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The hallmark of the session on peace, justice and development in Ouagadougou today Tuesday 4th June 2024 was the lecture by bishop Andrew Karnley on conflict resolution in our African subregion. The Liberian bishop lamented the wars and pocket conflicts in the Sahel. He regretted that we have all the while been dealing with the symptoms and not the root causes of conflicts in various African countries. He pointed out the destructions meted out to countries like Nigeria, Liberia etc. by wars, what is going in Israel, Ukraine and the lots in our African subregion are very disturbing.  

There is an urgent need to train some people on conflict resolution and conflict management. He indicated that whenever there is war, there is first and foremost certain signs over time but we fail to observe the signs until it degenerates into full-blown war. Today we can see the terrorist effects in Burkina Faso, Niger and Mali. Gradually they are taking over various countries in our West African countries. RECOWA-CERAO should take seriously her observatory role in ECOWAS. Part of our assignments will be to constructively engage the perpetrators and masterminds of these pocket wars in West Africa. Certain priests and bishops have played this role in Africa and have restored peace in their countries. Far away in South Africa, Nelson Mandela did it and landed in prison but at the end he worn the battle.

This fiery bishop called for peace education since according to him many of those who go to war do it without knowing their reasons for engaging in war. Therefore, there is an urgent need to train people who will be courageous enough to meet with these actors and disarm them with convincing arguments.

Finally, he called for urgent and unceasing prayers knowing the historical miraculous role prayer has played in conflict resolution in various parts of the world. He gave an instance with the role of the rosary at the Fatima scene of 1917. He emphasized concrete actions added to unceasing prayers. He finally quoted St. Francis of Assisi, when he said, pray as if everything depends on God and work as if everything depends on you.

Responding to various questions issuing from this vibrant lecture, bishop Afrifah Joseph who is the overseer of the episcopal commissions added that unemployment, poverty, no education etc. worsened by the ugly roles of our politicians in our African countries and our international donors. He cited example with a documentary he watched on the enslavement in Congo where uneducated young boys and girls work for foreigners in their Minning and drilling plants. We have witnessed certain foreigners who do everything within their powers to keep the Africans perpetually poor. He indicated that treatments like this can lead to eventual conflict. As a prophet of God, he concluded by underlining the fact that he must continue playing his role of giving hope to the people and advising Christians to keep persevering.  

He concluded by pointing out that someone has to stake his neck for conflict resolution. The work for peace calls for risks and sacrifices. He gave example with Martin Luther Junior who got the call and the voice of God told him, Martin stand up for righteousness. Before then he has prepared himself for life and acquired high education. He finally abandoned all these to speak out for the voiceless in the society and we all know his history and he ended up but his name continues to ring a bell for generations.