Communique from Rwanda and Burundi

The international Anglican Peace and Justice Network (APJN), has issued a communiqué from its recently concluded triennial meeting in Kigali, Rwanda and Bujumbura, Burundi according to the Anglican Communion News Service. Brian Grieves attended for The Episcopal Church.

Participants included representatives from 17 provinces (list below) of the Anglican Communion. The meeting focused on conflict transformation and exploring the role of violence in societies throughout the world.

Bishop Pie Ntukamazina of the Diocese of Bujumbura, a leader of its
steering committee, hosted the APJN on behalf of the Anglican Provinces
of Rwanda and Burundi.

The meeting began with a welcome address in Kigali by Archbishop Emmanuel Kolini, primate of the Anglican Church in Rwanda.

APJN's convener, Dr. Jenny Te Paa of Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia, guided participants through the agenda.

The communiqué says that the Network "sees the critical work for justice and peace in all areas of conflict and violence mentioned in this communiqué and elsewhere as central to the mission of the Church to reconcile all things to Christ."

A primary recommendation noted "our firm conviction that the Anglican Communion increase its presence in the regions and countries in conflict, and to be in solidarity with the affected local Anglican provinces and jurisdictions."

The complete text of the communiqué follows:

Anglican Peace and Justice Network Triennial Meeting Rwanda and Burundi

25 September - 3 October 2007

Communiqué

Under the inspired leadership of the Right Reverend Pie Ntukamazina, Bishop of Bujumbura, Burundi, we, the members of the Anglican Peace and Justice Network, representing 17 provinces of the Anglican Communion, were hosted by the Anglican Provinces of Rwanda and Burundi to see and to listen from the 25 September -- 3 October 2007. Bishop Pie has been a leader of the Network since 1994 who had championed a meeting of the Network in the Great Lakes area of Africa.

The meeting began with a welcome address in Kigali by Archbishop Emmanuel Kolini, primate of the Anglican Church in Rwanda. The Archbishop told the APJN members that their gathering "is a sacramental moment," and noted the hope their gathering brings to the Rwandan people in contrast to the "Rwanda of 1994, a time when the world abandoned us."

From April-July of that year more than a million Rwandans were slaughtered in what is acknowledged by the international community as genocide.

Our members were deeply sobered by a visit to the Rwandan genocide museum, and were deeply impressed by the careful and often vivid recounting of the root causes of the conflict, which include its colonial past and the role of the Churches. The museum delivers a clear message that this event, and others like it which are also depicted at
the museum (including the Holocaust, Armenian, Balkan and Namibian genocides in the 20th century) should never be repeated. The museum also depicts the work of reconciliation being done as part of the rebuilding of the nation and offers a hopeful glimpse of the future.

Our group was also visibly shaken by a visit to a Church to see a site where 5,000 people were slaughtered after taking refuge. The site now serves as a sober memorial to the victims of the genocide. Sudan representative Bishop Micah Dawidi prayed for the victims and their families. Indeed, the entire meeting was enveloped in a spirit of prayer and reverence for the sanctity of life.

In a joint meeting with a Great Lakes delegation of the International Anglican Women's Network, APJN met with two women survivors from Rwanda who told disturbing and moving accounts of their ordeal, including one woman who was hacked by a machete and left for dead. When asked if she forgives those who committed these acts, she replied "The Bible calls us to forgive."

The Church is participating in the hard work of repentance, forgiveness and reconciliation and APJN hopes its visit serves as a measure of solidarity and support for the province and country of Rwanda. We were encouraged to see signs of rebirth in the country among the people, especially in the areas of education and reconciliation and in environmental policy. As a further sign of hope, it was observed that nearly 50% of the parliament is made up of women.

After the Rwanda visit, members of the Network spent six nights in Bujumbura, Burundi under the pastoral care of host Bishop Pie Ntukamazina in a country racked by years of civil strife and conflict. He led the group to a memorial site located on the grounds of a Roman Catholic seminary in the city of Buta. The memorial is dedicated to 40 seminarians and workers who were slaughtered by rebels. The rebels had demanded that the seminarians separate themselves along ethnic lines so that one group would be killed and the other spared. The young men were defiant and refused to be divided, making a courageous witness that they would rather die than be separated. The memorial serves as a sign of hope and victory over evil, to remind the Church and the whole of society that there exists the possibility for people to stand together as one family in God our creator.

As in Rwanda, two other women survivors in Burundi generously shared their pain and suffering with members of the Network. While their near death experiences may be over, they and thousands of other women continue to live in difficult situations of poverty, lack of housing, lack of means to support their children and, for many, the reality of having to live with HIV and AIDS as a result of infection from sexual abusers.

Members of the network were also made aware of the impact of violence and conflict on the extreme conditions, of poverty, HIV and AIDS, malaria, environmental degradation and the abuse of women and children and the resultant the plight of internally displaced people amidst a society traumatized by genocide and conflict in both Rwanda and Burundi, and neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo. APJN supports healing through processes of truth telling, repentance and restorative justice. The Anglican Church has a huge and important role to play in these processes of reconciliation.

In many situations, including Burundi, the Church has the difficult and sometimes dangerous task of speaking out against unjust political conditions, where political parties are divided because of personal interest, where violence continues due to the unchecked spread of armaments and where agreements between rebel groups and governments are not being honored. It is therefore even more necessary that a global
church lends all its support with the local church to ensure that the world wide Anglican communion is seen to be a prophetic voice in society.

The Anglican Communion as a worldwide church of over 77 million people must increase its voice and its resources and advocate on behalf of those who are seemingly powerless, but most affected by these harsh conditions. We call on the Communion to preach the message of reconciliation by action and to assist in the facilitation of dialogue in situations of need as is happening in some areas. The Network will undertake as one of its projects to identify resources for conflict transformation that can be utilized in provinces and churches in the important work of reconciliation.

The Network encourages programmes in Burundi that seek to support positive post conflict reconciliation, rebuilding and social development such as government programmes that have begun to provide social security and services for primary education and medical care for pregnant woman and children under 5 years. It thankfully acknowledges that in each of the countries where conflict has destroyed communities, the Church is actively engaged in community development programmes that address issues of human development through food security, education, the creation of sustainable livelihoods, health care and many other programmes, and we
encourage the Anglican Communion to urge the international Anglican development agencies to support the local churches with additional resources to enhance all social development programmes being implemented by the Church.

This meeting originally planned to include a visit to Goma in the Democratic Republic of Congo but at the last minute the Network was advised that it may be too dangerous to travel to Goma from Kigali by road and therefore this component of the visit was cancelled. However, the meeting was fortunate to have one member from the DRC, Bishop Bahati Bali Busane, who made a presentation about the situation there, especially as the conflict affects women and children.

Bishop Micah of Sudan outlined the background to the war in Sudan between north and south, its recent resolution, and the continuing conflict and humanitarian disaster that unfolds in Darfur. The APJN deplores the violence, racism, and inter-religious conflict that continue, especially in Darfur. On the north -- south conflict, we ask that the African Union and United Nations be more assertive in seeking a commitment from the Khartoum government to the implementation of the peace accord without further delay. We also learned that Moslems and Christians of southern Sudan once coexisted in relative harmony. We call on Anglicans who are in dialogue with Muslim leaders around the world to consider with them how best the inter-religious dimensions of the conflict in Sudan can be reduced. We applaud and affirm the local church's efforts to bring warring parties together and provide training
in conflict resolution skills and call on the Anglican Communion to support this effort.

In Uganda, there is hope that a 21 year conflict in the north appears to be coming to an end. We are encouraged by the ongoing peace process hosted by the government of southern Sudan. We note that bishops from the north struggled for a long time in isolation -- risking their lives to meet with rebel groups and even sleeping on the streets with abandoned children. When 15 bishops from the south crossed over to the
northern conflict zone to see the effects of war first hand and pray alongside their brothers and sisters, they created the possibility for the whole country and church to take full ownership of their role in conflict resolution.

We heard reports of the further deterioration of the tragic situation in Zimbabwe, once the breadbasket of central Africa and now reduced to begging from neighbouring countries for its most basic needs. We acknowledged that this pathetic situation has a twofold cause: (1) political mismanagement of the country, the blocking of any reform and the suppression of voices of opposition and, (2) the failure of the United States and United Kingdom to realize the commitments they made in the Lancaster Agreement of 1978 to assist in redistribution of land.

Poignant accounts of the situation in Panama, DRC and the Philippines reminded us of the complicity of the USA and other countries in perpetrating and perpetuating acts of violence and social and economic destruction. In the Great Lakes the world turned its back on the killing of unprecedented ferocity which might have been prevented. This underlines the importance of strengthening the prophetic mission of the church to hold political powers to account for their actions.

In hearing many reports of horrific acts of violence by gunmen and armed militias, we were led to ask who benefits from the sale of small arms, and reminded of the contribution to all conflicts made by the makers and sellers of arms.

The story of the Anglican Church of Canada's effort to seek healing and truth with Aboriginal peoples reminded us that reconciliation is not only a project in places of visible conflict, but is also called for where ancient divisions have not been addressed.

In addition to the conflict situations mentioned, the meeting also heard concerns about the recent violence in Myanmar and calls for prayers for the people of that tortured land. The Network continues to support a vigorous and urgent peace process in Israel/Palestine as a matter of the highest priority. It further expresses its ongoing concerns for the conflicts in Iraq, Sri Lanka and Pakistan.

The Network also expresses support for an international Anglican peace conference after hearing a special report from Dr. Jeremiah Yang on the upcoming Anglican peace conference to be held in Seoul, Korea November 14-21. The theme of the conference will focus on reconciliation and reunification of the Korean peninsula. The conference is being organized and hosted by the Anglican Church of Korea. APJN will send delegates and participate in presentations at the conference. The Network met in Seoul in 1998 and has been a long time advocate for Korean reunification.

A part of the deliberations included a presentation by Canon Delene Mark from the TEAM conference held in March, 2007, in Boksburg, South Africa, which drew 400 participants, representing over 30 provinces and extra provincial churches from around the Anglican Communion on the subject of HIV and AIDS and poverty eradication, especially through the Millennium Development Goals. The discussion focused on the recommendations of the conference, specifically recommendation number 9 on strengthening peace and justice initiatives in areas of conflict and human displacement. APJN sees its meeting as advancing the agenda of the TEAM conference.

Primary among our recommendations to be included in a forthcoming report is our firm conviction that the Anglican Communion increase its presence in the regions and countries in conflict, and to be in solidarity with the affected local Anglican provinces and jurisdictions. We particularly call for increased solidarity with the Anglican provinces in the Great Lakes region. While this solidarity should include a ministry of
presence, we encourage the members of the Anglican Communion to strive to partner with the Anglican provinces and dioceses in the Great Lakes region, as well as with other provinces witnessing in the midst of civil strife and war to support all current efforts by those partners seeking to build peace and resolve conflict in their societies. One member posed the question: How many resources is the Communion willing to provide to these sister and brother members of the Communion caught up in seemingly endless cycles of violence and its resulting suffering, displacement and
poverty?

APJN sees the critical work for justice and peace in all areas of conflict and violence mentioned in this communiqué and elsewhere as central to the mission of the Church to reconcile all things to Christ.

Submitted by the Provinces represented at the APJN gathering: Aotearoa, New Zealand & Polynesia (Jenny Te Paa), Burundi (Pie Ntukamazina), Canada (Cynthia Patterson and Maylanne Maybee), Central Africa (Eston Pembamoyo), Central America (Roberto Bruneau), The Democratic Republic of Congo (Sylvestre Bahati Bali Busane), England (Simon Keyes), Japan (Samuel Koshiishi), Korea (Jeremiah Yang), Church of North India (Prem Masih), Philippines (Esteban Sabawil), Rwanda (Emmanuel Gatera), Scotland (Alison Simpson), Southern Africa (Delene Mark), Sudan (Micah Dawidi), Uganda (Jessica Nalwoga), and the U.S.-based Episcopal Church (Brian Grieves). Two papers were also submitted from Pakistan (Alexander Malik) and Jerusalem (Naim Ateek) and regrets were sent at the last moment from Sri Lanka (Duleep de Chickera) and Brazil (Luiz Prado).

Comments (1)

Ah! So refreshing! Anglicans doing what Anglicans do best: mission in Communion in the name of Jesus!

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