small group discussion at a peacebuilding seminar
MCC photo by Jana Meyer

A small group discussion at a peacebuilding seminar in Mozambique’s Sofala province in July.

BEIRA, Mozambique —In 2012, Mozambique’s 20 years of peace began to break down as tensions between opposition party, Renamo, and the government grew. People were killed in attacks on vehicles on the north-south highway between Muxungue and the Save River, which also disrupted travel around the country. Communities were displaced by conflicts between Renamo and the government in the Gorongosa region and other parts of the country.

Now once again, peace is near. The government and Renamo have signed a cease fire. Once again, vehicles can travel freely on the Muxunge-Save highway.

To help make this a lasting peace, over 50 pastors and leaders of churches from throughout the province of Sofala  gathered to develop strategies for rebuilding peace in their communities. The seminar was sponsored by the Christian Council of Mozambique (CCM) – Sofala Province and funded by MCC.

An important question for the group was how to learn from their experience after the last peace accord and create long-term peace. Bishop Dinis Sengulane, who facilitated a number of sessions, told seminar participants, “We committed a great error then. Once peace was signed, we left our involvement in the practical process of peacebuilding too early. We didn’t insist enough on disarmament. We didn’t do enough about child soldiers. And finally, we didn’t create a continuous culture of peace.”

Sofala province has been at the centre of the current conflict, which is why CCM in the province felt it was important to bring religious leaders together to relearn tools of peacemaking, build ecumenical peace networks, and recommit to the ongoing work of peacebuilding. The participants represented districts from across the province and included different churches from the Christian Council, Encontro Fraternal, Assemblies of God as well as Brethren in Christ.

The seminar was fortunate to receive leadership from retired Bishop Sengulane, a national mediator in the current peace process who saw the importance of taking time to support the peacebuilding effort of the Sofala seminar. Alumni of the Africa Peacebuilding Institute, a regional peace training program funded by MCC, facilitated the seminar.

The next weeks will be critical as Mozambique prepares for a presidential election on October 15. Church leaders have recognized the importance of working with their communities to promote peace during the time of elections. Now they also see the need to commit to long-term peacebuilding. Seminar participants have already begun to do workshops in their home communities on building a culture of peace. And the Sofala seminar has generated interest with civil society and national church groups as a possible model for the rest of the country.

Please pray for the consolidation of peace in Mozambique, and for the role of churches as peacemakers, particularly in Sofala province. You can donate to support MCC’s ongoing peacebuilding work in Mozambique and other countries online or by calling toll-free 1-888-622-6337.

Jana Meyer is MCC’s Representative for Mozambique.