Building Bridges Between Imams, Priests and Pastors in Burkina Faso (Fall 2014)

Communities in Transition (CIT)

By Nathalie Al-Zyoud

October 24, 2014

PB Post Burkina Faso 2On the surface Burkina Faso has a greater predisposition towards social instability than chronic violent extremism, but growing regional instability and recent internal manifestations of religious intolerance have underscored the importance of mitigating threats and creating an environment that is more secure and peaceful. In this country, religious and traditional leaders have often been called on to restore peace when tensions arise.

So a week before Ramadan, I found myself, in Ouagadougou in front of over 40 Muslim Imams, Catholic Pastors and Protestant Priests from all over Burkina Faso, hoping to build on their diversity as religious leaders to develop a strategic plan to counter the violent rhetoric seeping into their communities through the porous borders of their country. For 5 days, religious leaders leaned into each other and analyzed the risk factors that threaten peace in their communities and identified strategies for strengthening local resilience.

We spoke as human beings, united under God, and came together to build consensus and work together for the common good.” – Workshop Participant

Hired by the Salam Institute for Peace and Justice, I was tasked to build an Inter-religious Peace-building Network and leverage the power of local change leaders to strengthen human linkages, build consensus and reinforce their capacity for collective action.

The week we spent together demonstrated the power of human kindness, empathy and compassion as the group discussed the bloody repercussions of agro-pastoral conflicts, the social exclusion imposed by families after conversions and mixed marriages and the potentially destabilizing effects of the upcoming 2015 Presidential elections.

Together, they discussed the power of religion in countering violence and bringing about harmony and social cohesion. Having heard and understood each other, they then formed sub-regional peacebuilding teams committed to working together across religions on preventing conflict and strengthening their communities.

PB Post Burkina FasoOn my last day, I passed the baton to the local staff now tasked to nurture the seed that was planted and see to it that the Inter-religious Peace-building Network’ vision for peace takes hold in the hearts of many more around Burkina Faso.


Nathalie Al-Zyoud is the Managing Partner and Senior Mediator for Communities in Transition (CIT), a conflict management consulting firm that empowers communities to address conflict-related challenges in collaborative and sustainable ways. You may email comments about this article to nalzyoud@communitiesintransition.com