23 June 2009

On 16-18 June 2009, ICBL Ambassador Margaret Arach Orech joined the Conference of Religious Leaders on Conventional Weapons: Small Arms and Landmines, in Nairobi, Kenya. She provided examples of specific actions religious leaders can take to facilitate the rehabilitation and inclusion of mine survivors into their communities.

Religious leaders from Burundi, DR Congo, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda came together with government officials and civil society organizations at the conference, with the goal of strengthening existing disarmament projects that are being conducted by faith communities, initiating new projects, sharing information and building partnerships.

Faith-based organizations or leaders who are currently implementing projects on landmines and small arms were invited to share their success stories and the challenges that they have encountered in their work, as well as identify urgent areas of further need. Other civil society organizations as well as the International Commitee of the Red Cross also took the floor to advise on strategies.

The conference was organzied by Religions for Peace and took place during the Global Week of Action on Gun Violence, coordinated by the International Action Network on Small Arms (IANSA). Daniel Aghan (Handicap International Kenya) and Mereso Agina (Kenya Coalition to Ban Landmines) gave an overview of the impact of antipersonnel mines in the sub-region, traced the successes and challenges in mine action and assistance to victims ten years after the entry into force of the Mine Ban Treaty, and outlined how religious communities are responding to the small arms and landmine issues internationally and within the sub-region.

ICBL Ambassador Margaret Arach Orech, of the Uganda Landmine Survivors Network, provided examples of specific actions religious leaders can take to facilitate the rehabilitation and inclusion of mine survivors and other persons with disabilities into their communities. She facilitated a discussion where action points were identified by all participants. Religious leaders could

  • Make their places of worship accessible to persons with disabilities, which is often not the case
  • Advocate for accessibility with the relevant government ministries
  • Provide counselling services to persons with disabilities
  • Provide educational, health and housing support to very vulnerable persons with disabilities
  • Encourage their government to join the Convention on Cluster Munitions and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

The closing press conference was chaired by by the Grand Mufti of Uganda, Sheikh Shaban Mubaje.