The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby and Cardinal Vincent Nichols met with delegates from the Peace in the Great Lakes campaign at Lambeth Palace last Thursday.
The campaign brings together Roman Catholic and Anglican leaders from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Burundi and Rwanda to encourage a grass-roots movement for peace in the Great Lakes region, which for decades has been affected by political instability and armed conflicts, porous borders and humanitarian crisis, along with tensions over natural resources.
The initiative, which was formally launched in December 2013, reaches out to those most affected by the conflict and longing for peace, including women and girls who have experienced trauma and sexual violence.
During the meeting, which began with Morning Prayer in Lambeth Palace chapel, the delegation emphasised the need to foster a climate of confidence and cooperation in the region, stressing the importance of governments respecting the international accords and conventions they had signed.
Disarming armed groups was essential, they said, adding that building peace in the region was closely connected with transparent and effective use of natural resources for the common good.
The upcoming global summit on Preventing Sexual Violence, which will include reflection on the role of faith leaders in building peace and security, was also discussed.
One delegate said: “This campaign, which brings together Catholics, Anglicans and other faith leaders, is a very important step and an example on building peace. We need assistance to accompany this process. The process must involve sharing stories, listening to the suffering of others moves people to pity and compassion. The Church seeks a justice which reconciles and builds peace.”
Archbishop Justin commended the campaign’s vision to work for peace and reconciliation, saying he hoped other partners – such as CAFOD and Christian Aid – will continue to lend their support.
“This initiative is inspirational in bringing together different denominations and in working together across the region of the Great Lakes region to build peace,” he added.
Cardinal Vincent said: “It is important we learn more in this country of your work together – to hear of your joint work of reconciliation and the healing of memories and hearts.”
The delegation, which is visiting the UK and Ireland, included: Bishop Augustin Mvunabandi and Bishop Kambanda Antoine from Rwanda: Consolate Baranyizigiye from Burundi; and Bishop Fridolin Besungu Ambongo, Denise Mbuilu Malueki and Father Leonard Santedi from DRC.