From elections to peace in Mozambique

It is now called Rede de reconcilhacas de paz, the Religious Network of Reconciliation and Peace. I am invited to sit in on the day-long meeting.

We gather at the Rainbow Hotel in Beira’s city center. The concern is the advancement of peace in a region of Mozambique still bruised by the recent elections. The reality of lingering tensions that may erupt into violence again explains why I will not be able to travel to some of the sites I have written about – one of my great hopes in coming here. ‘Come back in two years,’ someone says encouragingly.

The discussions, arranged by the Christian Council of Mozambique, have to do with what these church leaders have done since their last, pre-election, meeting, and what they plan to do next.

To launch the conversation about next steps, Pastor Lucas Amosse, who is the convener, asks us to turn to Acts 29:1. Several are busy turning the pages of their Bibles. One young woman volunteers to read, then looks puzzled. There is no Acts 29. ‘We are the authors of what happens next,’ he says. ‘We are the authors of Acts 29.’

One of the things that is to happen next is the creation of ‘Peace Clubs’ in churches and in communities. The agenda isn’t clear to me, but the hope is that such grassroots initiatives will diminish the will for conflict.

There is an odd twist to the discussion that leaves me uneasy. Mozambique’s history is of a protracted struggle for liberation from the Portuguese, then between Frelimo and Renamo. Change has not come peacefully. We see that clearly on the Mozambican flag, with its AK-47. So, when someone asks about the use of violence in the face of difference, another replies: ‘Violence is a method to find the solution.’

This may well ring true for us Americans, who throughout our history have been a violent people. Still, we are taught that violence implies a failure to find a solution, not a means to it. But no. ‘Violence is a method to find a solution.’

We end with a prayer for peace.