On Monday the 24th October, the Christians for Peace in Africa (CPA) 2011 conference commenced in Johannesburg, commemorating its 10th anniversary. Michael Cassidy was present to acknowledge and award 23 recipients of the Dr Michael Cassidy Peace Award.
Pastor Thomas-Rene Kitutu, a Congolese pastor who has settled in South Africa, having fled war torn Kinshasa after witnessing the violent deaths of friends and relatives, established CPA, a non-profit organisation. CPA advocates, formulates and implements strategies for a culture of peace in Africa. They unashamedly proclaim that lasting peace is found only through the person of Jesus Christ, but also work alongside governmental organisations and NGOs in an advisory capacity in their developmental programs.
Michael was asked to be patron of CPA at its establishment 10 years ago and received an award for ‘Commitment to Peace and Transformation in Africa’ in 2006. The African Enterprise Centre in Pietermaritzburg hosted the 2010 International Conference on Peace in Africa last year during which Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi MP, President of the Inkatha Freedom Party, was a guest speaker.
At the 2011 conference, Michael presented a number of the 23 awardees with certificates and a copy of his book A Witness Forever, documenting the behind the scenes work of AE and others in the lead up to the peaceful 1994 elections.
Most notable amongst the awardees was Dr Albertinah Luthuli, daughter of Chief Albert Luthuli, and former member of Parliament. She received her award for “outstanding commitment to peace, development and the legacy of Chief Albert Luthuli in Africa”. Other awardees included the former President of Mozambique, Joachim Chissano, who has been instrumental in peace brokering agreements in Northern Uganda and Southern Sudan, as well as Pierre Nkurunziza, who was elected and continues to serve as President of Burundi after the 10 year genocide. Incidentally, AE’s long serving Reconciliation Director, Emmanuel Kopwe, was also instrumental in these peace negotiations involving President Pierre Nkurunziza and his Hutu rebel force. Another awardee was Dr. Etienne Tshisekedi, a senior political figure in Congo, and seen by some as a potential future president of Congo. They were given their awards later in the week.
During the conference proceedings, a powerful drama was performed depicting the violence and suspicion experienced by many immigrants seeking refuge from war, poverty or lack of opportunity in South Africa. It raised awareness of the fact that the xenophobic attacks of 2008 have continued, although to a lesser degree, and non-South Africans suspected of stealing job opportunities or possessions are often ‘necklaced’ or violently attacked.
The evocative drama set the tone for Michael’s address on the ‘Prince of Peace’, without whom we can do nothing to attain true peace. As an example, he described a little of the role of AE in bringing together antagonistically divided leaders during the Kolobe weekends just prior to the 1994 elections, and the miracle the Lord wrought in their hearts during that time.
The other four speakers covered topics including ‘The Challenges of Spreading the Gospel of Peace in the turmoil of Africa today’ and ‘The Role of mission in promoting the culture of peace in Africa’.
The conference attendees consisted of people actively committed to the cause of peace and advocacy for those suffering oppression or violence. Participants included CPA representatives and members from Tanzania, Malawi, Ghana, Burundi, Congo as well as representatives from the South African local government, churches and other NGOs.
More photos can be viewed here.