Finn Church Aid appointed to develop religious leaders’ mediation work

Finn Church Aid has been appointed to the role of secretariat for the developing phase of a worldwide religious leaders’ peace mediation network. The appointment was agreed on in an international religious and traditional leaders’ coordination meeting on mediation that took place on January 15th to 16th in Helsinki.

The meeting was organized by Finn Church Aid in collaboration with the UN Mediation Support Unit, (MSU), the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, (OIC) and Religions for Peace (RfP), and was funded by Finnish Foreign Ministry. 22.1.2013

The Helsinki meeting was organized following UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s report published on June 24th, and the UN peace mediation guidelines derived from the former. According to the report, the role of religious leaders in peace mediation is significant, but underutilized at the moment.

“Religion is a factor in over 80 per cent of the world’s conflicts. This must be taken into consideration, when seeking solutions. Religious and traditional leaders can build bridges between the relevant parties, and increase the will to reconcile,” summarizes Antti Pentikäinen, Director of Finn Church Aid.

Finn Church Aid has worked for several years in promoting the right to peace. A study conducted in 2007 regarding the role of religious and traditional leaders in peace building in Somalia created the basis for both local and global conflict resolution work.

According to the study, in fragile states such as Somalia, traditional and religious networks have a great importance in finding a sustainable solution to the conflict. Although institutions may be weak in conflict zones, they still exist and citizens value them.

Local leaders in Somalia have attained good results in solving conflicts that have in some cases lasted for years. Finn Church Aid has had a key role in building bridges between the UN, the Somali government and traditional leaders in the country. FCA is a member of the ACT Alliance, one of the largest aid agency networks in the world.

Peace work carried out by Finn Church Aid and its partners focuses on peace building, and in particular involving religious and traditional leaders and women in peace mediation. Conflict prevention, long-term development cooperation in order to support the premises for peace, and preparing for risks also form the core of FCA’s actions.