22. September 2020

Epilogue to the Kenya EDP 2020

"Religions as Partners for Peace, Security and Development." A contribution to the implementation of the peace policy guidelines. Religions are partners for peace, security and development, this is how Tim Kuschnerus, the Protestant Executive Director of the Joint Conference Church and Development (GKKE), summarized a basic experience from the Kenya EDP in his welcome address to the Epilogue. In February 2020, shortly before the Corona Pandemic, religious peace and human rights actors in Kenya hosted an Exposure Group from Germany that included four parliamentarians, two representatives from the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), the executive director of Islamic Relief Germany, an archbishop, and senior multipliers from the church community.

©Tim Kuschnerus

"Religions as Partners for Peace, Security and Development."
A contribution to the implementation of the peace policy guidelines.

Religions are partners for peace, security and development, this is how Tim Kuschnerus, the Protestant Executive Director of the Joint Conference Church and Development (GKKE), summarized a basic experience from the Kenya EDP in his welcome address to the Epilogue. In February 2020, shortly before the Corona Pandemic, religious peace and human rights actors in Kenya hosted an Exposure Group from Germany that included four parliamentarians, two representatives from the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), the executive director of Islamic Relief Germany, an archbishop, and senior multipliers from the church community. 

The EDP epilogue event on September 10 was originally scheduled to take place at the Federal Academy for Security Policy (BAKS), but was canceled there due to COVID 19. It was relocated at short notice to the Haus der EKD in Berlin and was organized there in cooperation with GKKE. Participants of the Kenya EDP discussed their experiences with security and development actors in Germany, moderated by Dr. Friederike Repnik, AGIAMONDO.

In video statements, two of the EDP hosts, Rose Oduor from Justice & Peace in Kariobangi, a slum in Nairobi, and Julius Wanjama, Haki Yetu Organization, Mombasa, described the impact of the Corona pandemic on their work as civil peace actors on the ground, as well as the implications for good governance: Families had lost jobs and income, domestic violence and attacks by state security forces had increased, as had corruption. For example, an informal settlement had been destroyed, and 6,000 families had lost their shelter. COVID-19 has exacerbated existing problems and lines of conflict or made them more visible.

The Corona pandemic reinforces and continues a trend that began long ago of restricting religious freedom and civil society engagement, confirmed Markus Grübel MdB, the Federal Government Commissioner for Religious Freedom worldwide at the BMZ. It is important to strengthen cohesion against fundamentalist misuse of religion. Development and peace can only be promoted in the long term if government and civil society actors pull together. In this sense, the work of EDP e.V. is an important contribution to value-oriented development cooperation.

Ottmar von Holtz MdB, Chairman of the Subcommittee on Civilian Crisis Prevention in the German Bundestag, sees the essential contribution of religious communities and civilian actors in the fact that their work can resolve conflicts that could potentially spiral into conflagrations. For example, economic inequality and its fatal effects on coexistence would be repeatedly addressed. Religious leaders often play a decisive role in escalating conflicts, as the example of Cardinal Tumi in Cameroon shows. In Germany, he said, he misses a more inclusive interreligious dialogue on the ground that includes young people, women and the non-ordained.

"A lot of soft power," Tarek Abdelalem, executive director of Islamic Relief Germany, attested to the civil society and religious leaders in Kenya. Because they are close to the people, he said, they have authority and influence. Terrorism in Kenya has a lot to do with strong frustration and a lack of prospects. Young people do not go to Islamist fundamentalists because they like it ideologically, no, they go to the militias because they can earn money and their own living there. "We need civil society and religious communities on the ground." Without the involvement of partners on the ground, he said, there are no sustainable solutions.

Interfaith action is a great opportunity for Kenya's interfaith society, for a change toward more peace, solidarity and non-violence, emphasized Archbishop Dr. Ludwig Schick, responsible for world church cooperation of the German Bishops' Conference. Interreligious action succeeds because there is personal solidarity, he said, as he experienced it in the slum of Kibera, among religious leaders and members, but also with fellow residents. People help each other to live together peacefully and urge each other to be non-violent. And it must not be forgotten: "Development is a long-distance run!" In interreligious cooperation in Germany, he said, it would be helpful to "think about God together. Our God is a God of life who wants life for all." One must look beyond one's own church, one's own religion, he said: what can we learn from others?

Religion can have a tremendously productive effect, emphasized Dr. Daniela de Ridder MdB, Vice Chairwoman of the Foreign Affairs Committee and of the Subcommittee on Civilian Crisis Prevention, who was invited as a discussion partner for the epilogue.  Her most important meaning lies in the power of hope, which is essential, in the trust in a better tomorrow, in the hope for peace and in charity. In every crisis lies an opportunity, which she sees in the Corona pandemic above all in digitalization. It is important to strengthen digital formats in order to support each other. It would be necessary to creatively invent new settings, formats that strengthen and encourage each other. The Federal Foreign Office, the BMZ, and perhaps also the Minister of Agriculture should be involved in such formats.

De Ridder sees the peace policy guidelines "Preventing Crises, Managing Conflicts, Promoting Peace" adopted by the German government in 2017 as an essential basis for her work. Germany should use its seat on the Security Council, for example, to enforce "gender reporting" more strongly, she said. This is not only about the participation of women in conflict mediation and post-conflict situations. What happens to boys and men, what about images of masculinity, these gender issues also affect religions.

In his greeting (video statement), Ambassador Ekkehard Brose, the president of the BAKS, referred to these peace policy guidelines of the German government and emphasized that it is the implementation that counts. The BAKS is committed to a correspondingly broad concept of security. The EDP had contributed to the implementation with regard to the importance and strengthening of civil and religious actors.

Trier, September 16, 2020
Gertrud Casel