The Ecumenical Church Leaders Forum (ECLF) is an open forum of Christian leaders who are concerned about the violent conflicts that have left many Zimbabweans angry and bitter and in need of healing and reconciliation. In 2009, ECLF formed to focus on capacity building of Church leaders, through training sessions and workshops, to be able to teach and influence peace building processes in Zimbabwe.
Church leaders are trained in their respective provinces across Zimbabwe. In 2010, some people occupying local positions of power interacted with trained Church leaders and started demanding that the programme be rolled-out into their respective communities. The programme changed from being a Church programme into being a Church and Community programme working together for Peace. The forum started conducting training sessions as a way to strengthen the Church and community’s capacity in peace building. The more the ECLF conducted training sessions the more communities demanded them.
In 2010, ECLF was officially registered as a Trust to enable its operations as per the national statutes. The fact that it trained Church leaders from across the country and that the entire country has no single community without a church offers easy national coverage for ECLF’s work. Although having national coverage, ECLF has not yet been able to reach every community in as many sessions as necessary for transformation due to limited resources.
The ECLF intervention has produced several positive results. Individuals have been reconciled, families have united and community ownership of the program has been established. This has resulted in communities initiating peace projects of their own which are essentially peace dividends strengthening cohesion and peaceful coexistence. These projects vary from infrastructural development to income generation activities. The examples are construction of schools such as Masarakufa Secondary school in Mudzi, Matsheloni School in Beitbridge, Zibowa secondary school in Zakat, Rwemhepo Bridge in Zaka, and several clinics in Kezi, Mudzi and Zaka among others. Income generating activities include goat and chicken rearing projects, soap making and carpentry projects.
Community leaders, both elected and traditional, confess that before ECLF intervention it was very difficult to coordinate any developmental programs and processes. However, after the peace building initiatives they testify that there has been clear transformation, and communities are now redirecting their energies from violent conflicts towards individual, family and community development. There has been a growth of tolerance of diversity and an acceptance of democratic practices such as the rise in active citizen participation in community decision making processes.
There has also been a return of the African philosophy of Ubuntu/Hunhu, Local Peace infrastructures which have been established by communities and are known as Local Peace Committees. These Local Peace Committees are made up of community members representing diverse interests whose mandate is to ensure that peace prevails in the area without substituting the legal structures. They also act as early warning signifiers and act swiftly within their areas by intervening before conflicts escalate.
ECLF has invested in strengthening their capacity in peace building. ECLF has trained women, often victims of violence, and youths who are countlessly used as instruments for violence. The women have gone on to form Women working groups and have been instrumental in carrying out awareness raising campaigns through peace marches, celebrations and commemorating of Peace days. Youths have been involved in educational activities for peace through sports and have also formed peace clubs where they meet to discuss issues that affect them and how they can avert them.
There has been a growing international recognition of ECLF which has resulted in a partnership with the Global Partnership for the Prevention of Armed Conflict (GPPAC) and has become its SADC regional secretariat. Secondly it has been called upon to facilitate peace initiatives in Botswana, Swaziland, Zambia, South Sudan among others.