first investigations in Uganda, Sudan, and the Democratic Republic of Congo, and has made its first indictments. Many hope that the existence of this court will have the effect of limiting serious violations in future conflicts.

Another concrete engagement related to the effort of peace-building includes transitional justice. Transitional justice is an emerging and rapidly growing field situated within the broader spheres of international human rights and post-conflict reconstruction. The concept refers to the development, analysis and implementation of a range of policies that address histories of massive human rights abuses as a society moves towards a more democratic, peaceful and just political culture.

(c) Human Rights Advocacy: The process of peace-building must also take into account the legacy of human rights abuse in Africa. Human rights abuse is an all too common feature of societies in conflict. Torture, extrajudicial executions, disappearances, war crimes, state-sponsored repression, discrimination based on gender difference, and other forms of human rights abuse carried out by both state and non-state actors constitute fundamental security threats for many people. Instances of gross human rights violations, such as genocide, efforts to destroy a group because of the religion, nationality, or ethnicity of its members, witnessed most recently in the horrors of Rwanda, Darfur, and DRC, can destroy the fabric of society for generations.

Impunity in the face of human rights abuse creates a fundamental obstacle to effective conflict transformation, reconciliation, and peace-building. There are numerous arguments for dealing with past human rights abuses, including a moral imperative to respond to the needs of victims, the need to establish a publicly recognized version of history so as to prevent its recurrence, and the legal obligations of international human rights and humanitarian law. All of these arguments rely to some extent on the premise that looking back enables a transitional society to move forward. Accountability for past human rights abuse is often a necessary condition for achieving a true and lasting peace.

Faith communities can play a central role in efforts geared to promote justice and accountability for human rights violations. The spiritual, moral, and social assets of religious communities and leaders can directly support transitional justice mechanisms and assist individual, intra-group, and inter-community reconciliation processes. All faith traditions can draw on their spiritualities to define a commitment to justice and human rights. The spiritual assets of religious communities include the capacity to foster healing and reconciliation in communities where grave human rights violations have taken place. Faith communities provide ways to express repentance and forgiveness. Religious communities can engage with transitional justice and human rights in ways that transcend punitive and retributive measures and lead to the transformation of mind and restoration of spiritual and dignity values.

The participation of religious leaders lends credibility and moral authority to transitional justice initiatives. In many cases, religious leaders hold influence and trust in communities where politicians have lost the trust of the people. Religious leaders in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Sierra Leone, for example, have played central roles in their national truth and reconciliation commissions.

(d) Justice and Peace Commissions: Justice and Peace commissions of both the Catholic Church and the National Council of Churches have been instrumental in highlighting the plight of the people of the Democratic Republic of Congo, calling for reconciliation among warring parties and establishing a forum for reconciliation. Furthermore, the Sun City, South Africa process which resulted in the formation of the current government of transition included religious leaders. A Pentecostal bishop, who led the civil society delegation in Sun City subsequently assumed the leadership of the DRC National Truth and Reconciliation Commission. The situation in DRC has also been referred to the International Criminal Court. In Sierra Leone, the National Inter-Religious Council (NIC) played a crucial role in the peace negotiations, and the chair of the Council was appointed to head the national Truth and Reconciliation Commission. The Commission relied upon religious communities and infrastructure to sustain its work.

Religious Communities and Peace Education

Religious communities are uniquely able to oppose religious extremism and intolerance through peace education. The educational task is an inner renewal of religious denominations themselves. The driving force for this renewal lies in the central experiences of each religion. It is essential for religious education to assume the task of familiarizing adolescents with their respective faiths as a system of responsibility. When people feel at home in their own faith and when they are familiar with the roots of their own religion and culture, they can provide the basis for a serious dialogue.

All religious education should be accompanied by a new way of encounter which respects people of other faiths and traditions. The youth should be prepared for a way of living together without the burden of barriers caused by prejudice, but rather in listening to and learning from one another, which opens up new horizons to all sides. This way of overcoming prejudice is an essential contribution to education for peace that can be made uniquely by religious communities. An educational curriculum promoting communication between different religions and cultures is being addressed through the resolution of inter-ethnic conflicts. A balanced formative curriculum today must be designed to promote mutual understanding and mutual respect between religions and ethnic groups. Students must be exposed to each other’s religion and culture.

Interfaith dialogue establishes trust only when dialogue partners perceive that they are not being forced into a dogmatic scenario which does not put emphasis on religious tolerance, mutual understanding, and the common good. This means that dialogue partners must try to learn about the various faiths from the other’s perspective and must search sensitively for an understanding of the religious traditions and writings of the partner. They must respect differences and try to understand the reasons for them. There are four initiatives that concentrate on peace education, namely, pastoral letters, localized media, inter-faith collaboration, and formation of the youth.

(a) Pastoral Letters: Leaders of faith communities of Eastern African countries such as Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Zambia, Malawi, and others come together when necessary issues arise. The pastoral statements about responsible leadership and good governance, in connection with parliamentary and presidential elections, prepare people to participate in the democratic process. The electorate are strongly cautioned and reminded by God’s conscience to elect leaders for suitable qualities which are founded in the value of honesty. We, the religious leaders, are supposed to recognize efforts needed in the promotion of democracy and therefore be keen and brave enough in mobilizing people to be just and have clean conscience. They went on to outline key issues to consider for responsible leadership and democratic development.

(b) Publication and Media: These tools of communication have strengthened advocacy, education for peace, conflict solution, and collaboration between religions, especially in rural areas and refugee camps, as witnessed in Western Tanzania. Almost all religions have installed local radio and television to facilitate communication and educate their followers on different issues of life. Initiatives geared toward peace education and peace advocacy spread the ideas about peace and non-violent conflict resolution by producing and dissemination of the materials of peace education, distributing books of peace education in schools and colleges, and designing radio and television programs intended to promote skills of dialogue.

(c) Inter-Religious Collaboration: Religious councils can play a central role as peace-builders when they are properly mobilized, equipped and networked. By fostering multi-religious cooperation, building inter-religious councils, and providing religious communities with the tools they need to become effective advocates, educators and participants, the Religions for Peace network can help religious communities become key actors for peace. Religious leaders need support to network at all levels to leverage their power as peace advocates. The formation of national inter-religious councils is a critical first step. Religious leaders and communities also need to network with other sectors of society. Religious leaders should seek to be "at the table" for key disarmament and transitional justice initiatives among governments and civil society.

An inter-religious council creates a forum and structure for religious leaders to interact and build trust. A key lesson from the work of Religions for Peace is that an inter-religious council is much more effective if it exists before a crisis develops. Inter-religious councils with a track-record of cooperation are able to mobilize and act in response to specific issues much faster than religious communities coming together for the first time. These councils can strengthen the participation and leadership of women of faith in inter-religious structures; ensure that their mandates include peace-building initiatives, promote collaboration and networking with societal actors, non-governmental organizations, and civil society, and offer their advice and cooperation with governmental and international peace-building efforts, including United Nations peacekeeping efforts as appropriate.

The Inter-Religious Council of Liberia (IRCL), for example, served as an official observer in the last presidential election, playing a critical awareness raising role among the public by facilitating civic education and voter sensitization nationwide in collaboration with civil society and international groups. The IRCL co-hosted an international interfaith delegation that secured the commitment of the presidential candidates to support key principles of human rights and the Constitution. The peaceful election of Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf as President of Liberia in November 2005 represents a positive new chapter for Liberia and key success for the IRCL. Religious associations and councils created to discuss religious education in public schools, foster dialogue and confidence-building activities that can create an atmosphere of mutual trust among religious communities.

(d) Formation of the Youth: The religious dimension of education is too often excluded or marginalized. Young people must be equipped to live together and taught to respect their fellow human beings, feel responsibility for all the living and inanimate world of creation, and be sensitive to hatred, violence and all developments that threaten life and community. Teaching may contribute to unwanted divisions among people and groups, sought to introduce a religious studies curricula for public schools. Eritrean religious leaders representing the country’s four main faith groups worked together to develop the curricula that were adopted for use nationally.

The extensive social networks and educational resources contained within our religious communities can be mobilized to promote peace education. Individual religious communities can review and revise guidelines, syllabuses, textbooks and other educational material, especially regarding their presentation of other religions and worldviews. Religious communities can encourage contact and cooperation among theologians and religious teachers of different faiths and improve the training of religious teachers and the clergy in the knowledge of other religions and world-views. In countries where world religions are not part of the syllabus, it is important to establish a basis for their incorporation into the curriculum, preferably as a separate subject. Working together, faith communities can design methodologies for teachers and students to put themselves empathetically into the place of the other in the attempt to understand matters that seem unfamiliar in the religion of the other, to deal with human frailty in each religion, and to deal with critical questions posed by outsiders.

In April 2005, the Youth Desk of the Inter-Religious Council of Liberia, for example, organized an inter-secondary school peace debate in that asked local youth to explore their role in constructing a culture of peace and religious tolerance. Students from five high schools exchanged ideas on the importance of civic engagement, the essence of inter-marriage, and the significance of religious tolerance in securing a peaceful Liberia. Identifying obstacles to the achievement of this goal, students cited poverty, illiteracy, a general lack of human rights awareness, and the mismanagement of national resources. Education, accountability, good governance, and respect for diverse cultures and the rule of law were proposed as remedies. Ultimately, the young participants committed themselves to become constructive agents for peace. Hundreds of students, religious leaders and community members attended the debate.

To be properly equipped as peace-builders, religious communities need information, resource, and trained agents. Religious communities need to educate their members on peace-building issues, such as arms control regimes and the International Criminal Court. For effective peace education, religious communities would benefit from research analyzing and reflecting upon structures of fanaticism and fundamentalism as well as in describing and evaluating strategies and methods of encounter, overcoming wrong prejudices and dialogue. Religious leaders need support to develop and strengthen their advocacy skills on peace-building issues.

Collaborative Action

This brief survey of peace-building through the lens of disarmament, transitional justice, participatory governance and peace education reveals a range of potential roles for religious communities. The suggestions for collaborative action identified below are based on the experience and achievements of religious communities throughout the Religions for Peace network, as well as other faith-based initiatives.

When the Assembly of Religions for Peace convened to address "Confronting Violence and Advancing Shared Security," the Assembly theme, participants, especially the commission of peace-building, sought to identify issues of common interest, necessary resources, and next steps for multi-religious action. In group discussions, participants were asked to reflect and propose appropriate actions to be taken by the African Council of Religious Leaders network over the next five years in order to facilitate implementation. Proposed actions included formation of curriculum for teaching peace education from the level of kindergarten to university level, raise funds for peace education, formation of effective institutions dedicated to peace education at the grassroots level, require governments to provide funds for peace education in the national budget, form credible agents of peace education, and fight religious intolerance, exclusion, and ethnocentrism.

In view of facilitating continuous reflection and discussion, the following questions were given: first, in what ways are your religious communities involved in advocacy against the proliferation of small arms, practical weapons collection, and disarmament efforts at the local and national levels? Second, what can religious leaders do in collaboration with other stakeholders to ensure success of weapons collection related to criminal violence and post-conflict disarmament, demobilization and reintegration efforts? Third, what can religious communities do to address the immediate needs of communities which may be asked to receive and welcome former combatants and militias? How might ex-combatants, especially child soldiers, be rehabilitated and reintegrated into local communities? How can they be assisted in adapting and embracing civilian life? Fourth, what role can religious communities play to recognize and support the participation of women in transitional justice initiatives and reconciliation process? How can transitional justice processes best respond to the needs of female victims? Fifth, what role do religious leaders and institutions have in advancing a fair and robust transitional justice policy and institutions in the context of reconciliation and social healing? How can multi-religious institutions help to educate their communities on peace? How can multi-religious institutions help to educate and inform their communities about reconciliation, justice, and peace? Sixth, what role can religious leaders and institutions have in promoting civil society and religious institutions that are accountable to the people and the common good?

Conclusion

The peace-building work of the Religions for Peace network is a collaborative work, a work that takes place where religious communities exist. It is a common strategy that proceeds with respect for the ways that religious communities can organize themselves for common action on local, national, regional and international levels. In cooperation, we surrender nothing of the deepest inner impulse of our beliefs and spiritualities, but we express our commitments in action to the common good. The effort of religious communities working together to build lasting peace demonstrates the largely untapped power of multi-religious cooperation.

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