"Africa is, indeed, coming into fashion." - Horace Walpole (1774)


peace of Christ

If you or your church think about it, keep the situation in northern Uganda in your prayers. This is one of the few conflicts in Africa about which I'm hopeful. It seems like the LRA rebels might be tired of fighting, and the government is under increasing international pressure to solve the problem. These two conditions could actually lead to a settlement. Informal talks are going on this weekend in tents along the Congo-Sudan border.

One of the interesting things about the negotiations is the involvement of Pax Christi, a Catholic peace movement that is part of the mediation. Also involved is the United Nations envoy for the conflict, former Mozambican president Joaquim Chissano. Chissano was president of Mozambique during the latter part of his country's civil war. He signed the peace agreement with the leader of the country's then-rebel group.

The story of how Mozambique's peace accords came to be signed is one of the most remarkable I know. The peace negotiations and agreement were mediated by the Community of Sant'Egidio, a Catholic laity movement based in Rome that is committed to serving the poor and to working for peace. You can read a great book about what happened (written from an American diplomat's perspective) to learn more.

I think it is fair to say that it would have been much more difficult for Mozambique's rival factions to come to an agreement had it not been for the witness and involvement of Sant'Egidio. Because they had credibility with both parties, and because they, as a non-governmental entity, were seen as unbiased, Sant'Egidio was able to gain the trust of the parties involved, and to help each side come to an agreement that everyone could live with. And it worked. Mozambique still has problems (especially when the rainy season brings deadly floods to its rivers), but the country has been at peace for more than 15 years.

I wonder what could happen if all Christians cared as deeply about the work of peace as do these two small Catholic groups. "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God." Clearly they are serving God. Clearly their work saves thousands, maybe millions of lives, and millions more from living in despair. Peace and the stability it brings makes it possible for parents to work, for families to grow food, for children to thrive. The work of peace is the work of the Prince of Peace.

I wonder what would happen if we all committed to pray for the work of Paix Christi, and of Sant'Egidio, and of all those diplomats and ngo workers and peacemakers who give their lives over to helping end wars. It worked in Mozambique. I believe it can work in Uganda. I just wonder...



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