Thursday, 28 May 2015


H.E. Mr. Yayi Boni, President of the Republic of Benin during the opening ceremony

Cotonou, Benin, 26 May 2015: The International Symposium to Launch the African Initiative on Education of Peace and Development through Inter Religious and Inter Cultural Dialogue was declared opened by H.E. Dr. Yayi Boni, President of the Republic of Benin in Cotonou on 16 May 2015.

The Assembly of Heads of State and Government, at its twenty-fourth (24th) Ordinary Session in January 2015, passed a decision for an African initiative for education on peace and development through inter-religious and inter-cultural dialogue (Assembly/AU/19 (XXIV)) with the aim of instigating respect for others’ faith and restraint from any act of gratuitous provocation. It is also worth noting that the dialogue, particularly between Muslims and Christians among others, is being launched against the background of the resurgence of religious extremism in Africa.

H.E. Dr. Yayi Boni, President of Benin who welcomed all participants to Cotonou, Benin, called on religious leaders of all faiths to stand up to their responsibilities and implement the true messages of peace and reconciliation. He also reminded all participants of the secrecy of human souls. H.E. Dr. Yayi also reminded religious and community leaders to continue to dialogue in order to promote peace and development through tolerance.

H.E. Dr. Yayi Boni thanked the African Union Commission for its financial and technical contribution in organising the meeting, and called on participants to contribute their ideas and suggestions on how the African continent could move forward.

H.E. Commissioner for PA was represented at the Symposium by Dr. Mamadou Dia Head of DGHRE Division

H.E. Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, Chairperson of the AU Commission in a speech read on her behalf by Dr. Mamadou Dia, Head of DGHRE Division, Department of Political Affairs. She thanked the government and people of Benin for co-hosting the Dialogue.

The Chairperson of the AUC also indicated that the virtues and values of tolerance and solidarity are also enshrined in the Constitutive Act of the African Union, the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and many other AU instruments which underscore respect for democratic principles, human rights, the rule of law and good governance. She said tolerance is an African Shared value, which requires a deeper exploration of the notion of religions in the African context and reminded leaders of the rich variety of religious beliefs that exist in the continent ranging from traditional religious belief systems to the monotheistic traditions such as Islam and Christianity and the range of syncretic beliefs that have emerged over time. In Africa, religion has achieved greater salience as a basis of identity and driver of social behaviour in all realms of society.

The Chairperson added that in our world today, religion has become a source of political, social and cultural upheavals, particularly in Africa. From the phenomenon of youth radicalization and terrorism to political movements, narratives pegged to religious identities have become the driving force behind major negative changes. Many conflicts in Africa have been misunderstood to be ‘religious conflicts’ or as the outcome of ‘radicalized religion’. However, I could loudly say that these so called ‘religious conflicts’ are not necessary about religion but in many cases are driven by deeper socio-political and socio-economic factors which are obscured by the ostensible religious identity of the parties to the conflict or where religious identity has functioned as the mobilizing device.

The Chairperson concluded by reminding participants that tolerance is necessary especially in preventing politics of polarization, at a time when stereotypes, ignorance and hatred threaten to tear the delicate fabric of increasingly diverse societies. She said tolerance provides part of the answer to challenges facing the world by building bridges between people and opening channels for communication