Hosted by Catholic Relief Services in Addis Ababa, the consultation was the second of its kind. It drew about 40 participants, including prominent Catholic and Protestant church leaders, as well as dignitaries and representatives from the African Union Commission, United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, diplomatic community, National Independent National Electoral Commission, civil society and lecturers.
The main purpose was to raise awareness among churches about the current situation in the DRC; develop a common understanding of threats, tensions and challenges faced by the Congolese people; and mobilize partners for the ongoing international ecumenical accompaniment of DRC churches and partners. Participants also tried to reach a comparative understanding of the governance and democracy-related challenges as well as evaluate the potential role of the church in aiding and shaping democratic processes.
The opening ceremony was led by His Eminence Cardinal Berhaneyesus, metropolitan archbishop of the Ethiopian Catholic Church along with Rev. Dr Wakseyoum Idosa, president of the Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus as well as a special envoy of Pope Matthias I, patriarch of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church.
In his keynote speech, Cardinal Berhaneyesus emphasized the necessity for the church leaders to pray and work together, and to unite and speak in one voice.
Idosa also spoke of unity: “The kind of peace we are seeking is the peace given by Jesus Christ and the Gospel we are preaching is the one of peace and unity”, Idosa said.
In a message, Pope Matthias reminded the participants that “the Gospel promotes essential values and can contribute to stability in the world. The church is a source of justice and peace”. Pope Matthias also pledged that such gatherings will take place so that human dignity prevails in the DRC, Uganda and Burundi.
Since the previously planned December 2016 election has already been postponed to April 2018, the consultation was considered to serve an all-round preparatory role on issues of governance, peace building and electoral processes. It was also intended to assess past attempts of the democratization processes in the DRC in comparison with other emerging African democracies.
The two-day meeting featured a series of presentations and debates as well as group discussions on the role of the Congolese church and regional ecumenical assemblies in the electoral and political transitional process.
The consultation also served as a platform for common action of churches in the DRC towards peace and stability. These common actions were described in a communiqué that highlights church commitment and a call for action for peace building in the central African state.
Distributed by APO on behalf of World Council of Churches (WCC).