The protection of populations and prevention of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity, while primarily the responsibility of nation states, is a multi-layered and complex task requiring the contribution of a multitude of societal actors. Among them, religious leaders have a vital role to play, both in providing spiritual leadership, and utilising their influence within communities to amplify messages of peace, and limit incitement to violent extremism.
Following two days of consultations among religious leaders from different faiths across Africa, together with faith-based organisations, subject experts, the United Nations, and others, this plan of action was drafted to provide guidance to all stakeholders on how best to promote human rights, prevent and counter incitement, hostility and violence, confront extremist ideology, and prevent gender-based violence.
The bulk of the recommendations are made toward religious leaders, including the need to: ground beliefs in human rights principles, act as role models and messengers of peace, avoid being politically manipulated, establish and strengthen Councils of Peace and Solidarity at national or sub-regional level, and develop an inter-faith code of conduct for preaching. Religious leaders are also called upon to help eradicate incitement to discrimination, hostility, and violence, and respond to such situations to stop tensions from escalating.
Among the many recommendations are some concerning the promotion inter-faith activities within the media, who are urged to collaborate with religious leaders to help disseminate messages of inclusiveness and social cohesion, as well as for enhancing the education of religious leaders and actors. A section is also dedicated to the issue of gender-based violence, wherein religious leaders are urged to strongly condemn such violence, and take a re-integration approach toward victims to ensure they are not stigmatised. Finally, the plan makes recommendations for the government, among which is a call to treat all religions with equal respect.