By: Rev Dr Emmanuel Tembo,
Below is the published article in the ICN (Independent Catholic News) on Aug 25th, 2023
Since its inception in 2009 through the vision of Rev Dr Patrick Devine, Shalom Center for Conflict Resolution and Reconciliation (SCCRR) invests in peace, development, and reconciliation-oriented programmes at the grassroots level in Eastern Africa. The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) acceded to the East African Community (EAC) Treaty on 8 April 2022, becoming a full member on 11 July 2022.
The DRC membership of the EAC is timely for Shalom as it expands its interventions on conflict transformation skills and peacebuilding techniques to the conflict-ridden DRC. The good news is that by enabling this author to co-facilitate workshops in Goma, Shalom is making significant strides towards the integration of the DRC into its peace programmes.
Shalom held a series of workshops in Goma (DRC) from 1 – 17 June 2023. Its intervention is urgently needed in the DRC as it continues to be a very violent conflict prone region. The human cost of these years of conflict, escalating in the 1990s onwards, is expressed in millions of deaths, displacements, and abuses. We believe that Shalom can make a major conflict resolution and reconciliation impact.
The Goma series of workshops is an initiative that confronts and responds transformatively to the situation of conflict in North Kivu. For nearly three decades, the DRC has been grappling with an unprecedented humanitarian disaster whose causes are rooted in the political history of the Congo characterised by the struggle for power, citizenship, land, and numerous other forms of structural-institutional violence. Bad governance illustrated by corruption has become endemic in the institutions of the country. Moreover, the regional context is particularly unstable with the resurgence of the M23 rebellion.
This environment generates wars and inter-ethnic conflicts that shake the populations and plunge them into a generalised socio-economic crisis. From this conflict situation, a large number of deplorable attitudes, feelings, and acts are born, such as stigmatisation, demonisation, vengeful actions across ethnic groups, mutual distrust, inflammatory and offensive speeches, killing, rape, and other physical and psychological violence that have led thousands of people into exile while others live in IDPs camps.
The resilience of conflict memory is deeply ingrained in the culture of the people living in conflict environments; an issue that Shalom gives high priority to in its preventive diplomacy and transformative interventions.
In its peacebuilding mission, the Anglican Church of Congo, in partnership with the Catholic Diocese of Goma, the Baptist Community in Central Africa, and the Evangelical Lutheran Church of DRC had the lofty idea of organising an Interfaith Project for Peace in North Kivu known in its French name as Projet Interconfessionnel pour la Paix (PIP). The project began as a pilot in 2022 and was branded as PIP001 covering the period from 1 – 3 June 2022 and was concerned with the training of religious leaders in the city of Goma only. PIP002 is an extension of the pilot and broadens the spectrum to include religious, customary, and community leaders from the territories of Masisi, Rutshuru, Walikale, and Nyiragongo.
Alongside the PIP programme, there are numerous peace initiatives led by the international, regional, national, and local communities, including peace conferences single-handedly undertaken by churches. The originality of the PIP lies in its integrative set-up and the professionalism it is seeking for its conflict transformation and peacebuilding empowerment. Churches decide to combine their efforts to train their religious leaders in their bid to transform conflict and consolidate peace in North Kivu.
However, given the collaboration that must exist between leaders at all levels, the programme seeks the training of customary and community leaders as well. These are the direct project beneficiaries who should help in the promotion of peace in their respective churches and entities. The indirect beneficiaries include the dependents of these leaders, the participants in cultural activities, the listeners of awareness programmes and the members of religious denominations, all estimated at almost 2623,000 people.
In its vision to bring together and train eminent religious and community leaders in conflict transformation, the consortium of churches under the coordination of the Anglican Church of Congo sought the expertise of the Center for Intercultural Missions and Research (CIMR) which is based in Goma. It has a network of trainers with extensive experience in global missions, biblical and Islamic studies, local and global politics, psychology, and intercultural dialogue.
The lacking piece in the CIMR machine is the expertise in peacebuilding efforts and, more specifically, conflict transformation. Hence to fill the gap, as a native of the DRC and trained in the Shalom methodology, I was invited by Rt Rev Martin Gordon, the Anglican bishop of Goma through the director of CIMR to deliver the training. The CIMR facilitated the training in order to find faith-based solutions and local mechanisms to resolve local conflicts by engaging local religious and community leaders in peacebuilding dialogue and encouraging them to place the interests of the community above individual ambitions. The guidance, professionalism, and competency of the Shalom team can be a great asset to peace processes in the DRC going forward.
In view of the above, a series of workshops on conflict transformation, peacebuilding and democratic culture in the territories of Nyiragongo, Walikale, Masisi, Rutshuru, and Goma town was organised from 1 – 17 June in Goma. The central motto of the training was: “self-transformation, pledge of the transformation of families, churches, communities, and entire society.” Its primary objective was to train 320 community, customary and religious leaders in the prevention, management, and transformation of ethnic conflicts, land disputes and in advocacy of human rights, especially child and women rights with a view to consolidating peace in North Kivu.
The content of the workshops included:
– Devotion-Ministry of Reconciliation based on St Francis of Assisi’s prayer for peace
Shalom’s analytical approach and skills
– To understand the conflicts in North Kivu and the place of self-transformation for an effective response
– To grasp the role of customary/traditional chiefs in inter-ethnic conflicts and land-related disputes
– In peacebuilding, reconciliation, basic rights and democratic culture of peace
– Conflict management and transformation (theoretical and practical outline of transformation)
– In prevention of interethnic conflicts and techniques of mediation.
Baraza: God, earth, and war
PIP002: How to plan, design and facilitate trainings that aim to transform the individual for peace – character of a facilitator
In terms of methodology, the PIP002 workshop borrowed heavily from Shalom’s analytical approach and skills. Firstly, the paradigms of conflict were of great use and help. Participants were broadly instructed about the major causes of conflict from the strategist, peace research, and conflict research points of view; the phases and effects of a conflict. In this regard, concrete examples were drawn from participants’ communities and living areas. Participants were led through conflict analysis and peacebuilding techniques from the incipient phase of a conflict to its transformation.
Secondly, as it is the custom at Shalom, the didactics of the training put the participants at the centre of the conversation. Participatory and experiential approaches and co-operative learning were the methods used. Shalom plans that the training takes place in people’s sitz-im-leben, that is, in their environment or where cases of violence were reported.
With the PIP002 in Goma, facilitators and organisers agreed that the training take place next to the IDPs’ camp with the reason being that trainees who are community, customary, and religious leaders should taste the humanitarian misery in which their fellow citizens are living to help ensure that they fulfil their pledges towards peace in North Kivu.
The training revealed a great need to train more community and religious leaders. To a large extent, the intended educational objectives set by PIP002 were achieved through the process of capacity building training and interaction with customary, community and religious, leaders from the selected regions.
Participants went home with appropriate skills on conflict transformation focused on self-transformation. Indeed, interactions during the training made participants aware of the breakdown of relationships in their respective communities; that time was ripe to rebuild them starting from one’s heart.
The PIP002 workshop in Goma was a success, thanks to Shalom that enabled me to co-facilitate it. Shalom is now present in the DRC through its globally renowned methodology that was largely used in the PIP002. The next step is to establish a conflict transformation center in the eastern DRC in liaison with Shalom that is staffed by highly qualified personnel committed to peacebuilding in theory and in practice.
The urgency for such a development cannot be overstated. Thank you Shalom for the expertise and professionalism you are providing in Africa. You have demonstrated that justice and peace and integrity of creation/environment are not concepts to be just speculated about.
Rev Dr Emmanuel Tembo is a priest from the Diocese of Butembo-Beni in North Kivu, a conflict-ridden province the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). He holds masters in Canon Law and in Peace Studies and International Relations. His PhD is in Gender and Africa Studies from the University of the Free State, Bloemfontein, South Africa. Dr. Tembo joined Shalom in 2022 as a Peacebuilding and Reconciliation Consultant and plays a key role as Shalom’s plans to extend its work into the DRC.
Read more about the Shalom Centre: https://shalomconflictcenter.org/.