From the Worldwide Faith News archives

Africa's Religious Leaders Affirm Inter-Faith Action Can

From "Frank Imhoff" <>
Date Wed, 27 Apr 2005 00:19:15 -0500

Africa's Religious Leaders Affirm Inter-Faith Action Can Prevent,
Reduce Conflict
Second IFAPA Summit Adopts Kopanong Manifesto

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa/GENEVA, 26 April 2005 (LWI) *
Representatives of Africa's main faith communities have re-iterated
the importance of continuing inter-faith engagement in seeking to
resolve Africa's problems.

In a unanimous show of solidarity and mutual acceptance at the end of
the Second Inter-Faith Action for Peace in Africa (IFAPA) Summit held
April 21-25, near Johannesburg, the leaders adopted the "Kopanong
Manifesto" in which they recommended "a truly spiritual approach"
in addressing Africa's problems including conflict. Religion, they
noted, could not be separated from African society. Delegates to the
meeting represented the African Traditional Religion, the Baha'i,
Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism and Rastafari faiths.

During presentations and open hearings at the summit and its "Mothers
and Daughters" pre-summit, April 18-20, the religious leaders focused
on a number of conflict situations and peace building mechanisms in the
West African region, Sudan and Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
Affirming IFAPA's guiding principles namely political independence,
transparency, and neutrality toward religious dogmas and systems, the
summit participants expressed their commitment to influence the gradual
process of realizing lasting peace within the diverse African societies
and nations.

The religious representatives drawn from over 30 countries across
Africa said they could significantly contribute to a durable peace by
relying on enlightened religious teachings as a unifying force in
society; and encouraging their respective governments to adopt
"all-inclusive peace initiatives." They also vowed to
continuously highlight the need to narrow the economic gap between
"the extremely rich and abjectly poor," and to uphold the
"paramount importance" of gender equality and women's
empowerment in peace building. Equally important, they said, was their
recognition of the great influence of education for "peace and
harmony, and equipping our children with moral values in addition to

Summit convenor, LWF General Secretary, Rev. Dr Ishmael Noko described
the gathering of religious leaders as a great success, noting that
confidence and trust had emerged between the representatives of diverse
faiths since this inter-faith initiative was begun. "We know each
other very well now," he said.

The IFAPA process was launched in October 2002 with the convening of a
first summit that brought together over 100 delegates. The Johannesburg
Inter-Faith Peace Declaration and Plan of Action adopted then, and the
follow-up work "have been an important contribution to the realization
of our shared vision of peace in Africa. It has given us a framework for
mutual encounter and cooperation in our inter-faith efforts for peace in
Africa - across national as well as religious boundaries," the over
240 delegates at this year's summit stated in the "Kopanong

In the statement adopted at the Kopanong Hotel and Conference Center
where they met, the religious leaders mandated IFAPA to continue
inter-faith visits to conflict, post-conflict and potential conflict
areas, and to engage with and support grassroots inter-faith peace
initiatives in those areas. Of particular mention were such visits to
Liberia, the DRC, Mauritania and Southern Sudan, and an exchange visit
between land mine survivors from Uganda, Sudan and Ethiopia.

A highlight of the weeklong meeting was a reception in Pretoria hosted
by the Vice-Chancellor of the University of South Africa (UNISA), Prof
Barney N. Pityana, who invited IFAPA to consider possible partnerships
with UNISA, one of the continent's leading institutions of higher
learning. In the manifesto, summit delegates stressed IFAPA's need to
develop such linkages in order to enhance capacity for research and
analysis regarding conflict resolution and peace building.

IFAPA, they stated in the manifesto, should also seek to promote
networks and collaboration between national and regional inter-faith
initiatives, international inter-faith organizations as well as
governments and inter-governmental agencies that promote peace in the

The religious leaders acknowledged that the continental initiative had
earned credibility and trust as a network of religious communities and
leaders. They agreed to reconvene in three years' time to evaluate
progress and consider IFAPA's future path.

In a press conference following the adoption of the manifesto, Noko
further appealed to Africa's political leaders to encourage dialogue,
saying religious leaders were ready to play a complementary role with
governments. He emphasized the summit participants' concern that
continuing cycles of violence "were making Africa a continent with
many unhealed memories."

The LWF coordinated the summit that was hosted by the National
Religious Leaders Forum of South Africa. (725 words)

(The LWF is a global communion of Christian churches in the Lutheran
tradition. Founded in 1947 in Lund, Sweden, the LWF currently has 138
member churches in 77 countries all over the world, with a membership of
nearly 66 million Christians. The LWF acts on behalf of its member
churches in areas of common interest such as ecumenical and inter-faith
relations, theology, humanitarian assistance, human rights,
communication, and the various aspects of mission and development work.
Its secretariat is located in Geneva, Switzerland.)

[Lutheran World Information (LWI) is the LWF's information service.
Unless specifically noted, material presented does not represent
positions or opinions of the LWF or of its various units. Where the
dateline of an article contains the notation (LWI), the material may be
freely reproduced with acknowledgment.]

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