Somalia solution must come from within, say churches

By Ecumenical News International
27 Nov 2007

A delegation of religious leaders mainly from the Horn of Africa, who have just visited strife-torn Somalia, have stressed that a solution to the crisis there lies within the country and not outside, while Pope Benedict XVI has called for peace in Somalia - writes Fredrick Nzwilli.

"The solution to the conflict in Somalia lies in the hands of the Somalis. That's what we heard from religious leaders. Any international interference or influence is bound to fail because they suspect it has ill motives," said Sheikh Shaban Mubaje, the grand Mufti of Uganda.

Mubaje was the leader of a delegation composed of Muslim and Christians who visited the country from 17 to 19 November.

In Rome, Pope Benedict said, "I appeal to those who have the responsibility, at local and international level, to seek a peaceful solution to bring relief to that dear population." He was speaking on 21 November at the end of his regular public weekly audience in St Peter's Square.

The African Council of Religious Leaders organized the visit to Somalia in order to give support to those suffering in the country. The delegation went to Hargeisa town in Somaliland, an area within Somalia and afterwards stressed the role of Somali religious leaders in peace building and contributing to peace building.

According to the delegation, Somali religious leaders told them that power struggles and exclusiveness are the main causes of the crisis, since all of those involved in the conflict are Sunni Muslims.

"People who matter, who have a significant role to play are not included in the peace processes. If one group is locked out, the whole issue is bound to fail," said Mubaje.

Louise Khabure, a consultant with the Fellowship of Churches and Councils in the Horn of Africa, who was in the delegation, said, "That's why there needs to be an assessment to see who is benefiting from this war; it is because there are people who are benefiting from it has persisted for this long."

The mission to Somalia was funded by FinnChurchAid, and Norwegian Church Aid provided logistical support. The two organizations are backed mainly by Nordic Lutheran churches.

"We believe religious leaders whether Muslims or Christians have a major role to play. If we come together as religious leaders with our constituencies and fight for peace, we have enormous strength," Odd Evjen, NCA’s East Africa regional representative told Ecumenical News International in Nairobi.

[With acknowledgements to ENI. Ecumenical News International is jointly sponsored by the World Council of Churches, the Lutheran World Federation, the World Alliance of Reformed Churches, and the Conference of European Churches.]

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