The head of the group of African diplomats accredited to Sweden has emphasized the positive role of religious leaders in the search for peace and development in Africa, during a recent meeting with an interfaith women's group on a study visit to the Nordic countries.
"Peace is a pre-condition for everything and the role of religious leaders cannot be overemphasized," Ambassador Mary Mubi, dean of African Ambassadors to Sweden, told women representatives of the Inter-Faith Action for Peace in Africa (IFAPA), a pan-African initiative started by Rev Dr Ishmael Noko, general secretary of the Lutheran World Federation (LWF).
Mubi, Zimbabwe's envoy to Sweden spoke on behalf of 17 other African ambassadors who received the IFAPA group in the country's capital, Stockholm. The women drawn from 11 countries were on an awareness-raising visit from 16 to 24 April to Sweden, Norway and Finland, in the context of their campaign, "A Mother's Cry for a Healthy Africa," launched in 2005.
Inaugurated in October 2002, IFAPA brings together representatives of Africaâs seven major faith traditions - African Traditional Religion, Baha'i, Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam and Judaism - in collaborative peace building initiatives.
The women's study visit with representatives of local authorities, government ministers, diplomats and civil society networks in the Nordic countries was aimed at highlighting development issues pertinent to women and children in the African context especially the challenges of conflict. The group also sought co-operation and support toward capacity building in leadership development in order to address issues that would ensure a "healthy" Africa.
Ms Carin Gardbring, the program's coordinator in the Nordic countries, and her African counterpart, Ms Merab Mulindi, stressed the significance of the interfaith initiative in breaking bridges of division and in constructively building bridges that enhance understanding and trust across faith and religious divide.
The visit to Sweden under the auspices of the Church of Sweden featured interactive sessions with representatives of United Nations organizations working with Africa in different areas including gender, democracy, peace building, reconciliation and integration. Seminars and workshops were also held with representatives of peace movements, faith communities and development agencies.
Rev. Lennart Molin, associate general secretary at the Christian Council of Sweden, and a female Imam in Stockholm, Ms Suad Mohammed, stressed the significance of inter-religious initiatives with all groupings in understanding issues of unity and the challenges of diversity. This is the "responsibility of religious leaders in the 21st century," they noted.
Ms Margareta Grape, director of International Affairs, Church of Sweden, commended the IFAPA women's campaign as a way of working on the identity of bearers and actors of peace in the context of the United Nations Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security.
With acknowledgments to LWI