After they successfully participated in the peace making process that saw the signing of the historical peace accord in Rome in 1992 between the Mozambican Government and the rebel Movement-front for the Liberation of Mozambique (FRELIMO), the Mozambican Churches are now embarked on yet another national programme. This demilitarisation programme aims to swap weapons with farm implements, for example, for a better Mozambique, reports APS writer Osman Njuguna.
"When we fully participated in the peace making initiatives that finally brought peace to the Mozambicans after the historic signing of the peace accord in Rome in 1992 between the Mozambica Government and the rebel Movement-Front for the Liberation of Mozambique (FRELIMO), our simple understanding was that we would go back to the 'normal' pastoral work. This was all that was there for us. But alas! we are back to the scene. We are today involved in yet another national programmes: demilitarisation, aimed to transform the Mozambicans from war to peace situation - physically and morally too," explains Mozambican Anglican Bishop Dinis Sengulane (Bishop of Lebombo).
The Anglican clergyman, who was addressing a church-sponsored pan-African meeting in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, recently said the programme involves "healing the Mozambican, who, for many years have been revenged by civil strife, to change from war to peace mentality." But how is this going to be done?
"The Churches in Mozambique, under the umbrella of the Christian Council of Mozambique (CCM), aim to open up as many centres as possible where those in possession of guns among other weapons can surrender the items to us; but of course with a reward," explained Bishop Sengulane in an interview with APS.
"A man who brings us a gun, for example, will end up going home with a plough; while a mother or a women for that matter, who does the same, will end up going home with a sewing machine. And a man who surrenders, say 500 guns to us, will end up going home with a tractor," the Mozambican bishop further explained.
Bishop Sengulane says the Church is getting a lot of support from the Mozambican Government on the programme. "The Government is equally concerned that there are a lot of weapons, ranging from guns and grenades to mines (anti-personnels), among the Mozambicans. Our contribution here is to help the Government either lessen the situation or simply wipe it out," explains Bishop Sengulane. This is not unique, taking into account that the country has been under a war or war-related situation for many years.
According to Bishop Sengulane, the programme, which has already taken off the ground, is attracting financial attention from some ecumenical partners in Europe. "The money coming in is helping us to purchase items to swap these weapons with", he says, without wanting to go deeper to explain how much is needed and what their sources are.
The issue here is not so much the money but rather how to effectively educate the Mozambicans on the need to "change from war to development mentality", he says.
According to the Mozambican clergyman, the Church has so far been able to 'collect' 1000 firearms in terms of AK47 and pistols and an estimated 2,300 bullets, landmines and grenades.
"We are currently operating in Maputo and its environs but we hope to move to other provinces, with aims to cover the entire country," says Bishop Sengulane. But what does the Church do with the 'collected' weaponry items?
"For guns and pistols, we cut them into pieces. We also de-activate them. And for grenades and landmines, we explode them through the help of the security men," he explains.
"We normally select a place to have them exploded. We invite the security men to come but on condition that they come as per our arrangement. For example, they should not be in uniform and they should only come when we invite them to do so. We also alert the community around' least you shock them with the explosion," he explained.
According to Bishop Sengulane, the Church plans to use the materials in the weaponry to make "peace related items," such as rosaries or souvenirs or household items, at least to prove to ourselves that "it is possible to transform a nation or community from the mentality of war to the mentality of peace."
And Mozambican children are not left out in the programme. Children are encouraged to participate through collecting 'war' items and handing them over to the Church. "We try to exchange whatever they have managed to collect with toys; thus encouraging them to participate further, says the Mozambican clergyman.
Christians in Mozambique are shocked that many crimes in the country faithfully imitate films and plays watched by both children and adults. Many toys given to children also are war-oriented and provide an efficient way of creating and perpetuating a violent mentality, laments Bishop Sengulane.
Even Christmas toys, he further says, teach Mozambican children to kill, when the message of the season is peace on earth, goodwill to all. And as a contribution to peace, the CCM will endeavour to advise children to bring their guns to church, where they would be smashed as a testimony of their devotion to the Prince of Peace, explains Bishop Sengulane.
Earlier, while addressing the Nairobi meeting, which was organised by the International Affairs, Refugee and Emergency Committee of the All Africa Conference of Churches (AACC), Bishop Sengulane said the programme also aimed to help "those who have been disadvantaged by war, ex-military or young people who missed normal schooling."
"We intend to try to provide them with basic skills to earn their living through their work done in a transparent way. This is a need we have become more and more aware of, yet very little has been done to meet it," he laments.
He added that the programme, which he described as "turning swords into ploughshares", would also endeavour to appeal to "our artists to think about peace as they plan their artistic manifestations. Many times," he explained,"people think that what is exciting and amusing must be violent. We intend to show that violence is not amusing, but destructive and disgusting."
Bishop Sengulane, who doubles as Chairman of the Peace and Justice as well as Liturgy commissions of the CCM, further said that CCM through this programme intends to set up a documentation centre, where documents related to peace and justice would be available for all those spreading the message of peace. They will also endeavour to encourage the use of posters and gestures promoting peace, he explained, while lamenting that some of the country's monuments, the national currency and national symbols, unfortunately depicted a lot of violence.
On the landmine issue, the Churchman was quick to observe that Mozambique like several African countries was badly affected by menace. Some statistics have it that the country holds as many as 2 million mines planted in its soil, he said.
Mozambique, which last February hosted the 4th International NGO Conference of Landmines, 'Toward a Mine-free Southern Africa', is reportedly said to be making efforts towards 'banning' the use, manufacturing and trade of landmines. Its neighbouring country, South Africa, is equally reported to be making efforts in the same direction.
Article from: the All Africa Press Service 19 May 1997