(MCC Photo/Jana Meyer)

Participants at a July peacebuilding seminar hold a small group discussion in Mozambique’s Sofala Province, where they discussed long-term strategies to maintain peace.

BEIRA, Mozambique — In 2012, Mozambique’s 20 years of peace began to break down as tensions between opposition party, Renamo, and the government grew. People were killed in attacks on vehicles on the north-south highway between Muxungue and the Save River, which also disrupted travel around the country. Communities were displaced by conflicts between Renamo and the government.

Now once again, peace is near. The government and Renamo have signed a cease fire. Once again, vehicles can travel freely on the Muxungue-Save highway.

To help make this a lasting peace, over 50 pastors and leaders of churches from throughout the province of Sofala gathered in July to develop strategies for rebuilding peace in their communities. The seminar was sponsored by the Christian Council of Mozambique (CCM) – Sofala Province and funded by Mennonite Central Committee (MCC).

A question the group considered was how to learn from their experience after the last peace accord and create long-term peace. Retired Bishop Dinis Sengulane, who led the seminar, told participants, “We committed a great error then. Once peace was signed, we left our involvement in the practical process of peacebuilding too early. We didn’t insist enough on disarmament. We didn’t do enough about child soldiers. And finally, we didn’t create a continuous culture of peace.”

Sofala Province has been at the center of the current conflict, which is why CCM in the province felt it was important to bring religious leaders there together to relearn tools of peacemaking, build ecumenical peace networks and recommit to the ongoing work of peacebuilding.

The participants represented districts from across the province and included various Christian churches, including Brethren in Christ. Since the seminar, participants already have begun to do workshops in their home communities on building a culture of peace.

Bishop Sengulane, a national mediator in the current peace process, saw the importance of taking time to support the seminar. Alumni of the Africa Peacebuilding Institute, a regional peace training program funded by MCC, facilitated the seminar.

Church leaders at the seminar noted that the next weeks will be critical as Mozambique prepares for a presidential election on Oct. 15. They have recognized the importance of working with their communities to promote peace during the time of elections. Now they also see the need to commit to long-term peacebuilding.

Jana Meyer is MCC representative for Mozambique.