Damietta Peace Initiative

THE DAMIETTA PEACE INITIATIVE

A  Historical Note: Damietta is a city in Egypt from which the Damietta Peace Initiative takes its name.  Damietta was an ancient port of entry to the Continent of Africa and all its wealth.  

In 1219, it was surrounded by Crusaders (5th Crusade) led by Jean de Brienne. A siege of fifteen months ensued in which out of 70,000 of the city’s inhabitants only 3,000 survived.  During the siege, St Francis of Assisi called on the Crusaders to withdraw. They refused. Francis courageously crossed the desert sand and gained entry to the walled and besieged Muslim city. The Sultan of Damietta, Al-Malik-al-Kamil, embraced Francis. Over an extended a time, they became firm friends. The city of Damietta is a fertile symbol for the Franciscan family’s relationship with Muslim communities. It is within the context of this historic encounter that the Capuchin Franciscan Friars of South Africa embarked on the visionary concept of peace building through non-violence in Africa

 

THE CHALLENGE TO DAY

We are all responsible for developing a world where everyone can enjoy basic needs, freedoms and a proper dignity, befitting children of the one Creator-God. The danger of conflict among religious and ethnic interest groups, though sometimes masking other agendas, or interwoven in them, is proving a significant threat to achieving this basic dream. 

In Africa, as in other parts of the world, there is need to offer a vision of a common humanity that looks beyond the barriers of caste and creed, race and gender and embrace religious and ethnic pluralism. 

THE DAMIETTA PEACE INITIATIVE:

 The late Fr. Donal O’Mahoney OFM Cap. founded the Damietta Peace Initiative in 2004, with the full support of the Capuchin Franciscan Order.

Faced with this challenge of diversity leading to strife on our continent, The Damietta Peace Initiative nurtures community-based groups known as Pan African Conciliation Teams (PACTs). These groups reflect all sectors of civil society in that they are composed of local people of mixed religion, ethnicity, gender and class. Courses are organized to ensure that non-violence and the dynamics of community organization is understood and practiced. The 30,000 Franciscans present in 40 countries in Africa are the mid-wives who help to give birth to these PACTs. This potential resource of geographically extensive Franciscans, available, trained and committed provides the backbone for the sustainability of the programme.

It is gratifying to know that the quest for peace is vividly present in nearly all religions. This is realised on a daily basis within the more than 200 groups we now have in five African countries. From the religious tensions in Jos and Kaduna in Nigeria, to the slums of Kibera, more and more Muslims and Christians are learning to work together for the common good of all. In South Africa and Zambia cultural and ethnic differences have been resolved in order to create a better and more sustainable community for all.

 

To be part of this exciting peace process, please contact

Fr Kees Thönissen, OFM Cap (Director)                    or visit our website:

Website: www.damiettapeace.org.za.