In order to discuss Disarming Conflicts in today’s world we need to look beyond the merely stated title. In fact, in a very narrow sense it means not using weapons in dealing with conflicts. Moreover, in a broader sense it means to abandon acts of violence that are in most cases caused by uncontrolled anger. It has to do with very practical and day by day individual behavior that slowly affects the whole society. Therefore, more than disarming conflicts in people using weapons, we have to talk about disarming the society as a whole. It is about disarming human the hearts and thoughts to a non-violence society.
In a 2015 speech in Turin, Pope Francis put aside his notes and launched into a talk about war, violence and politics with youths, and he said: “It makes me think of … people, managers, business executives who call themselves Christian and they manufacture weapons. That leads to a bit a distrust, doesn’t it?” He also called Christians who invest in weapons industries duplicitous. “They say one thing and do another.” The Pope insisted on the sale of weapons.
In fact, the weapons sale is directly linked to the state human rights abuse. Weapons sales have consequences on human dignity.
Unfortunately, many governments, mainly in developing countries spend more in military equipment, rather than on social development.
In developed countries the top weapon sellers revenue grow and they remain potential suppliers. Reasons behind weapons sale, trafficking, manufacturing and purchase are among others to ensure territorial security and crash potential opposition.
Today, men and women of all religions have the duty to do what their faith asks. Otherwise, war, as Andrea Riccardi says, will eternally be “the mother of all poverty”. Children will always be refused their right of growing in peace, men and women from developing countries will continue to search for a better life, to risk crossing the Mediterranean, and immigrants will continue to be a reason of scared and ignorant debate in Europe.
Religions can provide a wider contribution to peacebuilding. Mediation and peacebuilding by religious organizations are growing and they are visibly a disarmed force for peace. Two weeks ago (4th October) we, Mozambicans have celebrated throughout the country the 26th anniversary of the General Peace Acord that ended the civil war which dramatically in 16 years had killed more than a million of Mozambican. The world today remembers and recognizes the role of the Rome-based Community of Sant'Egidio in this mediation. So, men and women of faith can be considered a source and example of dialogue as service. Yes, dialogue is a service for the achievement of peace. Peace is an icon of the religions in unity.
Mozambique has experienced decades of violent conflict; first during the war of independence, followed by conflict between FRELIMO forces in the government and RENAMO opposition forces. In recent years, the economy has grown rapidly with large amounts of international aid and foreign investment, but growth, aid, and investment have yet to translate into significant improvements in the lives of most Mozambicans.
Despite these challenges, Mozambique is a vibrant, multicultural society. Long before the arrival of the Portuguese, local cultures acted as intermediaries in trade networks with Arab and Indian merchants linking the African interior with cities around the Indian Ocean. This pattern continues with South Africa and China, currently major trading partners with Mozambique. Thus, Mozambique today is a complex mixture of multiple African, Asian, and European influences. Most Mozambicans speak several languages, the sounds of Islamic and Christian worship can be heard in all Mozambican cities, and the food is a blend of African, Asian, and European flavors.
By the mid-1980s, FRELIMO had lost control of much of the countryside. And in those areas social facilities like schools and hospitals were completely closed. There was no other alternative. All the people could feel part of the struggle, men, women and in many cases children turned into soldiers. Everyone wanted to fight. I remember when I was child my father was taken by soldiers in order to join the army, my mother escaped because she was not around. I grew up with my mother and I couldn’t remember my father when we met after 14 years. My mother had to tell me that he was my father. I started going to school only when the good news of peace was announced from Rome, in 1992, when I was 8. Before the peace, life was so hard, sad and there seemed to be no future for us. Later on, after a long period of negotiations, both parties formally made peace with the Rome General Peace Accords on the 4th October 1992. A large number of combatants on both sides were demobilized according to the agreement. Many villages which were under Renamo control could be visited by all including Frelimo combatants. Hunting areas which Frelimo combatants could not approach became accessible, they could finally fetch water from the same well, buy or exchange products at the same market.
It demonstrated that reconciliation was possible, but it needed a long way. All the rural areas had been destroyed by the civil war, there were no more hospitals, no single school. One million people killed, 5 million displaced out of 14 million, 200,000 children orphaned, another half million separated from families or traumatized, schools, hospitals, teachers, and the civilian population were the main target group, 3500 primary schools and 500 health centers destroyed. What a brutal civil war the world had ever seen!
Building schools and small health centers, investing on water and sanitation, training teachers, integrating ex-combatants among other priorities were considered important paths to be continued.
Nowadays, the Community of Sant’Egidio over spread the whole country works with its volunteers, young Mozambican boys and girls, adult men and women, trying to change the mentality of violence that still exist in the country. The members of Sant’Egidio address talks in secondary schools and universities, talking about peace as a responsibility of everyone. The dream of the youth of peace – a movement created by Sant’Egidio - today is to change the mentality of using violence to gain or changes what is going wrong. Boys and girls of Sant’Egidio in Mozambique are highly committed in transforming the violent hearts into hearts of mercy, removing violent thoughts and offering thoughts that can build friendship with no borders, where there is no more enemy. In Mozambique today, there are surprisingly a huge number of Schools of Peace of Sant’Egidio, many children growing in these schools in peace and for peace. Praying for peace is the worldwide service for Sant’Egidio and the peace in Mozambique has been a fruit of prayer. In Mozambique we are taking it seriously, as we pray for example, for reconciliation among generations, because many elderly people are lynched accused of witchcraft as they live long. I remember the last episode, a month ago, an 81 years old woman lynched by her own grandson accused of witchcraft. However, the chief of police in Beira has declared, some years ago that after a public prayer of Sant’Egidio against lynching, a significant reduction of these cases.
We still find it wise to continue praying for peace and keep on talking to everyone about peace and especially to young boys and girls in schools and universities. Nelson Mandela one day said “education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world”. We choose prayer and education for peace to change the world.
Armed hearts and thoughts are the roots of armed hands. If we are to have disarmed hands, if our dream is to have disarmed conflicts, if we want a world with no more war, ladies and gentlemen I invite you today, to work together as one, in disarming hearts and thoughts, first.
In order to get the reconciliation started, Mozambicans had to understand and assume to end violence and moving forward rather than looking at the past. We had to decide let bygones be bygones. By prioritizing this, we got the master formula to attain peace. There was no retaliation after the General Peace Accord had been signed in Rome. This was possible because the Mozambicans had chosen peace instead of war. They had chosen living together.
Like many developing countries, Mozambique today faces challenges such as: HIV/AIDS, limited water and sanitation, weak infrastructure, low education and literacy rates, urban and rural poverty, underemployment, food insecurity, population growth, weak health care system. However, with peace, we shall solve all the problems we are facing, because we believe that peace brings change. For example, in the past, Mozambique used to have many refugees in neighboring countries, but today we welcome refugees from African countries who look for peace and stability.
We as a country, have understood that war is never necessary, that the bridges are always better than walls because the future is and must always be a future of peace.