Muslims and Christians Building Reconciliation in the Sierra Leone Conflict

Dr Jari Portaankorva
Academic Visitor, Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies

Abstract

The cooperation and warm relations between Muslims and Christians in Sierra Leone during and after the war are an encouraging example of religions working together. The civil war in Sierra Leone lasted for 11 years. It began in 1991 and has been characterized as one of the dirtiest wars in Africa, with horrific levels of violence. During the war Muslims and Christians worked together and formed the Inter-Religious Council of Sierra Leone (IRCSL). The IRCSL worked to end the violence between the government and rebels. The role of faith-based actors was to prod both warring parties to the negotiating table and begin a peace process. After a peace treaty was signed, IRCSL supported amnesty and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in order to integrate the rebels and war victims into society. Muslims and Christians have common values and common ground which they can use in the midst of conflict to mediate peace. Churches and mosques have the capacity to motivate and mobilize people into peace-building and reconciliation. Non-violent conflict transformation through dialogue and reconciliation are central to peace building efforts. The study of Sierra Leone shows the importance of the personal motivation and commitment of religious actors in peace-building. Faith-based peace building in a pluralistic spirit is possible when actors are committed to their own religions but also understand and respect other traditions.