Enhancing role of religious leaders as messengers of peace and reconciliation

Jan 11, 2017

The two day session was opened and closed with prayers

Religious leaders from across the country have ended a two-day national conference on peace and reconciliation with detailed recommendations to be presented to the Ethiopian government to help address issues around recent unrest and public protests.

 

The religious leaders, joined by representatives from the youth, women, private sector and civil society, were brought together by Ethiopia’s Inter-Religious Council for the Conference held from 10-11 January 2017 in the UN Conference Centre.

 

Ethiopia’s Deputy Prime Minister Demeke Mekonnen told participants that the recent unrest and violence in various regions over land disputes and governance issues has led the government to reflect inwards on the causes and this had led to encouraging steps. He commended the two-day consultation as it fit in with the ongoing efforts aimed at bringing about deep transformation in various public systems to respond to the demands of the people.

 

While Minister of Federal Affairs Kassa Tekleberhan acknowledged that this kind of forums help the government to hear the people, develop better policies and work for the betterment of the people and nation as a whole. He also noted that the forum has raised critical facts, and assured the participants that, “We are committed to improve systems, build institutions, create platforms for dialogue, reach out to the youth and create a country where citizens live peacefully.”

 

In her opening remarks, UNDP Resident Representative, Ahunna Eziakonwa – Onochie quoted Albert Einstein’s statement that ‘Peace cannot be kept by force; It can only be achieved by understanding’. “You will need to be truly consultative if you are to reach and recommend to the Government sustainable solutions as the ‘Framework of Hope’,” She noted, “and should contain voluntary commitments at the national, regional, and local levels to address longstanding issues of governance, development and human rights.”

Participants reviewed best practice from other countries as well as reflecting on Ethiopia’s past history on tolerance and peace to learn and generate realistic recommendations on what has worked well for the future.

 

Participants highlighted recommendations that looked at addressing bad governance; role and standing of religious institutions; youth unemployment; land management; the need to strengthen the national peace architecture to accommodate voice and participation;  clearly defining inter-governmental relations;., and the need to overhaul the local media . Recurring themes in the discussions included calls for tackling placing a shared Ethiopian identity and strong ethics and morality at the centre of a new national value system.

 

Breakout session discussions underlined a number of points including the need for respect for a clear separation between state and religion; religious institutions to work on enhancing their role as providers of moral guidance in citizens’ lives, including those in positions of leadership.

 

UNDP Ethiopia Resident Representative Ahunna Eziakonwa – Onochie underscored the linkage between peace and development, noting that, “We cannot imagine a prosperous and secure Ethiopia without ensuring lasting peace which is fundamental for poverty reduction. Peace, poverty reduction and sustainable development are thus inseparable.” She affirmed UNDP’s commitment to strengthen its partnership in this areas by underlining that, “UNDP supports the call for a just, lasting and comprehensive peace in Ethiopia and stands for complete, all-inclusive and regular dialogue processes”.

 

The two day national consultation was facilitated by UNDP given its partnership with the Inter-Religious Council of Ethiopia that falls within its democratic governance portfolio. UNDP’s governance portfolio in Ethiopia focuses on four strategic pillars: strengthening transparency, accountability and integrity systems; consolidation of the democratization process and human rights; building national capacities for social cohesion, conflict prevention, management and peace-building; and advancing local governance and decentralized service delivery.