On Day of Prayer for Peace, take inspiration from African churches
14 September 2010
This year’s International Day of Prayer for Peace, 21 September, features African churches working to build peace within and between diverse communities. The World Council of Churches (WCC) invites Christians and churches to observe the day with prayers and liturgies and to give special attention to peace projects in Africa.
African church leaders and the WCC general secretary will observe the day with prayer and worship in Nairobi.
The peace prayer day, on the same date as the United Nations’ International Day of Peace, is an initiative of the WCC Decade to Overcome Violence. It focuses on Africa this year as part of the final year of the decade.
One of African projects featured is a “Peace Village” project in Uganda which supports the process of healing in communities marked by conflict, trauma and pain. Ecumenical groups of youth, women and community leaders from different part of the country come to peace camps at selected villages and participate in developing them. The project was initiated by the Uganda Joint Christian Council as part of the country’s return to relative stability after decades of military dictatorship and civil war.
The peace village camps instill values of diversity, advocacy and peaceful conflict resolution. They are a space where Ugandans from different ethnic, tribal, political and religious groupings learn and interact in order to build consensus, enhance peaceful co-existence and strengthen existing mechanisms for settling disputes.
Prayers on the peace day are also invited for other projects. The Peace-building and Conflict Resolution Project of Presbyterian Church of Ghana youth is another example. It trains church youth to train others in conflict resolution and peace-building skills. Communities then have youth and community leaders who act as resource people for the effective handling of conflict situations and to promote peace-building.
Another example is the human rights work of the northwestern diocese of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Tanzania. Since 2002 a small human rights office has been helping parishioners and citizens take a stand in their communities and in court against all kinds of violence. The work strengthens church workers to respond to violence, resolve conflicts and defend human rights locally, including in cases of cruelty. The work is “a truthful testimony of the gospel of love and forgiveness”, according to one staff member.
This year’s International Day of Prayer for Peace also encourages prayer for non-governmental organizations working for peace in Africa. In South Africa, for example, Rural Education, Awareness and Community Health (REACH) addresses sexual harassment, domestic violence and HIV/AIDS on farms and in communities of the Western Cape. REACH works with churches on a number of projects.
Finally, as a reminder that peace prayers and the Decade to Overcome Violence cross borders, two “listening initiatives” in Africa are being supported and accompanied by On Earth Peace, a peace project related to the Church of the Brethren in the United States. One is in northern Nigeria where there has been violence between Christian and Muslim communities and the other is in Pietermaritzburg, a township in South Africa. This International Day of Prayer for Peace outreach is helping faith and community groups to carry out “listening” exercises as an important step in addressing post-conflict memories and grievances.
The International Day of Prayer for Peace was established in 2004 as a result of a meeting between the heads of the WCC and the UN. Since then churches have been called to pray for peace and hold vigils and services, and to pray in particular for churches in the region of the annual focus of the Decade to Overcome Violence.