During his peace mission to Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the URI-Africa Regional Director Amb. Mussie Hailu met with the Leaders of All Congo Interfaith Platform (ACIP) a URI’s Cooperative Circle (CC) and Commission for Integrity and Electoral Mediation on March 14th 2018 at the Headquarter of the Catholic Conference of Bishops (CENCO) in Kinshasa.
The agenda of the meeting was to inform ACIP on the structures of URI at different sub-regions, the development of the work of URI in Africa and the rest of the world and to enhance more the working partnership of ACIP with URI to promote a culture of peace, inter-religious harmony and peaceful election, to resolve the problem of the illicit small arms and to address the problem of gender-based violence and hate speech in DRC. The purpose of the visit was also to learn more about the work of ACIP at national level, to reflect together on how best URI could enhance the work of ACIP and foster more working participation for ACIP in the region and beyond through the network URI-Africa established over the years and to further encourage and motivate ACIP’s great work.
The meeting was chaired by Reverend Dr. Milenge Mwenelwata, assuming the vice-presidency of ACIP, the President of ACIP being abroad. The participants of the meeting were:
- Rev. Dr. Milenge Mwenelwata, 2nd National Vice-President of ECC and Legal Representative 2nd Substitute.
- Father Georges Kalenga, 2nd Deputy Secretary General of CENCO
- Cheikh Ali Myini M'KU, Legal Representative of COMICO (Islamic Community)
- Lieutenant Colonel Ntembi, Secretary General of the Salvation Army
- Rev. Elebe Kapalay, Legal Representative 1st Substitute of the Kimbanguist Church and President of CIME (Commission for Integrity and Electoral Mediation)
- Imam Mussa Rachid, The Focal Point of Faiths Leaders and Coordinator of CIME
- Monsignor Moses Tshibumbu, Revival Church of Congo (ERC)
- Rev. Kanza Daniel, Independent Church of Congo (EIC)
- Richie Lontulungu, Communication Officer ACIP
Reverend Dr. Milenge Mwenelwata, who chaired the meeting, told participants that this was not the first time Amb. Mussie Hailu had met with the DRC's Platform of Religious Leaders. The first meeting dates back to April 2017 when he accompanied a joint peace mission to Kinshasa regarding the election issue in which time he officially introduced URI to the religious leaders and to all relevant stakeholders in the country, including the Prime Minster of DRC, the opposition party and head of electoral commission in DRC. Following the visit and meeting with the regional director of URI-Africa, ACIP became a member of URI.
From the outset, Amb. Mussie Hailu thanked the religious leaders in DRC for their tireless effort in promoting a culture of peace in DRC and confirmed to them that URI is fully with them in their peacebuilding effort. He also expresses the greetings of peace in the name of URI global family, URI-Africa and on behalf of Mrs. Despina Namwembe, URI sub-regional coordinator in the Great Lakes region.
The Regional Director of URI-Africa also praised the remarkable work being done by the Platform, whose work the URI continues to receive with high appreciation through Mr. Richie Lontulungu. He encouraged them to continue with the same pace and to pursue joint efforts, regardless of the hard working conditions. The URI had followed, he said, with great interest and appreciation the recent travel made by religious leaders of ACIP to Accra to learn about Ghanaian experiences in the preventing, managing and resolving electoral conflicts.
In his presentation on the URI and its scope of action in Africa, Amb. Mussie Hailu said that URI works to strengthen social cohesion and harmony among peoples of different religions, cultures and ethnicities for peaceful coexistence and harmony to prevail and to address the issue of violent extremism, hate speech and radicalization and to upholding human dignity through the teaching of the Golden Rule and promoting universal declaration of human right. URI is also actively working in Africa in facilitating interreligious and intercultural constrictive dialogue along with other partner organizations.
The Regional Director of URI-Africa also shared that URI is a bridge-building interfaith organization. URI-Africa signed an agreement with the African Union and other organizations in the region and is currently working diligently at the African Union in enhancing and fostering working partnerships between policymakers and its grassroots interfaith member organizations for the voice of the voiceless to be heard and to lay the platform for active participation for faith-based, religious and traditional leaders on issues relevant to the public at large. He also informed the participants about the establishment of the African Union Interfaith Dialogue Forum which URI-Africa strongly supports.
He also shared in detail the upcoming plan of URI in Africa and invited the CC in DRC to work actively in close partnership with the sub-regional office of URI in the Great Lakes region and the rest of Africa. He also kindly asked them to work in addressing the issue of small arms and light weapons in DRC, which is a big challenge for peace and security.
In his presentation on the work of URI in Africa, the Regional Director also said that in order to achieve its ultimate goal of creating harmony between people of different religions and cultures, URI promotes the teaching of the Golden Rule which says, “Treat others the way you want to be treated” as a guiding principle of shared common value and ethics. With this in mind, he called the ACIP to organize the celebration of Golden Rule Day on April 5 to promote mutual respect, human dignity and peaceful co-existence in the Congo.
He kindly appealed to the religious leaders in DRC to promote the Golden Rule in Churches, Parishes, Mosques and Temples. He also appealed them to advocate for Golden Rule Day to be proclaimed by the Congolese Parliament and peace education to be introduced in school curricula in DRC as part of preventive outreach. Furthermore, he called for the establishment of a national chapter of the Golden Rule in DRC. The participants agree to act accordingly on the call of URI-Africa.
Imam Moussa Rachid said the issue of small arms and light weapons is a concern that needs to be addressed as part of ACIP peace work as it plunges DRC into insecurity. Reverend Milenge said that the religious leaders in DRC have twice signed, in the past, a petition calling on the issue of small arms to be definitively addressed and will enhance more the effort to address the issue at the national level along with concerned stakeholders.
During the meeting, both the President and Coordinator of Commission for Integrity and Electoral Mediation (CIME) shared about the work of CIME and appreciate the work of URI. CIME was set up by the faith leaders to mediate between stakeholders ensuring a peaceful electoral process. It works to reconcile the opposing views of political and social leaders to prevent escalation of tensions. Its main purpose is to prevent, manage and resolve electoral disputes.
In order to capitalize experiences from Ghana and try to apply some of the lessons learned in the DRC special in the establishment of the National Peace Council, Reverend Elebe Kapalay informed the participants of the meeting that CIME is organizing a workshop in Shaumba on Saturday, March 17. The workshop will be attended by several dignitaries among which politicians, civil society actors, and even diplomats. One of the objectives pursued in the workshop is to be able to obtain recommendations and contributions from the participants.
The participants were very happy and inspired with the work of URI and with the visit of the regional Director of URI-Africa to ACIP, as it gave them a sense of being a URI family member and a very good insight on the structure of URI in Africa and the overview on the work of URI and development in Africa and in the rest of the world. It also gave them a good understanding as URI CCs on the different possibilities URI could accord them to foster partnership within URI and outside of URI network as an international interfaith bridge-building organization with Consultative Status at the United Nations Economic and Social Council.
Communication Officer ACIP