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Inter-Faith Groups Urged to Send Regional Peace Teams to Conflict Areas

Inter-Faith Groups Urged to Send Regional Peace Teams to Conflict Areas
Noko Commends Religious Leaders for Southern Africa Inter-Faith Plan of Action

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa/GENEVA, 3 October 2003 (LWI) - A two-day inter-faith conference for the Southern African region ended in Johannesburg on with the adoption of a Plan of Action calling on religious leaders to send regional peace teams to areas of conflict wherever these arise in Southern Africa.

With this appeal, religious leaders from the eleven countries represented at the conference, affirmed their ongoing commitment to seeking and maintaining peace in the region and to move from consultation to action.

Faith groups should be able to call upon each other speedily and interact effectively in time of need, the declaration reads. For this reason, delegates committed themselves to implement some practical steps as soon as possible. These include the establishment of inter-faith groups in countries where these do not yet exist; gathering of a reliable database of faith institutions and religious leaders; and holding at least one inter-faith conference or indaba (consultation) plus one capacity workshop every year in each country. Also included is the regular reporting by national inter-faith groups to the regions; and the establishment of a quarterly newsletter.

The Southern Africa Inter-Faith Plan of Action was adopted by more than 50 religious representatives of the African Traditional Religion, Bahai, Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Jewish and Muslim faiths. It is based on the Johannesburg Inter-Faith Declaration Embracing the Gift of Peace, a shared commitment to safeguarding peace in Africa, which was the outcome of the 2002 Inter-Faith Peace Summit in Africa.

The regional plan of action from the conference will be carried back to the countries of Southern Africa with the task of promoting dialogue between faith communities, including the witnessing and better understanding of each others rites of worship. It also mandates the respective religious groups to pro-actively involve themselves in social, educational and health projects.

Acknowledging the devastating effect of the HIV/AIDS pandemic in the region, the plan of action also calls on religious leaders to support their respective governments in their efforts to find solutions and also deal with this issue by advocating a moral lifestyle as prescribed by our respective teachings.

In his closing remarks, Rev. Dr. Ishmael Noko, General Secretary of the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) described the declaration as a miracle. It took time and patience and spiritual maturity to achieve this, he said.

The conference was organized by the LWF and hosted by the National Religious Leaders Forum of South Africa (NRLFSA). Participants came from Angola, Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Swaziland, Zambia, Zimbabwe and South Africa. There were also representatives from Senegal and Kenya. Similar meetings are planned for the Western and Eastern/Central regions. (457 words)

(By LWI correspondent Erika von Wietersheim, Namibia)

(The LWF is a global communion of Christian churches in the Lutheran tradition. Founded in 1947 in Lund (Sweden), the LWF now has 136 member churches in 76 countries representing over 61.7 million of the 65.4 million Lutherans worldwide. The LWF acts on behalf of its member churches in areas of common interest such as ecumenical and interfaith 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 LWF' informa tion service. Unless specifically noted, material presented does not represent positions or opinions of the LWF or of its various units. Where the dateline of a article contains the notation (LWI), the material may be freely reproduced with acknowledgment.]

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