A new dynamic for faith-based peacebuilding in Central African Republic

FCA´s Right to Peace programme organised a preparation workshop for its dialogue initiative Religions and Peace in Central African Republic (CAR) on 16-18 December in Limbé, Cameroon. The activity was organized in close partnership with Cordaid and their local partners, namely the Network Faith Culture and Education and the CAR Interreligious Platform.

The event took place in Cameroon due to security concerns in Bangui leading the organising partners to consider a meeting venue outside of the country. The fact that participants of the three main faiths in CAR – Christian Catholic, Protestant, and Islam- accepted the invitation despite high tensions in Bangui was of symbolic significance. Indeed, electoral violence had taken place days before the workshop and Pope Francis had just visited CAR to advocate for peace and reconciliation in the country.

The interfaith workshop gathered 35 participants including religious actors, members of faith-based organisations and civil society, as well as members of the media. Together, participants reflected on the context in CAR and lessons learned from past interfaith initiatives. They discussed ways to strengthen religious practices with action-oriented peace building initiatives in CAR. Resource persons from Cameroon were invited to participate and exchange with central African participants on best practices in faith-based peacebuilding.

The group work undertaken by priests, imams, and pastors in Limbé showed that peaceful coexistence is possible in CAR and that much more needs to be done to promote tolerance and respect for diversity in CARs society through faith-based networks. Workshop discussions emphasized the need to develop a shared methodological approach diapraxis for an inclusive and action-oriented dialogue and to build capacity of partner organisations. Participants acknowledged the added value of engaging stakeholders in a regional framework and continuing exchanging best practices with religious experts in Cameroon.

The dialogue initiative is planned to kick off in Bangui early next year with a series of consultations and round tables focusing on increasing cohesion inside faith-based groups. The dialogue initiative aims to better connect the Interreligious Platform with grassroots level, increase access to vulnerable groups, and develop, in association with Platform experts, knowledge and content on faith-based peacebuilding.

Christian and Muslim Religious leaders agreed at the workshop to pray for peace together on Christmas Eve – 24 December – which this year coincide with birth of Prophet Muhammad.

There is hope that the dialogue initiative born in Limbé will contribute to bring peace to CAR in 2016.