Baha'i News -- Inter-Faith Summit Leaders in Procession, Prayers to Launch Peace Meeting

Inter-Faith Summit Leaders in Procession, Prayers to Launch Peace Meeting

African Church Information Service

October 21, 2002
Posted to the web October 21, 2002

Pauline Mumia

A historic one-week conference of religious leaders from different faith communities in Africa opened in South Africa on October 14 with a colourful procession by delegations from different faith communities drawn from all over the continent.

Representatives of African Traditional Religion, Baha'i faith , Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam and Judaism wearing their robes and symbols of authority, observed a silent procession at the Kopanong Hotel and Conference Center, Benoni, near Johannesburg, launching a first Inter-Faith Peace Summit in Africa.

The October 14-19 conference was organized by the Lutheran World Federation LWF and hosted by the National Religious Leaders' Forum of South Africa NRLFSA. Religious delegations are drawn from 21 African countries, and observers as well as resource persons from Finland, the United States and Sweden.

After the procession, prayers and scriptures/holy writings during plenary session were offered by representatives of the respective faith traditions.

They were Sheikh Abu Bakaar Conteh (Islam, Sierra Leone), Ntate Kgalushi Koka (African Traditional Religion, South Africa), Chief Rabbi Cyril Harris (Judaism, South Africa), Ms Lucretia Warren (Baha'i faith, Botswana), Roman Catholic Cardinal Wilfrid Napier (Christianity, South Afria), Methodist Prelate Sunday Mbang (Christianity, Nigeria) and Peter Just (Buddhism, South Africa).

In her address to the Summit participants, the Ambassador of Finland to South Africa, Ms Kirsti Lintonen stressed the important role played by churches and other religious communities in securing and building peace.

"People listen to you. You have an authority based on faith and word, ethics and morality".

She noted that Africa has been suffering from numerous armed conflicts but also recognized hopeful signs of efforts to forge peace. Lintonen mentioned the new African Union and New Partnership for Africa's Development, NEPAD, as a new commitment by Africa itself to lift its peoples from poverty and conflict.

"We are conscious of this summit being the first of its kind on the continent of Africa," said the Rt Rev Mvume Dandala, Presiding Bishop of the Methodist Church of Southern Africa and President of the South African Council of Churches.

"We receive you, not because we have much to offer, except the pain of violent conflict that we experienced in this country in the years 1993-1995, and the courage of simple men and women in standing up for peace," he added.

"The religious communities in South Africa stood together in the struggle against apartheid. In the dawn of democracy they stood together to help defeat violence in our beautiful land

"This first hand experience of pain and suffering, as well as the knowledge that when men and women stand in unity, violent conflict can be displaced by peace, has instilled in us a dream of our continent. A dream of peace and prosperity in Africa in our life time.

"We open our arms to receive this summit, in the hope that the seeds will be planted here, then monitored together by the sons and daughters of Africa, will be a blessing to the future of Africa and her children".

It was Dandala's hope that the summit would be a first step toward active inter-faith cooperation and co-existence in Africa that will play a crucial role in the elimination o violence and war on the continent. The Methodist bishop is an NRLFSA committee member.

©Copyright 2002, African Church Information Service (Africa)

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