Africa is a vast continent of incredible diversity, physical beauty, and rich natural resources. Despite a tragic history of colonialism, economic exploitation, and post-independence struggles, African peoples have demonstrated a spirit of determination and courage in their quest for a better future. In settings where violence, extreme poverty, and life-threatening disease are very real threats, the need for nonviolent change is particularly urgent.
Pax Christi in Africa
Early involvement of Pax Christi in Africa included support for the anti-apartheid effort in South Africa and for conscientious objectors in Angola during the struggle against colonial rule. In the 1990s, Pax Christi dedicated considerable effort toward finding a peaceful resolution to the prolonged civil war in Sudan. It also helped to build strategic links between Sudanese civil society and other organisations throughout the world.
Pax Christi International has organised two All Africa Consultations, the first in 2000 and the second in 2005. These historic gatherings, both held in South Africa, drew participants from throughout the continent to share experiences of peace building, to explore ways to promote peace and reconciliation in Africa, and to lay the foundation for the Pax Christi movement’s future actions.
Pax Christi networks in Africa are actively engaged in training, education, and advocacy. Member Organisations gather in regional consultations to share resources and ideas, examine policy decisions that affect their situation, and develop strategies for action. Pax Christi Members also collaborate on common actions, such as the organisation of Peace Week activities in the Great Lakes region. They organise conferences and trainings with civil society leaders who work at a grassroots’ level to defend human rights and build peace.
In addition, Pax Christi Members in Africa also provide the International Secretariat and Member Organisations with critical information that can be used for advocacy toward decision-makers with national governments or at an international level.
At the present time there are three regional networks to which Pax Christi directs its greatest effort on the continent: the Great Lakes of Africa, the Horn of Africa, and West Africa.
Read more on each of the regions here:
In 2011, events in several country situations changed the context in which Pax Christi works in Africa.
After the 2010 elections in Côte d’Ivoire favoured opposition leader Alassane Ouattara, supporters of incumbent President Laurent Gbagbo led the country into near anarchy in an ill-fated struggle to retain power. Gbagbo now faces criminal charges in The Hague.
In the Great Lakes region, there were similar trends toward electoral authoritarianism and political fragmentation. New divisions have arisen that carry the potential for violent confrontation. This was particularly evident in the November 2011 presidential and legislative elections in the DR Congo.
The international community welcomed its newest nation, as South Sudan succeeded from the northern Sudanese government of President Omar al Bashir. At the same time, both countries face many new troubles with a collapsing economy in the Sudan, military confrontations on-going and severe humanitarian crises throughout.
Pax Christi continues its engagement in and for these countries. The restoration of trust and the rebuilding of relations remain critical needs, as these processes are often exacerbated by shattered physical infrastructure and impoverished economies. Committing efforts and resources in these societies remains relevant.
- Pax Christi International currently has Member Organisations in 14 African countries.
- Pax Christi is working with a consortium of organisations operating in the Sudan to strengthen post-war recovery and development, and to bring about the implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement.
- Pax Christi International collaborated with CERAP in Côte d’Ivoire on a country-wide programme for youth on inter-religious, inter-ethnic, and political tolerance.
- Peace Week in the Great Lakes of Africa has stimulated cross-border exchanges between groups in the DR Congo and Rwanda.
- Pax Christi International and country sections speak to decision-makers about policies that impact Africa and submit interventions to national governments, European institutions, UN agencies, and other international bodies.
- Pax Christi International participates in several coalitions with other non-governmental organisations to promote justice, peace, and sustainable development in Africa, such as the European Network for Central Africa, the Ecumenical Network on Zimbabwe, the European Coalition on Oil in Sudan, and the Uganda Conflict Action Network.
- Pax Christi also responds to situations where peace advocates and human rights defenders are threatened or harassed.