Ouagadougou, 18 May 2019. The President of the Commission of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), Jean-Claude Kassi Brou, reaffirmed the regional body’s support for the activities of the plenary assembly of Bishops of the Regional Episcopal Conference of West Africa (RECOWA-CERAO).
Attending the opening of the 3rd edition of the plenary general assembly, which will end on Monday, 20 May 2019, in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, alongside Burkina Faso’s Head of State, Roch Marc Christian Kaboré, Mr Brou hailed the meeting as a landmark event.
“To me, this is an excellent initiative, considering that the conclusions of discussions among the high calibre participants would be inevitably enriching for ECOWAS,” he explained.
Mr Brou stated that ECOWAS has decided to support the role religion plays in preserving peace and social cohesion. This is a recognition and affirmation of what various religions do to foster coexistence, he added.
He recalled the decision taken in 2016 by ECOWAS to organise, every two years, a Forum on Education for a Culture of Peace, through the strengthening of intra- and inter-religious dialogue.
According to President Brou, ignorance and differences between different religions could lead to clashes and intolerance, which are sources of interreligious conflict, radicalisation and violent extremism. These unfortunate situations pose a threat to development.
To this end, he explained that the ECOWAS Forum on intra- and inter-religious dialogue is part of a process to work together with all religions to ensure that their messages of peace and solidarity go as far as they can, while intra- and inter-religious dialogue becomes the platform for a peaceful co-existence.
“As His Holiness Pope John Paul II observed in 1986, interreligious dialogue must be premised on peace and make the name the One God a summons to peace,” Jean-Claude Kassi Brou noted.
He recalled the organisation of the 2018 edition of the Forum, in November of the same year, in Niamey, Niger, on the theme “Youth and Peace Building through Inter-Faith Dialogue”.
Mr Brou was quoted as saying that through the theme, ECOWAS sought to highlight the role of the youth in the fight against terrorism, violent extremism and radicalisation, since they were the most vulnerable group in society to be affected by these threats.
“We intend to set up national youth platforms in each Member State, for young people to play an active role in inter-religious dialogue, the fight against radicalisation and violent extremism”, Jean-Claude Kassi Brou emphasised.
He expressed his gratitude to members of RECOWA-CERAO for their numerous initiatives and actions in West Africa with regard to the fight against poverty, religious intolerance and terrorism. He also commended the theme of the 3rd plenary assembly, “The New Evangelisation and Integral Human Development in the Church – Family of God in West Africa”.
The theme, he observed, is fully in line with ECOWAS’ ideals, and consistent with the commitment of the regional organisation’s Heads of State and Government to promote human development through peace and social cohesion.
For his part, Burkina Faso President Roch Marc Christian Kaboré lauded ECOWAS’ support to Member States in the fight against the problems besetting the sub-region, especially terrorism.
He welcomed the organisation of the plenary assembly in Burkina Faso, particularly in a difficult situation where the country is confronted with terrorism and attacks on religious buildings.
“We have realized lately that not only are we facing terrorist attacks, but terrorists have also changed their modus operandi. First, by creating inter-communal clashes and now, causing inter-religious conflicts. Christians have been killed because of their faith, for no apparent reason, by people who have no moral nor ethical convictions,” Mr Kaboré stressed, adding this calls for a collective effort.
He urged all concerned to actively support Burkina Faso’s fight against terrorism.
“We must ensure that our communities are more united in their efforts to prove to the terrorists that Burkina Faso will stand up and fight them until violent extremism and intolerance are eliminated,” Roch Marc Christian Kaboré insisted.