Peace in the Great Lakes

Peace in the Great LakesPeace in the Great Lakes
By Evans K. Chama, M.Afr
Peace in the Great Lakes is the name of the Ecumenical campaign for Justice, peace and reconciliation by the Catholic and Anglican bishops from Burundi, Congo and Rwanda.
The campaign aims at building peace by conversion of heart, consolidation of the peace acquired by recent cessation of war, and promoting reconciliation and fraternity. These will be achieved through concerted effort between Anglicans and Catholics in spearheading peace initiatives, lobbying, sensitization, and joint social, cultural and productive activities.
The Campaign was launched in Goma on Sunday, 1st December 2013, during an ecumenical prayer of Catholics and Anglicans from the three countries.
The ceremony began at Congo-Rwanda border of Gisenyi, where delegates from Burundi and Rwanda were welcomed as sign of brotherhood without barrier. From there the procession traversed the town of Goma to John Paul II Grounds where the prayer took place. At each of the three stations a prayer was pronounced for a specific intention.
At the first station, at the border, Theophile Kaboy, bishop of Goma, prayed: “Lord God you people start a walk towards the project of peace for the Great Lakes, we ask you to bless this walk and be accompanied by you.” Second station: another Congolese catholic bishop prayed: “Lord God, your people are ready to be protagonists of your project of love and fraternity. We pray that we offer no resistance especially by not giving room to divisive ideologies.” And at the third station an Anglican bishop from Burundi prayed: “Lord we acknowledge that you have created us different but we are all your children. We pray that these differences do not become a point of division but mutual enrichment, so that this region becomes an expression of a floral arrangement of your wisdom.”
Indeed, such floral beauty manifested itself when double files of both Anglican and Catholic priests and bishops, in their proper robes but same stoles, ascended to the podium.
The prayer started with a song Veni Creator Spiritus (Come O Creator Spirit …) thereafter Fridolin Ambogo, bishop of Bokungu-Ikela and Coordinator of the Campaign, presented the project. The penitential rite was followed by the word of God: the First Reading was taken by an Anglican priest from Rwanda in Kinyarwanda (Is 2:1-5), the Second reading in French by a Catholic from Burundi, and the gospel by a Catholic deacon of Goma.  Then followed the joint message of the bishops read in four parts by Anglican and Catholic bishops, one after the other. Here are some elements of the message:
By this peace initiative the bishops responded to the people longing for peace after traversing the horrors of the genocide of over a million persons in Rwanda, the murders in Burundi, and the massacres of over six millions Congolese. Thus, Advent is the ideal occasion, a period of awaiting the prince of peace who comes to inaugurate the new social order where instruments of war are transformed into instruments of production (cf. Is 2:4) and the people invited to abandon totally the acts of darkness (cf. Rm 13:12).
The bishops call the perpetrators of conflict to cease evil (cf.Is1:16-17) and the entire population to move ahead despite their situation as inspired by Africae Munus: “Rise up, take your mat and walk” (Jn 5:8). The people are tired of the recurring violence and bloodshed, fuelled by manipulation of tribal and national identities for selfish motives. They are tired also of the paradox of their lives; in the midst of abundant riches they live in abject poverty.
Hence, there is need for conversion of heart, especially in naming things as they really are instead of settling on systematic deceit. The bishops sound the warning: “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil….” (Is 5:20).  And they remarked also that on the interpersonal relations between ordinary people of the three countries there is no enmity as such; the problem lies on the level of politicians and the elite who profit from the conflict. Hence, the heads of states are invited to commit themselves honestly in the pursuit for peace.
By this campaign the bishops hope for a new generation of Burundians, Congolese and Rwandese, not opposed as enemies, but who look in the same direction as brothers and sisters despite their different ethnic identities.
After this message of the bishops the apostolic creed was recited, then the prayer of peace: Make me an instrument of peace. The intercession took the form of a message of one country to another, exposing the situation as it is, then concluding into prayer of hope for new relationship. First, it was the message and prayer by Congo for Burundi, Burundi for Congo; Rwanda for Burundi and vice versa; Rwanda for Congo and vice versa. Then, the sign of peace.
The campaign was launched with a release of six doves, then the final blessing was given by all bishops together. The next rendezvous is December 2014, in Goma, to close this year-long campaign. 
Lord, consolidate peace in our land is a catch phrase of this ecumenical prayer. Indeed, wherever we are, let us pray for peace in this region.

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