The Association of Episcopal Conferences of Central Africa (ACEAC), consisting of Catholic Bishops from Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), and Rwanda, met in Rome (Italy) for a focused pastoral exchange on the urgent issue of peace in their region that is daily plagued by violent conflicts. The three-day gathering (Oct 16-18, 2023) was also intended as a “pilgrimage” taking place at the same time as the Synod on Synodality.
The meeting, facilitated by Jean Baptiste Talla (Catholic Relief Services), featured the participation of a representative from the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, along with our Africa Regional Coordinator, Dieudonné Serukabuza, and Marie Dennis, Senior Program Director for our Catholic Nonviolence Initiative.
The gathering served as a platform for in-depth discussions on the situation prevailing in the Great Lakes region. Participants revisited the rich history of ACEAC and conducted a thorough analysis of its strengths and weaknesses.
A crucial aspect of the discussions included a deep dive into the current war dynamics in the DRC. The participants collectively formulated objectives and identified priority initiatives to be undertaken in the short, medium, and long term.
In a statement issued at the end of the meeting, the members of ACEAC acknowledged the pressing security issues facing their region and reaffirmed their commitment to pursuing “alternative paths” to achieve lasting peace within their region.
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 peoples 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. We invite them 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.
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 peoples 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.
We are aware 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.
Read the full statement (in French) here.