Nairobi: priest calls for grassroots involvement in peacemaking

 Fr Juvenalis Baitu, a Tanzanian priest and professor at the Catholic University for Eastern Africa (CUEA) in Nairobi, has said he feels that those involved in peace making in Africa should listen to the views of grass roots communities and village elders. "Many a times, we have tended to ignore the grass root communities when it come to teaching peace and on the contrary have stressed more on the national, regional and international levels", Fr Baitu told a seminar on peace agreements and the role of civil society, held in the Kenyan capital, between April 24-26. "It is high time we changed this paradigm for the effective peace searching and building within and among the many people/communities affected by civil conflicts on the African continent, said Fr Baitu, who is director for the Centre for Social Justice and Ethics at the CUEA. "Behind those aged figures, there lies wisdom.." he said, "hence the need for us to think and centralise seriously the local communities in the area of peace-building and conflict resolutions," he told the group, made up of 35 scholars, theologians and researchers, drawn from the national universities of Ethiopia, Sudan, Eritrea with delegates from Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda. The two-day seminar was organized and sponsored by Sweden-based Life and Peace Institute, an international and ecumenical institute for peace issues. At the end of the seminar, participants called for institutes of higher learning involved in peace and conflict issues, in the Horn of Africa, to "move away from their desks" and make efforts to ensure that the research paper work is tested on the ground. They recommended that community leaders in civil conflicts affected areas should be directly involved in the search for peace. The participants also called on the Church in Africa to "centralise" peace and conflicts issues within their religious and social teaching. "The study of peace and conflict should be made part and parcel of the theological training of priests, while the Church should both preach and work on it, dedicatedly," they said.. On both the Sudan and Somalia, the seminar participants called for a concerted efforts to have the already-signed peace agreements implemented. They cited in particular the African Union, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), the UN and the international community as vital components to this end.

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